January 12, 2004 | Graham

Rumble in Ryan becomes a rattle

Michael Johnson can enjoy his holidays a little more this Christmas. Councillor Margaret de Wit has today announced that she is withdrawing from the preselection contest for Ryan. As per my previous post that means that Steven Huang is the only challenger to sitting member Johnson.
de Wit pulled out after being threatened that if she persisted with her challenge she would be disendorsed. The Liberal Party State Council can cancel the endorsement of a candidate if “in the opinion of State Council such cancellation…is desirable in the interests of the Party.” Clause 143. To do so they need 75% of those attending the meeting voting in favour with a minimum quorum of 50% plus one of members entitled to attend. The Sicilian faction probably has the numbers to do this. And if they did, they would almost certainly use a “Special Preselection” and the “Vetting Committee” to ensure that de Wit could not reapply for her position as well as disenfranchising her local branch members by ensuring that they couldn’t vote for her.
That is the theory. But having the power is one thing, doing it is another. If they had disendorsed de Wit it would have destroyed the Brisbane City Council campaign. She would still be the candidate, and would still have contested the election. This would have meant that at an election where the Liberals have their best chance for 17 years of wresting the council from Labor they would be seen to be divided and squabbling and unfit to govern. They would also have liberated de Wit to run as an independent Liberal candidate against Johnson when the election came around. This is a position from which she would have been more likely to defeat him than at a preselection. Although one must assume that Johnson’s preselection was not assured, or none of this pressure would have been applied to de Wit in the first place, it would have been an even bigger risk for the ruling faction to proceed with a disendorsement. The threat was therefore most likely a bluff.
Which brings me back to Steven Huang. Huang is less likely to beat Johnson than de Wit and both he and de Wit really needed the other in the running to maximize the attendance at the preselection and minimize Johnson’s first preference vote. At this stage I do not think he can win, although I will put the ryder on it that it is hard to tell how well entrenched Johnson is as the hierarchy is illegally restricting access to actual membership figures.
de Wit’s withdrawal has unfortunate repercussions in internal and external Liberal Party politics. Whether or not she was a factional candidate, her withdrawal will be seen as a reversal for the Tucker Carroll alliance and a huge boost for the Sicilian faction. It will also accentuate the view in the community that the Liberal Party is a moribund organization only concerned with sharing up the spoils between themselves of an increasing spoilt cake.
It also draws attention northwards toward Fisher and the contested preselection of Peter Slipper. And even further north where Peter Lindsay faces a challenge in Herbert which is widely believed to be a strike by the Sicilians in retaliation against the Ryan and Fisher challenges to their boys.

Posted by Graham at 5:54 pm | Comments Off on Rumble in Ryan becomes a rattle |
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