The Liberal party owns Wannon lock, stock and barrel and it gifts selection to it once in a generation. In conservative politics, the stakes rarely get higher. While the current incumbent David Hawker was considered a bit of an oxygen bandit, he rose to the level of Speaker. His predecessor Malcolm Fraser was the most politically successful Victorian Liberal since Menzies, whatever his current ideological failings may be now that he has moved well to the left of Labor in his dotage.
There is a big field and VEXNEWS has obtained the entire secret slab of biographical details as supplied to Liberal party preselectors ahead of this weekend’s festivities.
DAN “THE MAN” TEHAN
They tell quite the story. One candidate, Dan Tehan, a multiple preselection candidate over the years, perhaps demonstrates his sense of humour by listing his occupation as “Preselection Candidate.” This also reflects the fact that he showed a certain sense of integrity by giving up his post at 104 Exhibition Street in order to contest Wannon without having a conflict between his party duties and his private ambitions. We were critical of him potentially doing that so credit where it’s due to him for making that tough and presumably expensive call.
Tehan came out with a highly professional direct mail campaign that has impressed quite a few locals. He’s been calling around pretty avidly too and is said to have made a reasonably favourable impression. Also in his corner has been local MP and powerbroker Dr Denis Napthine, who has been spruiking in favour of Tehan and is thought to be a substantial influence on a number of voters.
The most prominent female candidate is the IPA’s Louise Staley. Strongly linked to the Baillieu faction, whose forebears presumably once owned most of the Western District as squatters, Staley unlike some is technically a local. We say that because as a number of locals corresponding with VEXNEWS have made all too clear, they regard Staley’s stint living in the electorate as not sufficient to qualify as a local. A bit harsh perhaps, but this is the Western District.
One made a number of particularly biting criticisms, which we introduce to the debate with some hesitation because VEXNEWS thinks she’d actually be quite a strong candidate for the Liberals and a much needed woman in their ranks:
Louise, once a very influential State Metro Vice President, has never admitted her role in the downfall of the Kennett Government as Joy ‘still in denial’ Howley’s closest urban ally. She was quite happy to be Kennett’s and Baillieu’s stalking horse at pre-selections, admin committee meetings and State Councils, Staley supported Howley to divert resources from metro marginal seats in favour of three cornered contests with the Nationals.
She lost a bitter pre-selection 2000 battle for the Menzies electorate against cool hand Kevin Andrews after it was revealed that Staley had lost her drivers licence for drink driving – a fact she concealed to pre-selection delegates. At the time Staley and allies employed a grubby whispering sectarian campaign against Andrews who had been successful in overturning the euthanasia laws in the NT. This actually galvinised many of non-Catholics throughout the byzantine world of Menzies’ Liberal branches.
The pre-selection vote was evenly split. Brian Loughnane, the then State Director of Victoria and now the current Federal Director – cast his deciding vote in favour of Andrews. Andrew was, of course, a Howard-backed incumbent and future Cabinet Minister who had carriage of Workchoices, Welfare to Work and famously withdrew Dr Haneef’s working visa in 2007 after an attempted terrorist outrage in the UK.
There is no doubt Staley’s lack of disclosure and candour lost her crucial votes as well as respect. Few thought she would try for pre-selection again.
She had another crack in Casey and ran into the Tony Smith phenomenon, as he himself describes it.
Devastated by these blows she moved to the emerald paddocks of the WD, to be groomed by Howley for the moment former Speaker of the House, David Hawker, decided to retire.
Out of the corners of their mouths, Staley and Howley have long peddled sectarian views against active members of the Party who are committed Catholics, Jews and Evangelical Christians. They even supported the Party’s former foremost anti-Israeli baiter, Adrian Jackson, in positions of authority. Ken Aldred now holds that title.
Both Staley and Howley have also long enjoyed their roles as Victoria’s in-house Howard and Costello haters.
It is as if Staley is opposed to both people with values and people who are successful in politics – an perplexing daily double in public life.
Staley’s tortuous party involvement is bound to be scrutinised very closely. Couldn’t the Baillieu faction find a Sara Henderson type candidate?
There is a feeling in the Party that Baillieu has lost support of the rank and file as expressed in the Kooyong preselection battle that elevated Josh Frydenberg and the solid backing of pro-Krogerites for the Admin Committee. This pre-selection is as much as anything a test for Baillieu’s authority.
