Sunday, September 23, 2007

Liberal Party Historian Ian Hancock on the far right takeover of the Liberal Party in NSW

A fight against the Right

Ian Hancock | September 22, 2007 The Australian

IN his new book, Ian Hancock traces early influences in the fractious NSW division of the Liberal Party.

Conservatives were angered by what they saw as challenges to the social and moral order represented by feminists, the homosexual lobby, and the pornography industry.

One individual, destined to be the most controversial figure in the Liberal Party's NSW division by the late 1970s, was coming under notice in the party's then state headquarters in Ash Street, Sydney.

Lyenko Urbanchich, a Slovene nationalist and fervent anti-communist, was born in 1922 in Serbia, and was attending high school when German and Italian forces invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941. After a stint in the Royal Yugoslav Army, Urbanchich returned to Italian-occupied Slovenia when organised resistance to the invaders ceased.

Twice arrested by the Italians after distributing anti-communist and pro-monarchist leaflets, he resumed his education but, following the Italian capitulation in September 1943, Urbanchich joined the Slovene Domobranstvo (Home Guard). The Home Guard was accused during and after the war of collaborating with the Nazis, though others would claim that its function was to oppose the communist partisans and to promote underground anti-Nazi objectives.

Urbanchich himself became a journalist and the anti-Semitic articles published under his name in 1944-45 were later to become a source of embarrassment for the Liberal Party's NSW division.

Arriving in Australia in 1950 as a displaced person, Urbanchich initially worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme, then as a translator, and edited a Slovene newspaper. He attracted the attention of ASIO when, along with his friend Vladimir Menart, he founded the Yugoslav Freedom Fighters Movement in the early 1960s. An ASIO officer reported on June 11, 1962, that he was "generally regarded as unpopular among Yugoslavs as a result of the part he played during the war working with the Germans". The anti-communists in the Yugoslav community were said to have viewed him unfavourably because of a break and enter he allegedly orchestrated at a social club, an action that upset relations within the broader Yugoslav community and drew unwanted police attention.

Clearly, ASIO had an ambivalent attitude towards Urbanchich. In May 1971 an officer had a "friendly chat" with him because of concerns about the communist leanings of the Slovenian Association. At the same time it was noted that care would need to be taken in dealing with him "because of his known ultra-right-wing views".

A member of the Liberal Party, Urbanchich became president in the mid-'60s of the 50 Club, so-named because it was located at 50 Victoria St, Kings Cross. Urbanchich also became president of the newly established Kings Cross branch of the Liberal Party. ASIO, which later described the 50 Club as "anti-Semitic and extremely right wing", warned the Liberals on two occasions "to edge him (Urbanchich) out from holding office in the Kings Cross branch because he can seriously damage the party".

The party's NSW general secretary John Carrick acted quickly. On June 3, 1966, he informed Urbanchich that the party state executive had ruled that no new branches could be formed before a redistribution was complete unless the executive gave its approval which, at the moment, it was not prepared to do. People keen to be involved in the Liberal Party could join existing branches, subject to the branches admitting them.

Carrick refused to accept a cheque on behalf of 21 new members on the basis of another state executive ruling that persons desiring to join a branch should do so near their place of residence. The majority of the 21 applying for membership had no residential connections with Kings Cross.

Carrick advised his field staff not to permit branches to be formed that "were substantially or wholly migrant in character". He accepted that the emerging Right was not homogeneous. It embraced everyone from "extreme Tories to anti-Semitics" and had its "leavening of ratbags". What worried him was that right-wing Liberals, including many Young Liberals, were disrupting anti-Vietnam rallies and engaging in what the general secretary considered to be "moronic shouting and sloganising". Unless the party dealt immediately with this phenomenon, the Labor Party would exploit attempts by extremists to associate with the Liberal Party and would turn the growing violence and emotionalism against it.

Carrick had raised this matter in Canberra, where the party's federal executive called on Liberals not to engage in counter-demonstrations, placard waving or attempted takeovers of opponents' meetings.

An organisation called the Australian Action Co-ordinating Centre seemed to be uppermost in Carrick's mind. It was formed at the house of state MP Michael Darby in Balgowlah in Sydney in March 1966 at a meeting attended by a reliable ASIO contact. He reported that, among those present, were three members of the Democratic Labor Party, Urbanchich, Charles Huxtable of the Defend Australia League, members of the Czech and Croatian communities, members of the Wakehurst, Killara and Double Bay Young Liberals and an unnamed man ASIO had already decided was "a complete fanatic and almost certifiable".

