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SECRET WOMEN’S BUSINESS: Liberal preselections in Deakin and Corangamite dissected VEXNEWS style

Sarah Henderson triumphed in Corangamite. Kelly O’Dwyer disgraced herself as a villain. Sandra Mercer-Moore’s “project” unexpectedly grabbed the Deakin crown. In Australia’s first political party founded on feminist principles, the women loom large and are in charge.

The most intriguing aspect of the two big weekend preselection tussles for the Liberals in Victoria was the notable backroom roles of powerful women behind the scenes.

While Labor has affirmative action quotas, which many of its blokes are keen to overturn or at least subvert, most forget that the Liberal party has effectively a 50% affirmative action system (not that they call it that) for its internal offices with each gender receiving an equal allocation. It’s a legacy of the formation of the party by Menzies who teamed up with some very well resourced, conservative mass-membership women’s groups like the Australian Women’s National League in the 1940s. We think it’s fascinating that Australia’s lead conservative party has such a proud feminist history.

And it’s not just history either, in two key preselections, Corangamite and Deakin, women loomed large. In Corangamite, former newsreader Sarah Henderson, with the strong backing of federal leader Tony Abbott, triumphed winning an absolute majority in the first round over Rod Nockles, a former Costello adviser. It was a very strong showing by Henderson and affords her a big opportunity to take Victoria’s most marginal Labor seat after a wobbly campaign effort in 2010. Most think she’ll do much better second time around.

Nockles was strongly most actively by Higgins MP Kelly O’Dwyer who spent weeks rubbishing Henderson over the phone to all and sundry.

It was the latest flash-point between the occasionally divided Costello-Kroger group, with the Costello elements like O’Dwyer backing former Costello staffer Rod Nockles and the Kroger types supporting Henderson. The latter group wanted the locals to resolve the matter, thinking that Henderson would benefit from a lack of big-city meddling.

This was despite a clear sense coming from the Leader’s office, expressed and communicated through heavy-hitters like Kevin Andrews and Andrew Robb, that they expected Sarah Henderson should prevail.

O’Dwyer is believed to have been complicit in the spreading of a dirt file on Henderson which essentially rehashed old muck, most of which had been published online before, which massively backfired this time among members.

“Very unfortunate behaviour,” a Liberal close to Leader Tony Abbott told VEXNEWS, reflecting on reports of O’Dwyer’s unsuccessful meddling.

Another, who closely monitored the situation told us “O’Dwyer has fallen out with most of her federal colleagues from Victoria, who look upon her self-promotion with disdain. (She is) looked upon as a trouble-maker by Tony Abbott.”

O’Dwyer’s motivation in this was either explained as a most unsisterly determination to knock off a presentable, equally ambitious woman or to add to her power-base by helping get her mate Rod Nockles into the party room.

Meanwhile, in the preselection in Deakin, a shock result occurred that requires some explaining.

The surprise/shock winner was Michael Sukkar (pronounced Souk-ah), a tax lawyer from Ashurst, the renamed Blake Dawson law firm.

SandramercermooreHe was described by one well-informed player as a “Sandra Mercer-Moore project.” The Metropolitan Womens Vice-President is a respected behind-the-scenes power-broker and is understood to have very thoroughly prepped the newbie for the Liberal preselection process “trial by ordeal” of speech-making and interview-panelling that through its rigour can create random events. The strength of his presentation and backing from Mercer-Moore played a vital role in his victory.

Essentially Sukkar slipped through the middle of two other strongly supported candidates, well-regarded Baillieu workplace relations adviser John Pesutto and Michelle Frazer, the Womens Council president. Pesutto, supported by the Baillieu faction, such as it is, had been campaigning for months, with his boss’s blessing and also the active encouragement of former member Phil Baressi.

There was a strong field of seven candidates, including impressive former Melbourne candidate Simon Olsen, local councillor Andrew Munro, Terry Barnes, Phillip Fusco, with Fusco first eliminated, then Barnes, then Munroe, ahead of the other three. The quality of the candidates is thought to reflect a high level of Liberal confidence that they will take back Deakin with a big swing at the next election, still likely to be late next year.

