From memory John Howard was the first to say, “Disunity is death” when referring to political parties, although just about everyone in politics says it now. And, as it happens, the Liberals have buckets of it.
If you read Mike Seccombe’s column in the The Saturday Paper this week you will get some idea of what is going on behind the scenes inside the Liberal Party and none of it is good news for Malcolm Turnbull.
Remember Malcolm Turnbull’s statement to the NSW State Council of the Liberal Party back in October when he said, “We are not run by factions”? The statement was greeted with jeers and laughter. And for good reason.
The Liberal party has so many factions, it has factions within factions.
Senator Bill Heffernan is one who disagrees with Turnbull’s view. “You can’t get a cleanskin up in this party anymore. Unless you’ve bared your arse to the factional warriors you have no chance,” Heffernan says. “The factional thing, as in the Labor Party, has become a business.”
Heffernan is happy to recount one incident, “In NSW the executive election before last involved 500-odd people from state council – two people from each branch and federal and state electorate conference,” he told Mike Seccombe.
“Half of the ballot papers sent out were collected from people before they were filled out. The factional warriors filled them out. Eighty-two of the ballot papers that were filled out were whited out and redone after they were collected. That’s how crooked it is. I got up at state council and said half the people in this room are gutless. You haven’t got the guts to fill out your own ballot papers.”
What are these factions? One unnamed source within the party told Seccombe there are, “the moderates; the centre right, led by Alex Hawke; the hard right, split between the realistic hard right, led by Dominic Perrottet and Anthony Roberts, and the terrorist hard right, so extreme they are prepared to tear the house down; then there is a small but vocal group led by Jai Rowell and Matthew Mason-Cox, who recently defected from the hard right to align themselves with the moderates.”
Just so you don’t forget, this is the Liberal Party we are talking about. All too often we hear about the factional interests of the Labor Party but until now, not much more than a whisper about the same bully-boy tactics and head-lopping going on in Liberal corridors.
At the moment, most of the factional warring is over pre selection of candidates for the upcoming federal election. As we all know there’s a lot a deadwood entrenched in blue ribbon, Liberal held, safe seats and a number of keen younger candidates are seen by others as ready to step up.
Without digging too deep we can easily ask why sitting members including Bronwyn Bishop, Eric Abetz, Phillip Ruddock, Bill Heffernan, Kevin Andrews and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, are still there. And Craig Kelly is apparently, “a bit of a dolt” as well, according to one faction chief.
Doubtless there is deadwood in the Labor party too and they are no different when it comes to push and shove. That’s politics as they say. But when there is such uneven reporting of these internal wars, we just don’t hear enough about the Liberals.
Perhaps their supporters think they are above that sort of thing. It seems Malcolm Turnbull does. While the moderates in the party seem to have the upper hand at the moment, that’s no guarantee it will stay that way.
In turbulent times, the storms can come from any direction.