For some time now we have known the rumblings about leadership of the Liberal Party is not just confined to those members up on the big hill. Indeed, back in July some commenters here on RA were convinced that Brendan Smyth was done for and Richard Mulcahy would muster the numbers to take his place (more on the beginnings of this fight here).
As it turned out all that happened at that time was one extremely tense party-room meeting with no leadership challenges. The world moved on and I suspect the matter dropped from the front of most people’s minds.
But not from the minds of the ACT Liberal Party. Yesterday Vicki Dunne was sacked from her positions as Opposition Whip and Manager of Opposition Business.
UPDATE Today’s Crikey newsletter also had some to say on this. More below. Also I forgot to add Mrs Dunne’s been banned from the party room for a month.
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The official line is that she breached party rules, although neither she nor Mr Smyth are giving away many details or real reasons. It is understood Mr Smyth accused her of breaching party security because the AFP Commissioner’s Order on the Use of Force (a security-in-confidence document) was allegedly leaked to The Canberra Times from her office.
The Canberra Times has a rather good look at the whole matter, including letting us know Mrs Dunne is one of Richard Mulcahy’s chief supporters and has apparently been promised the deputy’s job should he mount a successful challenge.
Mr Smyth, of course, denied the sacking had any political motivations.
Mr Mulcahy is currently on leave for family reasons.
The CT says Mr Smyth currently holds the confidence of four of the seven party room members but Steve Pratt, one of his supporters, is being wooed by the Mulcahy camp.
The sacking of Mrs Dunne can be seen as a way of ensuring Mr Pratt continues his support of the current leadership. He has apparently been angered by Mrs Dunne’s recent forays into his portfolios of police and emergency services, particularly her questioning of the government over the taser trial, and so her demotion would be of some interest to him.
Jacqui Burke will be the new Opposition Whip and Zed Seselja the Manager of Opposition Business.
Jon Stanhope told the ABC he thinks the fight and its success is inevitable, saying, “I think it’s inevitable that they will be successful, that degree of disloyalty that Mrs Dunne showed this morning just is simply irresistible in terms a very small party in a small jurisdiction such as ours. It’s certainty [sic] the case that Mr Smyth’s days are certainly numbered.”
Christian Kerr had this, among other things, to say on the matter in today’s Crikey newsletter:
…Nobody in the know is buying this. The strike was timed to cut out Smyth’s potential challenger, Richard Mulcahy, who is away overseas and returns next week. This might just be the trigger for a possible challenge.
Smyth is using the posts he took from Dunne to try to bolster his support among the waverers. But even his supporters fear he lacks gravitas and is not taken very seriously.
Long-time watchers of the tiny 17-member parliament say it’s the most exciting time there since a former Liberal staffer accidentally set off the duress button while cavorting on his boss’ desk with a female Young Liberal. An attendant who responded to the alarm reported some hurried adjustment of clothing taking place as he walked in.