It then got interesting, Liberal sources familiar with the situation have explained. Sukkar and Olsen dramatically tied for third in the next round of balloting. Sukkar then won the nail-biting run-off vote. Pesutto was firmly in the lead at that point but was unable to increase his tally in subsequent rounds. The second-last ballot was crucial, a tussle between Sukkar and Frazer, in effect, to decide which of the “anti-Pesutto” candidates would face-off against him. Critically, had Frazer prevailed over Sukakr, many of those who’d voted for Sukkar weren’t willing to vote for her on the basis “she wasn’t up to it.” A bit harsh, but that’s how preselections are.

In the end, Sukkar prevailed in that round and went on to defeat Pesutto, who is now expected to put up his hand for a state seat and could emerge as a cabinet minister if the Baillieu show can get itself re-elected, which doesn’t always seem probable but certainly should be likely.

Those writing him off, in his party and without, should look for signs the sleeping giant Premier Baillieu is slowly waking up. Even ABC’s Jon Faine thinks so:


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. It’s sad. Peter Costello should let go.

    Posted by Evil Bastard | June 18, 2012, 9:24
  2. lets see how sooky goes against iron Mike Symons. he increased his margin in the last election whilst the ALP were loosing seats everywhere.

    Posted by pleated pants | June 18, 2012, 9:59
  3. I understand that the ‘dirt unit’ is also looking into the use of the Mayoral car when Richard Torbay was Mayor and whether an accident is related to his high vote amongst the student population in 1995.

    Posted by the Insider | June 18, 2012, 9:59
  4. A geat field of strong candidates, wonder why ! Liberals are gonna win Deakin. UnfortuneAate,comment on Frazer, a powerful advocate !

    Posted by TJ | June 18, 2012, 10:19
  5. The dirt file on Henderson, which mentioned, inter alia, her divorce was entirely unnecessary and arguably counter-productive.

    Isn’t this the same LP that complained about the ALP’s ‘dirt’ unit?

    What was KOD, et al, thinking?

    Posted by Brian | June 18, 2012, 11:00
  6. The great wotif, “Sukkar v Olsen”, Wotif Olsen had won that elimination, where would the votes have gone ? We were never preselecting someone who works for a troubled MP, so Wotif Olsen / Frazer / Pesutto were the last ballots.

    Posted by Cozza's lovechild Kelly | June 18, 2012, 11:15
  7. The ALP were losing seats everywhere … except Victoria, where they won Latrobe from the Liberal Party.

    The swing in Deakin was broadly representative of the swing in Melbourne generally.

    Posted by Steve Sensible | June 18, 2012, 11:26
  8. It’s about time Canberra had its own screaming eagle.

    Posted by Screagle | June 18, 2012, 12:17
  9. What sane young person would like to have on their CV that they worked for K’OD? Talking about poison!

    Posted by Seek.com | June 18, 2012, 12:20
  10. Agreed. Libs should have preselected Jason Aldworth or Jonny Roskam for Higgins not that horror O’Dwyer. Another Costello staffer everyone hates with a passion. I for one wouldn’t like to have worked for Scott Ryan or Mitch Fifield either if I was to appear at a Liberal preselection. Yuck.

    Posted by Ramparts Alive | June 18, 2012, 12:25
  11. Come on. Why is it that Kelly O’Dwyer is now a hate figure like Ivan Millat and Delta Goodram? Ok Millat wasn’t that bad really. Not like O’Dwyer and Delta. Terminal Kelly O.

    Posted by Cannonball | June 18, 2012, 12:28
  12. Kelly O’Dwyer. I watched her on Q&A recently. What a vile piece of work. She was obnoxious beyond belief.I think my views were shared by the live audience, i saw many of them grimace when she spoke.Everybody else on the panel had a degree of civility, she had none. I suspect her parents would have been quite embarrassed by her performance.

    Posted by Reggie | June 18, 2012, 12:45
  13. The fact Frazer got so close to winning without any factional support should make a few people sit up and take notice

    Posted by veryoldtimer | June 18, 2012, 13:02
  14. Hate me all you like. Put up or shutup, that includes you Kroges. Cmon, challenge me, I dare you. If it was good enough for Henderson to show skirt then I’ll go commando and do the same.

