THE BAT­TLE FOR BEROWRA

Monthly Chronicle - - News - AN­THONY BREW­STER

Gen­er­a­tional change is dif­fi­cult for any or­gan­i­sa­tion. But when it comes to po­lit­i­cal par­ties, it’s not some­thing any of them han­dle very well.

Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal his­tory is lit­tered with sto­ries of very ugly and very pub­lic po­lit­i­cal bat­tles. A re­al­ity of po­lit­i­cal life, it’s some­thing they try to keep from the pub­lic gaze. Dis­unity in pol­i­tics is death.

Philip Rud­dock was first elected to par­lia­ment in 1973. His fa­ther Max was also lo­cal politi­cian and state MP in NSW. When it comes to Aus­tralian pol­i­tics Philip is an in­sti­tu­tion and locally the Rud­dock name is plas­tered all over parks and in­fra­struc­ture. Some of it in stone.

Ju­lian Leeser has moved to the area over the past decade and has built lo­cal Lib­eral sup­port through his in­volve­ment in the Fox Val­ley Branch of the lo­cal Lib­eral Party. That sup­port and stand­ing has been bol­stered by his re­cent ap­point­ment as Vice Pres­i­dent of the NSW Lib­er­als.

His de­sire to take over from Rud­dock is well known. But the me­chan­ics of how to do it is not. Rud­dock’s cur­rent po­si­tion is that he will re­main for as long as he can make a dif­fer­ence.

He be­lieves he is still do­ing that. Speak­ing re­cently to the Monthly Chron­i­cle he high­lighted the sig­nif­i­cant lo­cal, na­tional and even international work he is do­ing.

How­ever, he has not com­mit­ted to stand at the next elec­tion for the Fed­eral seat of Berowra. A seat he has held for 42 years.

In the mean­time the NSW Lib­eral Party opened nom­i­na­tions for fed­eral pre-selec­tions across NSW. It was widely seen as a po­lit­i­cal move. The de­ci­sion came down while Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull was over­seas.

Since then, leaks to the me­dia have come thick and fast. The last few weeks has seen a plethora of news re­ports on mul­ti­ple pos­si­ble chal­lenges across the state. Those re­ports and those leaks have also in­cluded Berowra.

The news re­ports and se­lected leak­ing has been de­signed to force Rud­dock’s hand. The party forces that want change in Berowra, are de­liv­er­ing a pub­lic mes­sage to him. Stand aside on your own terms or we will chal­lenge.

It has been widely re­ported that Leeser has the num­bers and Rud­dock is un­der threat from a chal­lenge. But in re­al­ity that is not clear. In pol­i­tics a chal­lenge is not a chal­lenge un­til some­one puts their hand up.

The num­bers will be based on a se­lec­tion panel of 120 Lib­eral Party mem­bers. Which equates to 72 lo­cal and 48 at-large or non-lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Party. If Leeser chal­lenges he will need 61 votes to suc­ceed.

It is un­der­stood Leeser’s sup­port is com­ing from his own Fox Val­ley Branch, the Berowra Wa­ters Branch and with sup­port even com­ing from the Hills Val­ley Branch of the lo­cal Lib­eral Party. But Rud­dock still has con­sid­er­able sup­port from key ar­eas of the lo­cal Party through­out Du­ral and Gal­ston.

De­spite the pub­lic pos­tur­ing through me­dia re­ports, the forces be­hind change in Berowra re­alise that the only way this change can be achieved is if Rud­dock him­self makes the de­ci­sion to stand aside. No one wants a pub­lic pre­s­e­lec­tion blood­bath.

It is un­der­stood that Leeser re­cently called a meet­ing with Rud­dock and the pair met Sunday night a week ago. The de­tails of that meet­ing re­main un­clear.

It is un­der­stood, that the party forces be­hind the change have been work­ing in the back­ground to find a so­lu­tion for Rud­dock to end his Par­lia­men­tary ca­reer with dig­nity. Lo­cal party branch sources have told the Monthly Chron­i­cle that a deal has been struck.

That has be con­firmed re­cently by a se­nior Lib­eral Party Par­lia­men­tary source in Can­berra. Not only have dis­cus­sions taken place but the an­nounce­ment of Rud­docks re­tire­ment has been de­scribed as “im­mi­nent.” It is un­der­stood the Prime Min­is­ter’s and the For­eign Min­is­ter’s of­fice have been in­volved in those dis­cus­sions and an an­nounce­ment will be made shortly on a “hu­man­i­tar­ian” post­ing.

Rud­dock ac­cept­ing the po­si­tion is an­other matter. That is still not clear and there are some lo­cal sources that be­lieve he will stay and stare down the chal­lenge.

Ju­lian Leeser re­cently told the Monthly Chron­i­cle that due to Lib­eral Party rules he is not per­mit­ted to speak on pre-se­lec­tion mat­ters.

The For­eign Min­is­ter’s of­fice did not re­spond to the Monthly Chron­i­cle’s en­quiries.

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