19 July 2005

ACT Libs leadership - who will cross the line?

| johnboy
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Insider111 sent in the following story:

On the basis of media reports, Brendan Smyth has a majority of one in the Party room. So who will cross the floor and hand Mulcahy the prize? Stefaniak, Pratt or Burke? Any ideas?

On that note the following appeared in today’s Crikey Daily (complete with Brendan-hides-in-the-toilet yarn):

13. Bitter battles in Australia’s smallest parliament

A Canberra insider writes:

Australia’s smallest parliament – in the ACT with just 17 members – plays its politics as hard as anyone else. Currently, with the first majority government in the 15 years of self-government, Labor (nine members) is untroubled by any lurking combination of the opposition Liberals (seven) and the sole Green. But the real action is on the opposition side where former Federal MP Brendan Smyth is fighting for his political life with a challenge expected any day from newcomer Richard Mulcahy, the former Australian Hotels Association CEO.

Smyth is not only fighting the charge of irrelevance, but also a local political scandal which last week claimed the head of the ACT Liberals’ finance director, wine merchant Jim Murphy. Murphy, who heads the ACT Liberals’ fund-raising arm, the 250 Club, and is credited with having rescued the division from near bankruptcy, ran foul of the party hierarchy over his preferential bankrolling of moderate candidates in last year’s election, and now faces expulsion from the party.

Murphy is very close to former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell whom Smyth supported for Senate endorsement when the former Senator Margaret Reid retired two years ago against his then leader, now Senator Gary Humphries.

Carnell never came close, having finished an ignominious third in the race behind Humphries and then-Howard staffer Gerry Wheeler. But her desire to repay Smyth (and keep her hand in locally) saw Carnell and Murphy colluding to try to stop Mulcahy’s election in the seven-member central seat of Molonglo, knowing full well that he would, sooner or later, challenge Smyth.

Last week, intrepid Canberra Times assembly reporter Ben Doherty sought to talk to Smyth about the Murphy affair and its implications, but Smyth avoided him by, according to party sources, hiding in the toilets when Doherty came to his office.

Observers of the ACT scene say Smyth plans to hit back this week by punishing Mulcahy and his supporters with ritual humiliation and demotion, which might just backfire.

Brendan might win the battle this week, but he’ll be starting a war I don’t think he can win.

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As someone who in a previous life worked on the Opposition (lower) floor in the Leg Ass I concluded that even as a Deputy, Mr Smythe had a peevish streak. Anyone remember the fracas over the office that both Greg Cornwell and BS laid claim to ? brendan didn’t exactly stamp his little feet, but managed to do so verbally, which led to Humphries doing a handwash and allowing Brendan and his still-packed boxes to take over the office.

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