    Posted by Cozza's lovechild Kelly | June 18, 2012, 13:04
  15. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/heartfelt-thanks-to-angels-of-mercy/story-e6frf7kx-1111115672257

    Oh dear, did young Mr Sukkar disclose during preselection his party drug addiction – and his now famous speed induced heart attack from his partying days (still going we hear). These little rich kids can afford the really powerful stuff. Only his close circle of friends know the truth. Oh, and now a good ol’ boy at the Herald Sun.

    Posted by Sukkar feels the need. The need for speed. | June 18, 2012, 13:50
  16. why do little men keep walking in and out of faine’s ears in the video?

    Posted by homer | June 18, 2012, 14:07
  17. I’ve never heard the words “impressive” and “Olsen” in the same sentence before.

    Vexnews, you really are rubbish.

    Posted by Agenda Setter | June 18, 2012, 14:13
  18. I am all powerful…….

    Posted by No More Mercy | June 18, 2012, 14:19
  19. I agree that Kelly needs to learn some effective self promotion techniques from me. Everyone loves me and I love sausage rolls.

    Posted by Obese Jamie | June 18, 2012, 14:26
  20. Sandra Mercer Moore has another project in Geoff Shaw whom she also slipped in without anyone knowing Shaw’s history.

    She obviously has great judgement and the ALP is very grateful to her!

    Hopefully Sukkhar, whom most still do not know and did not even help in the last election campaign ( or any for that matter) will be an easy nut top crack by iron Man Simmons.
    Hip hip for No Mercy!

    Posted by anon | June 18, 2012, 14:37
  21. It was Henderson’s electoral staff who caused the Libs to lose Corangamite and therefore government, because they turned the shooters’ vote down.

    She lost by 0.8% 2PP, yet had 4% in the offering.

    Do the Libs really want history to repeat itself?

    Posted by @Rampant111 | June 18, 2012, 15:22
  22. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/heartfelt-thanks-to-angels-of-mercy/story-e6frf7kx-1111115672257

    Oh dear, did young Mr Sukkar disclose during preselection his addiction – and his now famous ‘speed’ induced heart attack from his partying days (still going we hear). These little rich kids can afford the really powerful stuff. Only his close circle of friends know the truth. Oh, and now a good ol’ boy at the Herald Sun.

    Posted by Sukkar feels the need. The need for speed. | June 18, 2012, 15:35
  23. Homer – well spptted! Funny stuff … (in one ear, out the other…)

    Posted by @Rampant111 | June 18, 2012, 15:54
  24. Sandra is a keen supporter of Kevin Andrews. In the weekend OZ, Peter van Onselen wrote an excellent op-ed arguing that Tony Abbott’s first order of business, upon winning the next election, should be to sack Kevin Andrews. No one could argue with that.

    Posted by There is something very wrong in the Vuctorian Division of the Liberal Party, namely Kevin Andrews | June 18, 2012, 18:07
  25. Did you see the article by respected opinion writer Peter Van Onselen on Saturday who said that Tony Abbott needs to sack Kevin ANdrews even before he gets rid of the carbon tax?

    This has been noted by many, many people in the Victorian division, who see Kevin as having absolutely nothing to contribute to the party, and who is stealing spots that rightly belong to talented people like Kelly O’Dwyer.

    Posted by There is something very very wrong in the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party, namely Kevin Andrews | June 18, 2012, 18:11
  26. @ Agenda Setter, lay off Olsen, you clown. Your comment shows you couldn’t set a dinner table. He was the most impressive candidate there. Sukkar didn’t offer anything that Olsen offered nore of. The fix was in from Mercy No More from at least 72 hours prior. Olsen fought a creditable and remarkable race that was untainted by head office or Spring St interference.

    Posted by The Wrong Winner | June 18, 2012, 18:48
  27. No More Mercy was supporting Olsen together with Helen Kroger. She then shifted her vote to Sukkar when he was in the last two.

    Talk about history revisionism.

