After a sleepy start, the New South Wales election campaign has entered its final stretch with Premier Gladys Berejiklian hoping to stave off Labor leader Michael Daley’s growing momentum. But the election involves so many more than just the public faces who grace corflutes across the state. Much of the grunt work is conducted by a relatively anonymous internal bureaucracy made up of party hacks, elders and campaign strategists. Starting with the Liberals, Crikey takes a look at some of the faceless men and women who sit alongside Berejiklian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the Liberal Party’s state executive.
President: Philip Ruddock
A Liberal elder statesman who spent 43 years in federal parliament before resigning at the 2016 election, Ruddock is the Australia’s second longest-serving MP. Ruddock was best known as immigration minister in the Howard government, where he presided over an increasingly hardline approach to asylum seekers that included the expansion of mandatory immigration detention, earning him the ire of human rights bodies. Most recently, then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull asked Ruddock to oversee a review into religious freedom following the Yes vote in 2017’s marriage equality plebiscite.
Director: Chris Stone
Appointed in 2016, the former Howard staffer is responsible for the party’s campaign strategy. Stone, who is a high school friend of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, previously worked as a lobbyist for PremierState, the firm owned by Michael Photios, an influential factional powerbroker and former head of the Moderate faction, who some on the party’s right liken to Darth Vader. Stone would later ask Photios and other influential lobbyists to resign from the party’s state council, in a move intended to diminish the power of “factional warlords”. Stone desperately needs a win — shock byelection defeats in Wentworth and Wagga Wagga last year led some insiders to call for his axing ahead of the state and federal elections.
Urban vice-president: Greg Smith
Smith has a long CV — before serving as justice minister and attorney-general in the O’Farrell government, he was NSW deputy director of public prosecutions, eventually taking silk. A devout Catholic, Smith is known for vocal support of socially conservative positions: he is a former president of the anti-choice Right to Life Association, and when O’Farrell created a register to recognise same-sex relationships, Smith went against his own leader in the conscience vote, arguing it would lead to the “destruction of marriage and the traditional family”. While in office, Smith lobbied hard for Zoe’s Law, a bill seeking to criminalise harm to the foetus, but which doctors and women’s groups say will lead to an erosion of female reproductive rights.
Urban vice-president: Kent Johns
Johns is a Sutherland Shire Councillor and managing director of chemical company JHC Infrastructure. Most recently, he gained some brief prominence when the Moderate faction tried to replace rogue backbencher (and staunch conservative) Craig Kelly as member for the federal seat of Hughes. Johns had the numbers, but when Kelly threatened to move to the crossbench and bring down the minority government, Scott Morrison’s “fixer” Scott Briggs repeatedly tried to offer Johns a lucrative job with the party offering paying $350,000 a year, and warned that Newscorp and Alan Jones would “destroy” him. Johns refused, but Morrison eventually got his way, forcing a reluctant state executive to pass a motion endorsing all sitting MPs.
Country vice-president: Aileen MacDonald
MacDonald took up the position late last year following the resignation of her predecessor Hollie Hughes, who actually lived in Roseville on Sydney’s leafy upper north shore. Based in Guyra in the New England region, MacDonald is a farmer and businesswoman who is president of her local chamber of commerce. MacDonald’s husband, Scott is a NSW upper house MP, and held her current position of country VP for ten years.
Female vice-president: Mary-Lou Jarvis
Despite adamantly opposing quotas, the Liberals have a female VP in Jarvis (although the state executive is not even close to an equal gender split). Jarvis, who owns a PR company and is a former corporate lawyer, has been a long-term Liberal Party adviser. Jarvis expressed interest in running in last year’s Wentworth byelection, but despite getting the backing of the right faction, and polling suggesting a female candidate would fare well in the electorate, she was overlooked. Jarvis has nevertheless defended her party’s approach to female representation, arguing the Liberals’ policy of selecting candidates based on “merit” will achieve its 50% gender target by 2025.
Finance director: Michael Hughes
Malcolm Turnbull’s brother-in-law, who works in finance, was brought in last year to find new donors and help assuage fears about the state of the party’s coffers. Unfortunately for Hughes, it’s unlikely he can turn to Turnbull again, whose $1.75 million donation kept them afloat during the 2016 election.
Young Liberal president: Harry Stutchbury
Son of Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury angered several Liberal ministers last year, when he penned an article arguing retirees with expensive homes should not receive the pension. NSW Corrections Minister David Elliott called him an “eastern suburbs private school boy”, while federal minister Alex Hawke rubbished the piece as intellectually lazy. More recently, Stutchbury was in a Facebook group chat where four Young Liberal members made lewd comments about women, leading to their expulsion from the party (although he did not make any offensive comments).