11/05/2004 - 22:00

Joe Poprzeczny - State Scene: Libs’ faction fights costly

11/05/2004 - 22:00

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SO far this year four Liberal MPs have seen their hopes of remaining in parliament dashed, either by a loss of party endorsement or having been placed too far down an upper house ticket to be returned.

SO far this year four Liberal MPs have seen their hopes of remaining in parliament dashed, either by a loss of party endorsement or having been placed too far down an upper house ticket to be returned.

Of the four, one had the situation reversed, another sought similar treatment but failed to get it, the third is likely to have it changed, and the fourth has no hope of seeing his situation reversed.

True, four pre-selections is a tiny sample, but even so, is there anything to be learned from such contradictory treatment of sitting members who have faced the prospect of seeing political careers going up in smoke?

First came Darling Range MLA John Day, whose electorate branches dumped him in preference for Frank Lindsey, who challenged Mr Day under the Liberals for Forests banner at the 2001 election.

Then Vasse MLA Bernie Masters lost local party endorsement to Busselton Mayor Troy Buswell.

Mr Day responded by immediately turning to the party’s powerful State council, which can ratify local endorsement ballots or reject them.

In his case it did the latter, and so saved his political neck.

His success was due to unequivocal support from party leader Colin Barnett and solid backing from State councillors aligned with the party’s dominant faction, led by senators Ian Campbell and Chris Ellison, both Federal ministers.

Understandably Mr Masters sought the same, but State council never even countenanced the idea.

Why not?

On first sight this is puzzling because, like Mr Day, Mr Masters had lost local branch backing but was closely allied to Mr Barnett in party-room disputes.

Clearly, there was something absent in Mr Masters’ case.

That something was the fact that most within the Campbell-Ellison faction never objected to Mr Buswell in the way they did to Mr Lindsey.

Obviously, Liberal candidacy now depends on three key ingredients.

First come the votes of local branch delegates within an MP’s electorate or division.

Second, unequivocal backing of a party State leader greatly helps.

And finally there’s the backing of Campbell-Ellison factional State councillors.

Mr Day lost out on the first – backing of Darling Range’s branches – but won out on two and three.

Mr Masters lost out on the first – the backing of Vasse’s branches – gained some sympathy from Mr Barnett, but failed to win unequivocal across-the-board support of the Campbell-Ellison faction’s State councillors.

Interestingly, this trio of requirements will be tested at the May 22 State council meeting.

During the past month, two upper house Liberals – Alan Cadby (north metropolitan) and Barbara Scott (south metropolitan) – have been demoted to unwinnable spots on their respective multi-member upper house tickets.

Mr Cadby slipped to the unwinnable fifth spot when only the first three Liberals are likely to win.

Mrs Scott slipped to the unwinnable third spot where only the first two Liberals are likely to win.

Mr Cadby only managed fifth spot because two new candidates – Peter Collier and David Clyne, both keen backers of Mr Barnett and avidly supported by the Campbell-Ellison faction – came in ahead of him.

The remaining two places above Mr Cadby went to his two parliamentary colleagues, George Cash and Ray Halligan.

Both Messrs Collier and Clyne had the necessary support of north metropolitan branches as well as strong backing from the Campbell-Ellison faction, which is a particularly formidable force across most north-of-the-river electoral divisions.

Mrs Scott’s bind was similar.

She lacked adequate branch support across South metropolitan, where, unfortunately for her, the Camphell-Ellison faction is also weak. The major local factional force there backs controversial Court Government minister Doug Shave, which is why he won number two spot on the ticket, one ahead of her.

But, crucially for Mrs Scott, both Mr Barnett and the Campbell-Ellison faction dislike Mr Shave intensely. And there’s still the State council’s confirming vote to come.

All the money is on Mrs Scott moving to number two because Mr Shave won’t be confirmed.

This is primarily because Mr Barnett has spoken out unequivocally against him and because the Campbell-Ellison faction won’t wear him.

Mr Cadby, of course, lacks these essential ingredients for a reversal to be affected for him, meaning he’s set to go the way of Mr Masters.

Mr Shave is, therefore, destined never to return to parliament and Mr Cadby seems destined to leave it on May 21 2005, when his term expires.

It seems the golden rule if you want to retain Liberal endorsement is to ensure all local electorate branches have office bearers who like you, that is, are friends, business associates, employees, or better still, family members. It also helps to be on the right side of a State party leader.

And last, but most certainly not least, to quickly determine who the Campbell-Ellison faction’s ‘foot soldiers’ on State council are and to pal up with as many of them as possible. If you do that you may not die as an MP but you’re destined to qualify for a big parliamentary pension.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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