Woe betides any organisation that looses Scott Morrison’s legions in its ranks:
NSW Liberal state director Chris Stone has been threatened with legal action by a member of his party’s state executive as grassroots members say attempts to stitch together a shadowy factional deal to bypass preselections in vital seats will “cripple our campaign effectiveness”.
The legal warning comes after months of factional brinkmanship, which has left a raft of winnable seats in NSW – vital for Scott Morrison’s re-election – still lacking an endorsed candidate.
The letter, sent by lawyers representing Matthew Camenzuli late on Tuesday night, alleges the NSW Liberal Party’s ongoing failure to carry out preselections and endorsement of candidates was the consequence of Mr Stone pursuing an agenda ulterior to the party’s best interests.
The letter, seen by The Australian, warns that the ongoing failure to undertake preselections for lower house seats was in breach of Mr Stone’s duties and his responsibilities to the party. Unless national review committee meetings – the process required to vet candidates – were held by February 1, the letter says proceedings would be brought by Mr Camenzuli personally and as a representative of party members against Mr Stone in the Supreme Court.
…“Our beloved Liberal Party is in crisis. Media reports of cross-factional deals that cancel out democratic candidate selections by the membership are just horrifying. It can’t be allowed,” he wrote. “I’m sure all of you have been deluged with similar outrage. To disrespect the membership in such a contemptible fashion will undoubtedly degrade our ground game in the upcoming election. It will cripple our campaign effectiveness. Who could be motivated to volunteer, let alone donate?”
Who did this?
The Zoom call included Scott Morrison’s chief fixer Yaron Finkelstein, centre-right leader Alex Hawke, the Immigration Minister, and moderate kingpins NSW Treasurer Matt Kean and North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman.
The in-principle agreement included: endorsing incumbent MPs without preselections; PwC management consultant Alex Dore becoming the candidate for Hughes; selecting Pentecostal preacher Jemima Gleeson, the Prime Minister’s preferred pick, as the Dobell candidate; and automatically endorsing Foreign Minister Marise Payne as No. 1 on the party’s NSW Senate ticket, leaving the No. 3 spot as the only “winnable” position up for preselection.
Which happened in the face of even John Howard’s objections:
A rare, glowing endorsement written by Mr Howard for St Vincent’s Hospital cardiologist Michael Feneley labels him an “outstanding person” and an “ideal candidate”.
…“The Liberal Party is in need of candidates who have achieved esteem and success in the real world. Professor Feneley certainly falls into this category”.
The endorsement comes despite the Prime Minister’s backing for businesswomen and Pentecostal preacher Jemima Gleeson.
What’s this about? Recall from recent western Sydney local elections:
At the heart of it is Scott Morrison’s New South Wales consigliore, Alex Hawke.
…Since 2007, Hawke has been the member for the electorate of Mitchell, part of the outer north-western “Bible Belt” of Sydney. He is currently a member of the Morrison cabinet and minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs. Like Morrison, he is of Pentecostal faith. More importantly for this story, he is the leader of the Morrison faction in NSW, the centre-right, and is Morrison’s appointed delegate on the party’s state executive.
The other two, larger factions are the right, sometimes called the hard right, which is the faction of Premier Dominic Perrottet, and the moderate or left faction, led by the treasurer and minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean.
Hawke is reviled by both.
As one senior right faction member says, Hawke “has used his time as Morrison’s representative on the state executive in an endeavour to advance their factional position to the detriment of both the conservatives and the moderates – to the point now where the conservatives and the moderates are in an alliance against Hawke. And that means against Morrison.”
The anti-Hawke feeling goes beyond institutional opposition. It is personal. Like his prime ministerial mentor, Hawke is hard-charging and abrasive. While the left and right have in recent years come to a sometimes-uneasy agreement in sharing the spoils of power, Hawke has a winner-takes-all approach. It has come back to bite him, his boss and the party.
…“So then you had the same factional fighting … in the state executive about who should be preselected,” Dwyer says.
Eventually, says Dwyer, the state executive made a curious decision. They said: “It’s all too hard. It’s, it’s just bringing the party into disrepute. We’re not going to preselect anybody.”
When some dark and hungry god is pre-selecting your candidates then compromise comes with eternal damnation.
Here endeth the lesson.