Brett Hogan under significant pressure
Michael O’Brien’s chief of staff Brett Hogan has come under intense attack internally in the Liberal Party for approving and authorising an ill-timed media release which contained a list of questions questioning aspects of Premier Daniel Andrews’ fall.
The media release was put out by Mr Hogan under Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley’s name in what was intended to be a counter punch regarding recent disclosures about internal factional politics, including those involving the Opposition Leader’s office. The media release caused a huge public backlash while subsequent back peddling by the Opposition Leader’s office left an unhappy Staley as the scapegoat.
Sources close to Mr Hogan conceded that he was privately distressed by MPs going to the media and naming him as a major factor in the opposition’s failures to connect with the public in the past two and a half years.
This unusual admission from the outwardly stoic Mr Hogan comes in response to recent reports of dysfunction and growing speculation about the leadership within the state party room, the wider party and now as being played out within the media.
Former chief of staff, Scott Peirce, never endured such a personal burden as what is being faced by Mr Hogan, who by all accounts is a very private person verging on, according to several sources, social awkwardness.
Shannon Deery, reporter for the Herald Sun, has revealed that Michael O’Brien is facing another challenge to his leadership with pressure mounting over the party’s recent performance. Internal sources indicate Mr Hogan is a factor in these wider issues.
Pressure is growing with disgruntled MPs preparing for another challenge. Mr Deery reported that one MP confirmed to him that “people are talking”, and another confided that “MPs had been inundated by industry leaders, small business owners and branch members angry at the opposition’s recent performance.”
At this point, Victorian Liberal Party members and MPs unhappy with Michael O’Brien’s leadership failures believe that the state Liberals will not recover any ground at the next state election. One MP recently received an outpouring of support from local party members when Mr O’Brien attacked her publicly at one of his rare media conferences in the Parliamentary gardens.
Mr Deery also reported that “Concerns have also been raised about the opposition leader’s private office with a review ordered into how it was being managed.”
This has placed Brett Hogan in the unenviable position of facing both an internal investigation run by Canberra as well as being unusually subjected to wider criticism within the Victorian division of the Liberal Party and beyond. Mr Hogan’s position is solely at the discretion of the opposition leader, and currently Mr Hogan has the full support of both Michael O’Brien and factional boss Ian Quick. Needless to say, a change in leadership would be a career devastating blow for Mr Hogan.
It is well known that Brad Battin and his supporters Ryan Smith, Nick Wakeling and Richard Riordan are working against Michael O’Brien, while the group around Matthew Guy had recently gained some momentary traction. Pressure is increasing on Brad Roswell and Roma Britnell from disgruntled party members as these two MPs are seen as key votes that need to be swayed away from Mr O’Brien within the party room.
Mr Hogan has not had the luxury of working from his Black Rock home but has been continually locked into his work in his Spring Street office. “As elusive and secluded as Mr Hogan is,” said one observer, “even lockdowns, investigations and party-wide pressure have not dampened his serving the leader.”
“The highest level of scrutiny is on both of them. Both suffer from a lack of charisma and the inability to inspire. Politics is about people and popularity. Both have tripped badly. There’s no coming back from this.”
“Michael [O’Brien] needs to do the right thing for the party and our electoral future,” one senior Liberal Party official said on condition of anonymity. “No amount of puff media or bizarre shots of Michael [O’Brien] and his dogs are going to change anything. I’ve never seen anyone holding a football look so mawkish. But then it makes sense when you know who is advising him. I’ve heard someone call him Mr Bean.”
Mr Bean was an eccentric simpleton character who featured in a British comedy show in the 1990s.