    Posted by There is something very very wrong in the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party, namely the member for Menzies | June 18, 2012, 19:08
  28. Oh well at least we don’t have to move out to the slums

    Posted by Maria | June 18, 2012, 19:11
  29. @ There is…Menzies 19:08 – that would have been good news to Olsen, if only it were true. He had no support from Mercy No More or anyone else senior. People were falsely bagging him and they did nothing.

    Posted by The Wrong Winner Again | June 18, 2012, 19:36
  30. Kelly is a brillian MP who supported Sukkar all the way to the end. Sandra Merecer Moore was supporting Olsen.

    Posted by Keeno. Rorts. Lies. | June 18, 2012, 20:15
  31. Soon I’ll be back for my seat following my mentor the “Very Important” Mr Fifield! I hope Professor Maku Dong Long is no longer on this blog?

    Posted by Just_In McKeegan | June 18, 2012, 20:46
  32. Kevin Andrews is a conservative of principle and has the right attitudes for his portfolio. He is only in his fifties and the idea that that is too old for politics is absurd. He still has a lot more to contribute.

    Posted by conservative liberal | June 18, 2012, 20:55
  33. @ The wrong winner again…here here!!! All those who’ve bagged Olsen will one day eat their words! He was on fire on Saturday and his speech was by far the punchiest and most impressive speech of the day. Mercy No More’s agenda was very clear and she got her way this time but that definitely does not mean the best man won on the day.
    Vexnews got it right!! “impressive former Melbourne candidate Simon Olsen,” and Frazer ““she wasn’t up to it.” “… spot on!! Agenda Setter…you have no clue!!

    Posted by The Wrong Winner Supporter | June 18, 2012, 21:00
  34. I thought mercer Moore was helping Frazer. Might have been backing two horses

    Posted by Devious | June 18, 2012, 21:04
  35. sounds to me like Mercy No Moore has no idea who she was backing…It wasn’t Olsen…

    Posted by The Wrong Winner Supporter | June 18, 2012, 21:11
  36. @ Keeno 20:15 – someone is feeding you the totally wrong story. No way Mercy No More was supporting Olsen. Olsen definitely had no help or support from Admin Committee. Olsen was fighting rumours about him that were totally wrong. Look at the article – Mercy No More was looking after Sukkar. Looks like people are covering their tracks by false info. KOD? Well, history will record Sarah Henderson as the winner, so draw the conclusion. Good guys 1 (Corangamite), bad guys 1 (Deakin).

    Posted by Still the Wrong Winner | June 18, 2012, 21:36
  37. Best to stick with Henderson in Corangamite as she is well known after the last election and as a TV newsreader. She also looks good and her late mother was an effective minister in the Kennett Government.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | June 18, 2012, 21:42
  38. The Libs could put a monkey up against Symons at the next election and still win easily. Anyone who thinks the ALP is a chance to hold Deakin is completely deluded.

    Posted by Anonymous | June 18, 2012, 21:46
  39. who ever said Peter v O was respected? he did the dirty on the Party and Julie B and he will never ever be forgiven. As for Big Kev MP for Menzies, he rocks!!!!

    Posted by wtf? | June 18, 2012, 22:05
  40. O’Dwyer is the female equivalent of Jamie Briggs.

    Both are young and obnoxious.

    Both are deluded egomaniacs.

    Both were grossly over-promoted.

    Both are disloyal and treacherous, with a history of backstabbing, and are now held in contempt by their party room colleagues.

    Both are pathological leakers and self-promoters to anyone who will listen (which these days is only PVO).

    Both are completely, utterly, irredeemably not to be trusted.

    And both will be career backbenchers in the next Coalition Government.

    Posted by Canberra | June 18, 2012, 22:58
  41. Sandra Mercer Moore’s support and lobbying for Geoff Shaw, Helen Kroger and Michael Sukkar shows how bereft of talent the Tories are at the state and federal levels.

    Can we make No More Mercy a lifetime Liberal Party President?

    Posted by Lib Grapevine | June 18, 2012, 23:41
  42. Look, some people here really need to get their facts straight. Sandra Mercer Moore was not supporting Simon Olsen at any time throughout the convention. She was backing Sukkar. In the end all the candidates did very well on the day; it was a very tough competition and the votes were close from the beginning – shows just how hard it was for the delegates to decide.

