THE BATTLE FOR BEROWRA
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.