Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's not really BBQ weather

There’s a lot being said about Western Australian Treasurer and Attorney General Christian Porter’s decision to resign from Cabinet and vie for preselection for the Federal seat of Pearce.

All I’ll write about that here is “good on him”. He will be criticised for the way he did it, but there’s something to be said about the value of following his personal dreams. As a new dad, I think my advice to my child in a similar position would have to be “go with your heart.” Kudos to Mr Porter for doing that at least.

But for me, the most interesting outcome of the last few hours has been the re-emergence of the ugly factional alliances that damaged and scarred the Party in lead up to the 2008 election.

The person to watch over the next couple of weeks will be the Member for South Perth, John McGrath. He’s the fall guy the western suburbs clique use to do their dirty work – either because he’s too grandad-like for anyone to punch in the face or because he’s too du… um, well… let’s just say might not realise he’s being used by those who like to get blood on other people’s hands.

Mr McGrath is known as “Matchie” by some long-term Liberals, because he is (in)famous for hosting BBQ’s at his home that somehow turn into number-crunching leadership coups. Indeed his home was the secret BBQ bunker the faceless men used to bring down former Liberal Leader Matt Birney and if I recall correctly was also involved in the rise of Colin Barnett when it was determined that Troy Buswell finally had to go.

Matchie started the factional jostling before the Partyroom meeting this morning when he answered the question of whether or not Mr Porter had put his personal needs above the party with the thoughtful and telling single word of “Maybe”.

Then while Christian Porter was still speaking at his press conference, Federal Deputy Leader and western suburbs champion Julie Bishop was on the radio kicking Colin Barnett a little and shooting a big warning shot across Mr Porter’s bow: “I think this is a huge endorsement of Tony Abbott’s  team,” she said duplicitously. Then came the obvious sting in the tail, “However, I stress that Christian Porter will have to win pre-selection like everyone else before he can even run”.
Far from a ringing endorsement from the most senior Federal Western Australian MP.

Some will say, “yeah, yeah that’s just because Ms Bishop doesn’t want to make it sound like there’s a parachute involved .” And I partially agree.

A parliamentarian pushing a particular candidate does irritate lay-Party members, who passionately believe the pre-selection process is squarely in their domain. However, it is plain as day that Christian Porter would bring an enormous amount of value to the Federal Party, as a backbencher or anything else they see fit to give him. It wouldn’t be too hard for someone like Julie Bishop to justify an exception to the ‘no interference’ rule on this occasion.

And Ms Bishop’s comments were reinforced with some smarmy words from so-called Curtin power-broker, Peter Collier. When asked about Mr Porter’s move this morning, his feigned response was, “I’ll miss Christian, he’s a friend and he’s a talented colleague (but) I really have got no idea why he would want to go to Canberra – it all happens here in the West….”.

In my view, these three comments from these three people add up to something significant.

Mr Porter’s resignation and the combination of both a State and Federal election next year means old Liberal Party factions are being revived.

You see the western suburbs Curtin clique, and most particularly Peter Collier, already had a preferred candidate for Pearce – another former President of the Young Liberals. Sadly for that young man, they don’t control the numbers in Pearce. But that won’t stop them trying.

And that kind of competition, combined with the fact that the Premier has basically invited every backbencher to pitch for a place at the big table over the next few weeks will see old alliances re-formed and other new ones created in response.

Dusty BBQ’s will be washed down and at least a little bit of blood will be spilled as these voting blocks - or factions - recklessly swing their weight around in a last ditched effort to get their candidate promoted before the main event next March.

Watch this space and Liberals should don the disposable protective clothing immediately.

PS. Thanks to all those who have emailed me asking why there had been a break in my posts. The reason was the early birth of our beautiful baby girl, Madison. Mum and bub are home and healthy, de spite what a former friend and colleague once said, so I’m back at the keyboard.

ADDENDUM 15/06/2012: I should clarify that Julie Bishop wasn’t supporting the former young Liberal President for Pearce – she was, as a Party member corrected me the other day and Andrew Probyn wrote in today’s West Australian newspaper, in fact supporting Nick Bruining who has now decided not to stand.

As a perpetual limb-climber, I believe the fall is as valuable as the climb and I will therefore happily be corrected when I’m wrong and acknowledge it widely. Please keep the tips, suggestions and corrections coming!


1 comment:

  1. Warmest congratulations on the arrival of your daughter, Madison, and best wishes for her future.