    Posted by Get it right | June 19, 2012, 0:00
  43. Dear Lib Grapevine, Geoff Shaw is certainly not a high point for SMM but is the member of Mordiallac a spectacular success for Baillieu … ?
    SMM is a player and she hits more aces than double faults. Have some respect for Lady Machiavelli, arsehole!!!

    Posted by wtf? | June 19, 2012, 1:02
  44. I am not SMM. I am Dr SMM AM. I always support the winning candidate – once they have won – and then retrospectively too. This is a magical power that only I have.

    Posted by No More Mercy | June 19, 2012, 1:47
  45. Is this new Liberal preselection process better or worse – I am not sure that it is.

    Posted by anon | June 19, 2012, 3:22
  46. KOD has a history of betraying and knifing just about everyone who’s every supported her. MULC, MOB, Helen Kroger, Michael Kroger, and now Sarah Henderson.

    With friends like her.

    Posted by memories | June 19, 2012, 8:14
  47. Why was a talent like Sam aziz overlooked?

    Posted by Sam fan | June 19, 2012, 9:29
  48. KOD is a disgusting big layabout, on Q&A she stated that Thomson had siphoned millions off the HSU, millions? So what does she know about Kathy Jackson? Was she ever best friends with Whacko Jacko?

    Posted by sara west | June 19, 2012, 9:54
  49. hahahaha … what a joke, people who are obviously employed by the member for Menzies are now on this blog defending his honour. Hes been in parliament for a quarter of a century, and still isnt leader or even in the shadow cabinet. his policy work when doing the review of the party was so laughably bad that he was junked from the role. When he challenged Turnbull, the party opted for Turnbull (and inevitble electoral oblivion) instead of voting for KA at a rate of 2 to 1. Even Tony Abbott did better (obviously). Laurie Oakes said that Kevin was a joke. Peter Van O says he must be sacked as first order of business.

    Posted by The real deal | June 19, 2012, 12:37
  50. ingas run of good candidates is coming to an end. Shawie, Wrefordie, dirty donna and Paulie, the idiot son. Sammie will have to wait for many years before he is the chosen one!Ted is a little annoyed with the trouble ingas chooks are causing

    Posted by liberal doggie box | June 19, 2012, 13:28
  51. What about me? Surely I’m the best of Inga Binga’s candidates?

    Posted by The Undead | June 19, 2012, 15:32
  52. Henderson leaves KOD for dead. KOD has reason to feel threatened…

    Posted by Rank and file | June 19, 2012, 19:55
  53. A hyphenated name should be grounds for instant de-selection as a candidate.

    Posted by Who does she think she is? | June 19, 2012, 19:58
  54. Actually, KOD is more like the pathetic Milat nephew than Ivan Milat himself.

    Posted by Evil Bastard | June 19, 2012, 21:41
  55. It seems that being a senior adviser to Ted is frowned upon in the outer-eastern suburbs.

    Posted by Prosciutto | June 19, 2012, 21:43
  56. O’Dwyer is very unwise to be involved in sending out dirt sheets on Liberals, given the skeletons in her own past.

    Nick Reece’s dirt unit will be busy for weeks if ever they start digging on Missy Higgins.

    Posted by Digger | June 19, 2012, 22:52
  57. Chiros are far more powerful when it comes to numbers than physios.

    Posted by D-Squared | June 19, 2012, 23:06
  58. @ D-Squared: Hilarious!!! so true

    Posted by The Wise One | June 19, 2012, 23:50
  59. @Get it right: perfectly said. Most of the candidates did well, others were exceptional and it was a tough decision for the delegates… does help to have Mercy No More in your corner though.

    Posted by Fair Liberal | June 19, 2012, 23:54
  60. So if Kelly O’Dwyer is The Victorian Liberal answer to Matthew Milat, Peter Costello is Ivan, yeah?

    Posted by Anon | June 20, 2012, 0:02
  61. Anon – very funny!

    Posted by Charlie | June 20, 2012, 0:26
  62. Mike Symons? Isn’t he just a labor stooge that sits on the back bench and does whatever he is told? Yeah, that will be tough to beat!!!