WHILE they were trying to work out how to confront state Labor leader Neville Wran (premier from 1976) in the mid-'70s, the leading NSW Liberals were also turning their attention to what they considered to be a very disturbing development: the re-emergence of the Right within the party. Thwarted by Carrick and the state executive in 1966-67, the conservatives continued to meet at a hamburger cafe near Circular Quay and, over time, developed different strategies for advancing the cause. Largely bypassing the blue-ribbon Liberal electorates, they joined or formed branches in the inner west and southwest of Sydney. Because it required just 10 members to form a branch, the conservatives could build a voting base among the small branches, which had equal voting rights with those located on the north shore and in the eastern suburbs. They could also take advantage of Jim Carlton's tolerant attitude as the new general secretary, believing that he was more concerned with managing the division than trying to influence its ideological direction. Carrick and Carlton both went on to become senators and federal ministers.

The cause itself was undergoing some change. While anti-communism remained a common denominator, new issues entered the conservative agenda, corresponding with the social and cultural changes from the late '60s and the advent of the Whitlam government in 1972.

Conservatives were angered by what they saw as challenges to the social and moral order represented by feminists, the homosexual lobby and the pornography industry. They feared and opposed the downgrading of the family and family values, the relaxation of censorship and the greater use of illicit drugs. The Whitlam government became the object of special loathing, being seen as one of the principal instruments for undermining traditional values, for promoting socialism and republicanism, and for recognising Soviet authority over the Baltic states.

But the enemy within was just as despicable as the one without. Indeed, the defeat of Whitlamism in 1975 had the important effect of focusing conservative resentment on the so-called trendies in the Liberal Party who, it was argued, differed only from the Labor Party -- if at all -- over the pace of destructive change.

The Young Liberals were considered to be a veritable nest of traitors to "true Liberalism", aided and abetted by the "old guard" that controlled the state executive.

The conservative case against their fellow Liberals in the mid-'70s rested on two firm planks: the abandonment of moral values and the failure to promote free enterprise. As a result, the most striking characteristics of the Right in the mid-'70s reportedly were its "pristine, ideological nature" and its tendency to "seek, or adhere to, all-embracing world views", according to Andrew Hamilton in an article in 1979.

Although not monolithic in composition or in emphasis, and although it could certainly engage in power plays, the Right had, as a consequence of its ideological resoluteness, one great advantage over its opponents in the party: a clear and firm understanding of where it stood. By contrast, the Right's strongest party opponents -- the small-l liberals -- were said to be generally "more concerned with updating matters, revamping the party image or at best applying intuitively held principles of liberalism in fresh ways in new circumstances".

The core activists on the Right included some of those who were connected with the 50 Club and the anti-communist cause in the mid-'60s. Urbanchich and the Darbys -- Douglas and son Michael (who was recently suspended by the Liberal Party and subsequently joined Fred Nile's Christian Democrats), who were not involved with the 50 Club -- were an ubiquitous presence.

Douglas Darby was the insistent voice in state parliament who, despite having rejoined the Liberal Party after being an independent, had become more disillusioned. He felt there had been "a steady stream of legislative and administrative actions to extend the facilities for the consumption of alcohol, the exercise of gambling, the erosion of the solemnity of Sunday (and the tolerance) of sexual laxity and permissiveness". Further, it was no longer compulsory to hold the Monday morning salute-the-flag ceremony in government schools.

DAVID Clarke (now a Liberal member of the state upper house and regarded as a right powerbroker) had impeccable anti-communist and anti-socialist credentials in the '60s. As a young man he was noticed by the NSW Police special branch attending an anti-Vietnam protest march and rally in Sydney on April 16, 1967. Special branch was then keeping an eye on potential troublemakers wanting to disrupt such gatherings. On August 31, 1970, an ASIO informant sighted Clarke and Urbanchich in a 100-member audience at a meeting of the Australia-Rhodesia Association addressed by the anti-Semitic and racist Eric Butler of the Australian League of Rights.

Clarke developed a special interest in defending the white minority governments of southern Africa that he saw as allies in the world struggle against communism. He was a vice-president of the Australia-Rhodesia Association and believed that Ian Smith's government, elected by 5 per cent of the population, was gradually moving towards majority rule and should have been given time (gradually being the operative word: under the 1970 Rhodesian constitution black majority rule was inconceivable before at least 2070).

