A couple of articles have appeared over the last 24 hours that suggest all may not be well in the Liberal National Party. They are reproduced below for your amusement and discussion.
The most recent article – hot off the press – is about John Howard giving the thumbs up to the Australian economy. This, naturally, flies in the face of what Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have been trying to scare us with. Vivienne Kelly, in her article Ex-PM praises strong economy writes:
Former prime minister John Howard believes the Australian economy is in “good shape”, especially in comparison to the rest of the world.
Speaking at the MFAA conference in Sydney on Friday, Mr Howard said that while many people believe the Australian economy is “running on empty at the moment”, it has actually shown an unexpected resilience.
Mr Howard said he is optimistic and bullish about the future of the country.
“When the current prime minister and the treasurer and others tell you that the Australian economy is doing better than most – they are right,” he said.
“We are still fortunate that we have an unemployment rate with a five in front of it. I wouldn’t have thought that was going to be possible a couple of years ago, and I don’t think many people would have. Our unemployment has remained pleasingly quite low.
“And our debt to GDP ratio, the amount of money we owe to the strength of our economy, is still a lot better than most other countries.”
That said, Mr Howard said it was important for Australia to be constantly striving for growth and betterment, so that our competitors don’t overtake us.
“In an international environment, in a globalised world economy, you have people who are in that economic foot race who are trying to get past you. And the problem about slowing down in that footrace, even if you can’t ever get to the finishing line, is that if you slow down, other people are going to go past you,” he said.
“And that is a bit like what’s happening at the present time. We’ve been doing well in that footrace for about 25 years, but we’re now starting to slow down.”
Meanwhile, at the Sydney Morning Herald Paul Sheehan’s piece A Liberal undermining his leader suggests there’s more than one enemy within the LNP. Sheehan writes:
When Julia Gillard called a federal election seven months in advance, her greatest hope of survival was that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would step on a political landmine, or his own party would undermine him. After all, it was a group of NSW Liberal factional obsessives and vengeful ex-Nationals who saved her in 2010.
As if on cue, one of those factional obsessives, Liberal federal backbencher Alex Hawke, has openly confronted Abbott’s credibility and authority in an election year. Last week he portrayed Abbott’s core policy on paid parental leave as ”unaffordable”, ”unsustainable” and ”unnecessary”.
The same can be said about Hawke. His political career is a civil war without end. His obsession with his own self-advancement has in effect destroyed it. He may sit in Federal Parliament, he may hold a safe seat, he may pull factional strings, but in the Canberra caucus he is indelibly marked by episodes of treachery, scorched earth tactics and backbench Siberia.
The first time I met Hawke was during an interview with state Liberal MP David Clarke, in Clarke’s office in the NSW Parliament. Clarke is one of the most eccentric men in politics and Hawke was his right-hand man, his protege. Clarke has since come to despise Hawke, for reasons that are infamous within the party.
On September 30, 2009, Hawke called the police to a branch meeting in his electorate office in Castle Hill. It was a desperate ploy, and a black mark against the party, but Hawke’s local power base was under threat. The Liberal Party later produced a detailed report about the incident. Although the party bans its members from discussing internal matters with the media, the past president of the Mitchell Federal Electoral Council, Tim Abrams, who lodged a complaint about Hawke’s actions, is on the record as stating: ”I have now received the ruling confirming that the behaviour of preventing members from entering the meeting and calling the police was inappropriate … The decision accurately sets the record straight and notes there was no basis or reason to stop the meeting by Alex Hawke MP or indeed his calling for the police to attend.”
I checked with Abrams to make sure his published comments were correct, which does not breach the party’s suppression rule. He confirmed they were accurate: ”Yes, he used the police to close the meeting.” Hawke, too, has claimed the party report vindicates him. I disagree.
This ugly tactic was critical to a wider stealth campaign Hawke was waging to build his factional base and end the career of his mentor, Clarke. Having been elected to Federal Parliament, and having ministerial ambitions, Hawke now regarded Clarke as a liability. Clarke, unaware, had assumed Hawke was an ally, not realising that Hawke had organised a carefully planned attack to have Clarke lose his preselection in 2010 and thus his seat in Parliament in 2011.
On January 28, 2010, Barry O’Farrell wrote to the NSW Liberal Party state director, Mark Neeham, supporting Clarke’s re-endorsement for the upper house ticket, adding: ”I am especially grateful for David’s support in my efforts to reform the NSW Liberal Party and put an end to the antics that have so damaged our electoral prospects in the past.”
Hawke defied his state leader. He moved against Clarke, opening a fissure within the party with exactly the sort of ”antics” O’Farrell was condemning.
On February 4, 2010, Abbott wrote to the NSW state director: ”It’s important for the stability of the NSW Liberal Party, and for the party’s success at the upcoming state and federal elections, that David Clarke remains in the Legislative Council.”
Hawke, in defiance of his federal leader, moved against Clarke, and almost succeeded. On June 28, 2010, Hawke’s key factional ally, Nick Campbell, was forced to resign as president of the NSW Liberal Party, after he tried to stop a vote to curb the frequent use of special powers, a tactic which Campbell, Hawke and another factional warrior, Michael Photios, had used frequently to build their factional numbers.
The use of these special powers, meant to be invoked only in emergencies, had affected the outcomes of numerous preselection contests. Campbell, Hawke and Photios were part of the majority factional alliance in the state executive which failed to have key marginal electorates ready because of factional manoeuvring.
This blew up on July 17, 2010, when Gillard announced a federal election for August 21.
The Liberal preselections for the key marginal seats of Greenway and Parramatta had not even been completed. No candidates were in the field. Preselection for a third crucial marginal seat, Lindsay, had only just been completed. All three seats are expected to fall to the Liberals this year. But in 2010 the Liberals were not ready, Labor held all three seats, and this turned the election.
During the past year, Hawke, with no prospect of advancement under Abbott, has been cultivating Malcolm Turnbull.
Last week, Hawke mounted a frontal attack on Abbott’s authority with a piece for the Institute of Public Affairs calling for Abbott to scrap his paid parental leave scheme. Last Monday he gave a series of radio and TV interviews elaborating on his opposition to this signature Abbott policy. Whatever misgivings Liberals may have about this policy, the place to air them is the party room, not the media.
Having chosen to undermine his leader, again, during an election year, again, Hawke is burnishing an inedible association with division, delusion and disloyalty.
Two very revealing articles. BTW, don’t expect to see them given any oxygen in the Murdoch media. The only place you’ll get a chance to talk about them is on social media sites, such as here.