    Posted by RJ | June 20, 2012, 11:41
  63. Frazer was never going to win Deakin given her less than cordial relationship with the Mitcham side of the electorate and her association with Geoff Shaw. The last thing that area needs is a third obnoxious and opinionated female MP. Her two would be state counterparts make the party look bad enough out there.

    Posted by Yan Yean Muppet | June 20, 2012, 12:11
  64. Henderson is good at playing the victim but that’s all she does. Her team ran the the smear campaign and she is the factional one – a sorry situation for Corangamite Liberals.

    Posted by Whatever | June 20, 2012, 12:17
  65. Can’t believe people think KOD has anything to worry about from Henderson. KOD has a brain and stands up for what she believes in – Hendeson is a talking head and all she can do it repeat what others have told her to say.

    Posted by KOD is kool | June 20, 2012, 12:24
  66. The deakin electorate wishes the new liberal candidate a ‘speedy’ recovery from his heart attack. God forbid Abbott should get in with a one seat majority with this bloke on his team!! He could drop dead at any moment.

    Posted by Sukkar's need for speed. | June 20, 2012, 16:01
  67. Andrews appointed Doug Williams as industrial registrar. Williams of course set in train the HSU/Thompson investigation. Andrews should also be immigration minister.

    Posted by Dryasachip | June 20, 2012, 21:41
  68. Kate I am so weary today could you please get me a refreshing cup of chamomile flower tea to enjoy with my wholegrainlentil baguette. Why are all this rough people picking on me, I have achieved so much as Premier like um arh!
    I am so busy and weary I can’t even remember what I’ve done.

    Posted by Red Ted | June 21, 2012, 17:34
  69. In relation to Julian Assange we should boycott Swedish products, expel the Swedish Embassy staff in Australia ( all of them).

    During the London 2012 Olympics the Swedish team should be booed and heckled for the 2 weeks of the games.

    Perhaps our government should send an ASIS hit team to Sweden to “rub out” the two Swedish CIA agents/ honey trap whores too

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | June 21, 2012, 19:18
  70. I dun like da Joos, da Cathlicks, da Yanks or da Sweedes.

    Posted by Wacko Jacko | June 21, 2012, 20:33
  71. If people question Ted’s awesome leadership then I will rip their throats out.

    Posted by Rivers | June 21, 2012, 20:49
  72. Ted has looked tough this weak!

    Posted by Strong | June 21, 2012, 22:08
  73. The gm free organic blueberry yoghurt gives me such strength I will eat more this weekend so next week I will be a he man of a Premier.

    Posted by Red Ted | June 21, 2012, 22:32
  74. I see the SA nut bag, light fingered Mary Jo has been at it again, no wonder the retail sector is buggered with pilferers like her around.

    Posted by anon | June 21, 2012, 22:34
  75. I don’t want to rip anyone’s throat but I am willing to give any young Liberal aides a ‘ride’ home that they never forget.

    Posted by RDR | June 22, 2012, 0:11
  76. RDR, maybe you should go over to SA and do the hokey-pokey with Mary-Jo and give her a lift home?

    Posted by Charlie | June 22, 2012, 0:56
  77. No way Charlie she would pinch the shopping from my back seat and she is way too old, by the way does she a teen daughter?

    Posted by RDR | June 22, 2012, 8:18
  78. Adrian – isn’t it just a routine Swedish criminal investigation?

    I suspect it will be tough for Swedes to get a room at your B&B from now on – strike another country from the list…

    Posted by Steve Sensible | June 22, 2012, 11:29
  79. Since when was Rivers a Ted supporter?

    That Rivers thought it necessary to give such an ultimatum suggests that things are grim within Team Ted.

    Posted by Anonski | June 22, 2012, 14:25
  80. ALSF this week showed that Charley Daniel is certainly not a powerful female powerbroker in Victoria. Couldn’t win the support of her own state and lost embarrassingly on the floor in a contested AGM. Evidently can’t count and can’t spell! What a real talent MULC has in her.

    Posted by STOP THE SHIPPS | July 8, 2012, 1:07


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