Consistent with his views on southern Africa, Clarke, who was also a vice-president of the Australia-Chile Society, saw the Pinochet government in Chile as a bulwark against communism. He infuriated two Liberals who attended a public forum on September 8, 1976, which he addressed as the chairman of the party state council's committee on foreign affairs and trade. Sharing a platform with Bob Holland, a member of the state executive, Clarke said he would rather consult a bus driver than an expert about foreign affairs.

He also reportedly urged the Fraser government to recognise Taiwan, to break off relations with China and to support Rhodesia and South Africa in the fight against communism. (He was speaking not three months after the bloody Soweto uprising and just two weeks before the South Africans forced the Rhodesian government to accept the principle of black majority rule.)

Clarke was a member of the tiny Five Dock, Sydney, branch over which Urbanchich presided and was president of the party's Evans federal electorate council until the seat was abolished in a redistribution before the 1977 federal election. As president, he introduced Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the premier of Queensland, at a dinner in October 1976 and described him as opposing the totalitarianism of the Whitlam government. In an article published in February 1977, he claimed that "most Australians realised what was happening in Sydney's western suburbs, that Australia under Whitlam would soon become a socialist state". In those circumstances "they would no longer own their own homes or, in fact, any property and their hard-won independence could be permanently lost".

Unless Clarke was merely indulging in hyperbole for effect, it was time to call in the bus driver to inject a note of reality.

IF much of the division's history seems repetitive, it is also true that the Liberal Party in NSW has changed in harness with Australian society. In 1945 it was becoming distinctly Keynesian in outlook; now the Keynesians are hard to find. The Liberals of the late '40s girded themselves for the fight against socialism and communism.

By the late '90s the soldier saints were readying themselves to rescue the Liberal Party and NSW from Sodom and Gomorrah. Paradoxically, whereas the party in NSW returned to its ideological roots in the Liberal and Reform Association of 1902 when it embraced smaller government and freer markets, there are those in the party organisation who want to maintain or increase the role of the state to deal with the after-shock of the permissive society.

In 1945 the Liberal Party in NSW was almost a closed shop for Anglo-Scottish Protestants. By 2000 it was enjoying substantial electoral support from Catholics, initially drawn to the Liberals by post-war prosperity, anti-communism and the party's commitment to state aid.

One obvious change in the division is that the house Carrick built, and had built on, has all but disappeared. The edifice did not survive persistent financial stringency, an increasing scepticism about the value of field officers, the computer technology, direct mail, media spin, telemarketing, focus groups and highly sophisticated polling that marginalised the non-professionals in electioneering. The division Carrick inherited in 1948 and expanded in the '50s employed members of the generation who had served Australia in World War II and who, wanting to transfer their sense of service to peacetime, were not bothered about the lack of substantial financial rewards.

John Howard may provide a personal link between Carrick and the modern NSW Liberal Party but, while the division of which he is the favourite son behaves in ways similar to those of the past, it looks markedly different from the one his mentor and patron, Carrick, managed so successfully.

For better or worse, the Liberal Party is probably best seen as primarily an instrument for fighting and winning elections, with many ancillary functions, including the development of better policies and the advancement of individual careers. Does it matter, therefore, that businessmen who think it should work differently are invariably disappointed? The answer is probably no. It does not matter either that the NSW division can never achieve final and permanent solutions for many of its perceived problems or that it keeps returning to the same issues in unconscious fulfilment of George Santayana's famous dictum that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

Equally, there is probably no harm involved in the periodic bouts of introspection, although the intensity of some of them must be stifling and, when corporate jargon and the gobbledygook of "facilitators" are imported, unenlightening.

The real harm lies in the factional warfare that underpins the destructive culture of winner-take-all, has led to a decline of civility, and promoted and protected mediocrity. The real need of the NSW division at the end of the 20th century was not structural reform but an infusion of the spirit of give and take, of an understanding that the political enemy sits opposite and not behind or alongside, of a recognition that the Liberal Party works better when the pragmatists rather than the ideologues are in charge, and of a willingness to turn the broad church into something more than a cliche.

This is an edited extract from The Liberals: A History of the NSW Division of the Liberal Party of Australia 1945-2000, by Ian Hancock, to be published on Monday (The Federation Press, $49.95). Hancock, a historian, is a visiting fellow at the Australian Dictionary of Biography in the research school of social sciences at the Australian National University, and a member of the National Archives Advisory Council. His two most recent books are National and Permanent? The Federal Organisation of the Liberal Party of Australia (2000) and John Gorton: He Did It His Way (2002).

