The list of Liberals who have lined up to give references to Bronwyn Bishop’s challengers in the preselction race for the seat of Mackellar is growing, but a tipster tells us that there’s a marked difference between the plaudits given to both Jason Falinski and those given to hard-right candidate Walter Villatora. Both have references written by Premier Mike Baird, but all is not equal:

Walter Villatora does indeed have a reference from Baird but it was provided some time ago and was naturally given to Villatora due to his work as Tony Abbott’s campaign manager for Warringah — a seat which shares its footprint with Baird’s state seat of Manly.  You could call this reference a ‘general’ type of document.  Contrast this with the new and specific reference Baird has provided Falinski lauding his entrepreneurial abilities and long-time party involvement at various levels including as President of the Young Liberals and you are left in absolutely no doubt as to whom Baird supports.  Baird’s reference also sends a message to the moderates and centre-right basically saying ‘no factional deals for Bronny’, it’s time she was gone.”

Crikey has seen a copy of Baird’s reference for Falinski, which gets straight to the point: ”I write to support Jason Falinski’s nomination to be the Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Mackellar in the 2016 election.”

Falinski also gets references from former premier Nick Greiner and Bishop’s former colleague and minister Amanda Vanstone, with Vanstone labelling him “a true believer, a committed Liberal” and emphasising that he sticks with his friends through think and thin. Greiner also makes the case for “generational change we need to remain strong into the future”, focusing on Falinski’s experience in business.

Says our tipster,  ”All three leave no doubt who they support — Falinski.  It’s also rumoured Falinski could even obtain references, should he want, from very senior current federal ministers who are also anxious to see the back of their old colleague, Mrs Bishop.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Bishop probably has a maximum of 30 votes out of a possible 96 from preselectors, but that’s optimistic, according to our insider:

Assuming Villatora bows out before Falinski in the exhaustive ballot and most of his hard right votes flow to Falinski (a moderate) that will leave Falinski just short of the 50% vote required but with about 20 votes left to distribute between the last two candidates standing.  It beggars belief Bishop could gain enough votes to keep her in office so the likely upshot will be a comfortable win for Falinski.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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