It’s all very well for social hard-liners like Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi to work their factional numbers in gerrymandered smaller states to make themselves electorally impregnable at No. 1 on their respective Liberal Party Senate tickets. But Tony Abbott’s best mate and biggest supporter in the federal Parliament, Kevin Andrews, is in a much different position.
Kevin has represented Menzies, the ultimate Liberal seat in Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs, for more than 25 years.
He’s a serial candidate running for the 10th time. With a pre-Latham lifetime indexed pension worth millions in the bag, what’s he hoping to achieve by running again?
We do need to talk about Kevin. He’s never bothered to move north of the river and live with the people he represents in suburbs such as Templestowe, Warrandyte, Doncaster, Donvale, Park Orchards, Wonga Park and Bulleen.
Officers at the City of Manningham, which largely replicates federal boundaries, often complain that Kevin has failed to deliver on any meaningful capital projects over the years.
Why would Canberra bother supporting a safe Liberal seat? Much better to take it for granted and pump cash into the marginal seats.
All of this provides the background for why I’ve decided to run as a pro-Turnbull, liberal-minded independent in Menzies, as was outlined in this story in The Age. The piece went online early on Saturday morning.
I then blasted out this email missive to 13,000 people at 12.30am on Saturday morning and we were off in the first serious independent run at a federal seat in metropolitan Melbourne for many a year.
The first stunt of the campaign was crashing the Kevin Andrews and Tony Abbott fundraiser at the Veneto Club in Bulleen on Saturday night.
I managed to distribute about 20 of these flyers to the largely young, male, Anglo-Saxon guests in their penguin suits before being shut down by security.
However, they didn’t stop us photographing and tweeting pictures of guests as they arrived, such as Georgina Downer, who is hoping Kevin Andrews is removed and she can be slotted in as a last-minute replacement before nominations close on June 1.
The Andrews nominations is under a cloud after this story alleging ethnic branch stacking in Menzies by James Campbell in the Herald Sun, which went online at 3.30pm on Friday afternoon and ran as the page 2 lead in Saturday’s paper.
Andrews was exposed as he was reportedly at the meeting with elderly members of the local Macedonian community before they were signed up as members without their knowledge.
When Nine News reporter James Talia door-stopped Abbott on his way into the Veneto Club fundraiser on Saturday, be blithely declared his support for any new members who wanted to join the party.
Yes, but what if the elderly migrants in question didn’t actually sign the membership form?
If the claims are true, it would make sense that branch stacking has broken out in Menzies just now, despite Kevin Andrews winning preselection unopposed in early 2015 when he was still Tony Abbott’s defence minister. This is because the next Menzies preselection is slated for April 2018 and to be eligible to vote, members need to be financial for more than two years.
Kevin is desperate not to go the same way as Bronwyn Bishop, and if he does go, he wants to hand over to a fellow religious conservative who will fight marriage equality, euthanasia and other progressive causes.
Few of the attendees on Saturday night were local Menzies Liberals. Instead they were young conservatives from across Melbourne as Abbott and Andrews attempt to build a conservative base in traditionally progressive Victoria.
I went hard on the branch stacking allegations during a live studio interview with Sky’s Ashleigh Gillon just after 9am on Saturday morning, and this led to most news websites prominently carrying the “Kevin Andrews under pressure to quit” AAP story over the course of the day.
Emails of support have poured in ever since, and we’ve kicked off our print advertising campaign today with a full-pager in The Warrandyte Diary, an independent monthly community paper that circulates in one of the most Liberal-friendly parts of the electorate.
With a margin of 14.55%, it will be very difficult to unseat Kevin Andrews on July 2, but we’re going to give it a red-hot go and the Liberals would be wise to disendorse him.
Over to you Michael Kroger. Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy, whose state seat of Bulleen falls completely within Menzies, is reportedly furious about the allegations of branch stacking and keen for an immediately succession.
However, ousting Tony Abbott’s best mate in Parliament would be seen as a declaration of war against the right.
Perhaps Malcolm Turnbull should instead just leave Andrews be, as the ingredients are there for him to instead be deposed by those Liberals in Menzies who are attracted to the proposition of voting for someone who actually wants to see Malcolm Turnbull succeed.
It’s a clear choice. Vote for the sour Abbott man with 1950s views who doesn’t even live in the electorate, or turn the page and install a local Turnbull supporter into federal Parliament to represent Menzies.
*Stephen Mayne is running as an independent candidate in Menzies and was not paid for this item