New ABC MD Mark Scott denies he is God’s secret agent

God’s secret agent heads the ABC

Wednesday July 26th 2006

Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Mark Scott, denies that he is “God’s secret agent” as claimed by a Baptist pastor in Marion Maddox’s book, God Under Howard.

He is a proud Christian, and once nearly became a state Liberal Party politician, but was put off by factional dealing.

His very innocuous first media interviews contain only these slightly sinister words:

“That is, are the issues that are covered on ABC news and current affairs … important issues to the Australian people, or are they the important issues to the newsroom?” Mr Scott asked.

Published on the very day of ABC TV’s damaging expose of the NSW Liberal Party’s takeover by extremist right wing Christian groups, it’s worth filing those faintly threatening words away for future reference.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Zealous converts dominate Liberal cult

By Irfan Yusuf Federal Liberal Candidate 20 August 2007

At the last state election, New South Wales voters were caught in a choice between an incompetent Government and an Opposition Coalition in almost complete disarray.

The National Party was able to secure two seats from the ALP, and the Liberal Party secured only one seat from the ALP.

John Howard's frequent refrain that the Liberal Party is a broad church of liberals and conservatives is, in electoral terms, almost axiomatic. Not all Liberal voters are socially conservative. Hence, there is no reason why liberals (with a small "l") cannot have a role in either the organisational or parliamentary wings of the Liberal Party.

Genuine ideological differences do exist between small "l" and big "L" Liberals. However, in theory at least, ideological factions in the Liberal Party should put aside their squabbling when fighting common political opponents.

Sadly, cross-factional co-operation has been almost absent inside the organisational wing of the NSW Liberal Party for a number of reasons.

First, factions have tended to act in the interests of their own ascendancy within the party, even if this means sacrificing the party's chances in general elections. When small "l" liberal John Brogden led the party in the 2003 election he received hardly any assistance from the NSW Young Liberals flying squad who in previous years had proven such an effective campaign force. The NSW Young Liberals had just been taken over by an ultra-conservative faction led by a staffer of a right-wing NSW upper house member with close ties to Opus Dei.

Brogden was not only a young and promising leader with experience across a broad range of portfolios, he was also a popular local member with strong links to local sporting clubs and community organisations. Yet a far-right section of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party organisation saw him as an enemy to be politically eliminated.

When Brogden faced an internal pre-selection for his seat in 1998, I sat on his preselection panel. I was approached by members of the far-right, some of whom attended as observers, and asked to put a difficult question to Brogden. One of those who discussed the preselection question with me said, "This Brogden fellow has to be stopped. Can you imagine him as leader? Or worse still, as premier?"

Second, the NSW Liberal Party has not recovered from a major factional realignment which coincided with John Howard's 1996 landslide victory. The win seemed impossible coming so soon after the unexpected fall of the Fahey government in the 1995 state election. It injected into the conservative wing a large proportion of people who had recently left the small "l" faction known as "the Group". These ideological refugees believed their ambitions were best met by aligning themselves with a faction which was more ideologically aligned with the Prime Minister. And as in religion, so in politics, it is converts who often do the dirtiest work against members of their old congregation.

Third, a winner-takes-all attitude had become entrenched within the organisation. During the late 1990s, the Group dominated but did not have absolute control. Conservative candidates (or at least candidates not aligned with the Group) could win pre-selections and be elected to Parliament. For instance, prior to the 1996 federal election, the conservative wing was able to pre-select a senior staffer from Tony Abbott's office to run in what was then the very marginal seat of Parramatta. When that candidate withdrew, the conservatives were able to preselect another conservative candidate, Ross Cameron.

However, the tables have turned more dramatically than anyone expected. The zealous converts have taken over the now dominant conservative wing. Far from being a broad church, the party now more resembles a cultish congregation where position comes at the price of supporting a narrow set of socially conservative principles.

Factional in-fighting is nothing new in the Liberal Party. Often it is a mixture of personalities and ideology which can often be dealt with by trade-offs and deals. But the current dominating forces in the NSW party are driven almost exclusively by ideology. Hence, one doubts whether a Nick Greiner, a Tony Staley or some other elder statesman could solve the problem.

As the ABC Four Corners program entitled "The Right Stuff" (broadcast in July, 2006) showed, this new right has even gone to the extent of sidelining conservatives who do not agree with its narrow religious and ideological agenda.