Another was scathing about Staley’s preselection bid:
Louise appears to going backwards; she has been in the area ten years and the locals still do not consider a local. Her personal style and sense of entitlement has pissed people off. Joy Howley is still respected but her judgment in this case is seriously questioned. Known by her enemies as Joyless Howler â€¦.. They are also running a campaign against Tehan, Marie Tehanâ€™s son and loyal Kennett Minister, as the Catholic candidate.Â This is galvanizing a lot of God fearing Celtic people in the south of the electorate behind Tehan. Staley also put out an eight page A4 rambling mess of a direct mail piece which her camp are running away from. [VEXNEWS: Click here [pdf]to see the piece, we don’t think it’s too bad actually]
One Krogerite strongly opposed to Staley for factional reasons perhaps summed it up best:
It is a shame she is quite smart. Just too close to Ted.
The Kroger faction’s official choice is Rod Nockles, who has risen to the occasion with impressive referees in the form of former minister and employer Jocelyn Newman and the increasingly vocal former Howard COS Arthur Sinodinis.
A local voter told VEXNEWS that they were quite impressed with their interaction with Nockles and were strongly inclined to vote for him:
â€˜Wannon is seen as seat for front bencher and Nockles aims to seek office higher than Speaker of the House.Â Of all the candidates, Nockles has the kind of CVâ€“ strong in the business world and in politics â€“ that merit himÂ as the strongest candidate. Locals donâ€™t necessarily want a yeoman farmer; they want a candidate with clout. After all it is around the Cabinet table where real change happens. With Arthurâ€™s imprimatur, that has already boosted the perception that Nockles is the favourite. Louise is taking a gambit in reinventing herself as â€˜of the Western District’ â€“ pre-selectors are more sophisticated than wanting â€˜a localâ€™
The old bugger Stewie McArthur and his good lady of the manor Bev are not without influence in Wannon, from their former reign as the King and Queen of neighbouring seat Corangamite, temporarily occupied by out-of-town savage Socialist Leftard Darren Cheeseman. Cheeseman won the seat after personally making many thousands of phone calls to punters, based on ACTU data of swingers. Stewie preferred politics when not everyone had a phone.
Speaking of the McArthur clan, Simon Price is also having a crack too with the McArthur’s imprimatur and has also attracted some good press as being the most pro-agriculture candidate.
Price is an ex-staffer to Liberal MP John Vogels and also used to work for Old Man Stewie, Ol Man Winter Dr David Kemp and the VFF. He even abandoned his Uni degree to work for Kemp, himself a former academic and federal education minister.
We were quite surprised to see Price present with a reference from a National Party MP Peter Walsh. This wouldn’t be greatly different from Andrew Giles claiming he had the Greens party numbers-man Greg Barber’s backing for Labor preselection in Batman.
But locals tell VEXNEWS it’s considered quite a good move by most players as the local Libs are always concerned about three-cornered contests and are keen to have the Nats on-board.
Price ran unsuccessfully for Corangamite before being beaten by the impressive Frank Costa backed ex-newsreader now lawyer Sara Henderson who will give the lefty Cheeseman a big run for his money but will be battling against changing demographics.
Perhaps our favourite candidate on paper is the mining entrepreneur and Western District farm owner Stephen Mitchell.
While a highly successful businessman, he clearly has the political bug, having run as a Liberal candidate years ago and staying active in the party ever since.
A former investment banker, he founded Molopo Australia, a natural gas explorer that has enjoyed tremendous success and is now an ASX 200 company, one of the stock exchange’s biggest companies by market capitalisation, with a value that’s been nearly $400 million.
Not too shabby.
Will it impress the Party members who get to vote on the weekend? That will largely depend on how Mitchell presents in the flesh.
A reference from Eda Ritchie, of the well-known Liberal family of the Western District, won’t hurt with the blue bloods as well his recent inheritance of his family’s rural seat.
Other candidates include the impressively named Hugh Koch who promotes local tourism for the South Grampians Shire, house husband and farmer David Clark, vet Matt Makin, Ballarat based university researcher Elizabeth MatuschkaÂ and the local councillor who enjoys a high profile in the local press Cr Katrina Rainsford.
May the best patriot win.