Making an art form of revenge politics

PERTH political consultant Noel Crichton-Browne is in the fortunate position of his work being his hobby.

Politics has been his pastime since he made his stockmarket fortune in his 20s while working in the State’s north-west.

Most at that age are building up their 40-hour-week careers.

Mr Crichton-Browne wasn’t so encumbered. He made big money quickly and so turned to his hobby, becoming a political powerbroker along the way.

While there, he developed the knack of getting single-minded people to join the Liberal Party.

And, as he had an abundance of time, he refined his persuasive skills.

Things turned his way when he reached Perth, since he had recruited those in so many Liberal branches, on its various committees, and attending conferences.

This meant he could count on their support on policies and, importantly, in getting those he backed into key party and parliamentary positions.

Little wonder Mr Crichton-Browne quickly emerged as State Liberal president, followed by Senate endorsement.

But things weren’t always rosy. Along the way he made enemies, among them even senior ministers, like the late Andrew Mensaros in Sir Charles Court’s Government.

This created some strife, although it was overcome.

There were others who also disliked the swath he’d cut through city and country party branches

and had come to dislike him

and his ubiquitous backers. All

these, by now, knew him as NCB.

Many seeking to get ahead – meaning a Parliamentary seat – quickly hitched themselves to NCB’s coat-tail, among them former Fair Trading Minister Doug Shave, for NCB invariably had the numbers when and where it counted.

It was NCB who elevated the likes of Sue Knowles, Ian Campbell, Chris Ellison, and much later, Ross Lightfoot, to the Senate ranks.

All except the last has broken with him.

But around this time things went haywire – NCB made a rude comment to a female journalist and gained nationwide media notoriety.

Key senior Liberals reacted by expelling him, something he’s deeply hurt over.

Whether this was adequate grounds for such a drastic step, and against someone who’d done so much for so long for the party, is something else.

Then came an incident involving a female friend he flew with to Broome and Norfolk Island at taxpayers’ expense, resulting in him being charged and risking jail.

A key player in having this vented was ABC morning radio compere – then an MP – Eion Cameron.

The magistrate concluded NCB’s case involved “a very serious breach of trust for which he himself must be punished”. He was heavily fined.

Why recount his amazing achievements and ignominious fall? Because it’s relevant today.

Leaked documents show one of NCB’s clients is former Liberal Party member and now One Nation MLC, John Fischer, who, with NCB, is playing the same political tune.

Both insist the Liberals lost power in February because of their refusal to swap preferences with One Nation.

Mr Fischer desperately wants a preference deal this coming federal campaign and says he’ll urge One Nation voters to preference away from the Liberals if it’s not done.

An NCB letter to Mr Fischer that accompanied a draft speech Mr Fischer largely recited as his maiden address says: “You may do as you wish with it.

“I have laboured the Liberal Party’s decision to put you last on its how-to-vote cards because it will bring pressure to bear on the party to reconsider their position.”

But senior Liberals adamantly disagree.

They believe they lost not because of One Nation, but rather because NCB’s pal Doug Shave so badly bungled the mortgage brokers’ affair and Premier Richard Court failed to act decisively.

This was the over-arching issue of the campaign – no two ways about it – with Aussie battlers swindled by sharp operators and a Government sitting on its hands.

They see NCB as being vindictive and using the One Nation scare to keep the spotlight off Mr Shave.

They feel NCB isn’t fussed at seeing One Nation not preferencing to Prime Minister John Howard, who’s also no friend of NCB’s.

State Liberal MLC Derrick Tomlinson alluded to this in his reply to Mr Fischer’s speech by quoting a 1998 newspaper article about the loss of Liberal seats at the 1998 federal election.

“Stirling MP Eion Cameron, who campaigned for Crichton-Browne’s 1995 expulsion from the Liberal Party, blamed the loss of his seat to Labor on his old nemesis,” the article said.

“‘It was his means of revenge,’ said Mr Cameron, claiming Crichton-Brown urged One Nation to preference against Liberal members in marginal seats.

“When The Australian contacted Mr Crichton-Browne yesterday morning he happily admitted to urging One Nation to target Mr Cameron. ‘Yes I did,’ he said. ‘I’m pleased to be able to make my contribution’. ”

Mr Tomlinson added: “If that is not a statement of vindictiveness, I have not heard one.”

The Fischer-NCB tune ensures the Libs will preference former Nationals leader Hendy Cowan to get him into Canberra.

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