Realistically, the only person who has any ability to rein in this far-right cabal is the Prime Minister himself. The situation has become so bad that now the NSW Nationals are openly canvassing the possibility of dissolving the Coalition. One can hardly blame them. Any continued association with a party dominated by such ultra-conservatives is virtually unelectable.

If Howard doesn't act soon, his refrain of the party being a broad church may soon become a contradiction in terms. He might also be confirming criticism Kevin Rudd made in The Sydney Morning Herald on November 9, 1996, when he wrote of a systematic culling of small "l" Liberals or old-fashioned Fraserian conservatives with a social conscience from their ranks.

When that happens, the Liberals might find the only party willing to enter into a Coalition agreement will be Fred Nile's Christian Democrats.

First published in The Canberra Times on March 30, 2007.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why is the PM meeting with people that are under investigation by the AFP?

As this is not the first time the PM has met with this group, then perhaps the AFP should be investigating the PM !

JOHN Howard has held a private meeting with the most senior leaders of the Exclusive Brethren, including a man under investigation by police over his massive spending on the Prime Minister’s 2004 election campaign.
In his parliamentary office two weeks ago, Mr Howard met Sydney pump salesman Mark Mackenzie, whose former company, Willmac, funnelled $370,000 into pro-Howard advertising at the last election.

Willmac’s spending was later investigated by the Australian Electoral Commission’s disclosure arm, and then referred to the Australian Federal Police for a criminal investigation, which is continuing.

They say all they wanted to do was let the PM know they are praying for him and have a bit of a chat about the economy. I can just imagine!

There was also a list of things they didn’t talk about:

A Brethren spokesman said that whilst the meeting had taken place he denied that they had asked for Mr Howard’s help on the police investigation or offered him support for his campaign against Maxine McKew in Bennelong.

..."There was absolutely no dialogue concerning Willmac, just as there was no discussion about … Bennelong,” he said.

“The members of the church primarily assured Prime Minister Howard that they were praying for him, as the leader of the Government, and then went on to discuss the economy. This was a last-minute opportunity that presented itself. There was no agenda or pre-arranged discussion topics, simply an opportunity to greet Prime Minister Howard. These mysterious campaign plans being suggested are wild speculation and the reality is they aren’t there.”

I’m sure we all get these last-minute opportunities presenting themselves during an election campaign to just drop in and let the PM know we are praying for him and not discuss anything else. Try doing it yourself and see just how far you get!

NOTE: Exclusive Breatheren Cult members say ther shun contact with the world. Not just with technology, books, radio and TV, but also other people. They say they do not vote, because voting interferes with God's right to ordain who rules, however they seemingly are not above getting involved in influencing others votes and have started putting a lot of money and time into political campaigns on behalf of members of the extreame right wing of the Liberal Party.

Exclusive Brethren Cult Members working with Howard team in Bennelong

Exclusive Brethren leaders meet PM

22nd August 2007, West Australian

Prime Minister John Howard has met privately with senior members of the Exclusive Brethren religious sect, including a man under police scrutiny for his spending on Mr Howard's 2004 election campaign.

Fairfax on Wednesday reported that two weeks ago in his parliamentary office, Mr Howard met Mark Mackenzie, a Sydney pump salesman whose company, Willmac, channelled $270,000 into advertising for the 2004 election that supported Mr Howard.

The Australian Electoral Commission later investigated the Willmac money, while an Australian Federal Police investigation is continuing, the report said.

The sect's world leader, Bruce D Hales, Hales' brother Stephen and another elder, Warwick John, also attended the August 8 meeting, a sect spokesman told Fairfax.

But the spokesman denied the group asked for Mr Howard's help on the police probe or offered the PM assistance in his battle to retain his Sydney seat, Bennelong, against star Labor candidate Maxine McKew.

The spokesman said the elders assured Mr Howard they were praying for him, and that Willmac and Bennelong were not discussed.

Stephen Hales ran the Brethren's pro-Howard campaign in Bennelong in 2004, the report said.
He authorised some of the group's controversial print ads, using the address of the Brethren school, and helped find Brethren members to campaign for Mr Howard.

A Greens campaigner in Bennelong, Matthew Henderson, told Fairfax he knew members of the sect were working on Mr Howard's campaign.

Greens senator Bob Brown said Mr Howard should reveal the nature of the August 8 talks and his relationship with the Exclusive Brethren.

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