The state of the Secretariat
An insight of Victorian Liberal Party private IRV polling data which has been tied in to the new proposed boundaries for State seats reveals that the seats of Caulfield, Sandringham, Hawthorn, Kew and Malvern are slipping away from the blue while outer suburban seats like Warrandyte and Gembrook are becoming more Liberal.
This news is not encouraging, especially as the Liberal seat of Ferntree Gully has also been erased from the political landscape according to recent draft plans released by the Electoral Boundaries Commission.
State Director, Sam McQuestin has privately spoken of his frustrations with the Victorian Division and the ongoing internal strife within the State parliamentary team. Mr McQuestin’s personal philosophy has been to keep his mouth shut and to put all efforts into making as best as possible in an increasingly unworkable situation.
The role of the party’s Central Headquarters or Secretariat is to provide support for members but more particularly is to drive campaigning around the upcoming Federal and State elections. Mr McQuestin is acutely aware that failure means his head on the block.
Private polling across a number seats has been extrapolated into hotspot mapping with new State boundaries superimposed. The results are not encouraging for the State seats although the view with the Federal seats has identified several opportunities, such as in the Western suburbs.
Mr McQuestin confided to a senior member that he would never have taken the job if he ever knew the level of supervision and scrutiny he would face from the Admin Committee. He specifically referred to one individual on the committee whom he labelled as frustrating.
It was also that observer’s view that Sam McQuestin is awaiting an Admin shake up. Understandably Mr McQuestin’s office is operating more like an end of days bunker under siege. One surprising piece of information was that Greg Mirabella was termed “a voice of reason” while other senior party figures and MPs seem intent on engaging in a chinese-checkers style battle involving multiple factions and vying interests.
In regards to the three parliamentary groupings, there is no trust between them especially since Brad Battin’s brave push. Tensions have also risen between the Secretariat and the Opposition Leader’s Office, the latter of which is now being audited by the Federal level of the Liberal Party. Mr McQuestin’s position has often been described as unenviable.
Criticisms about Mr McQuestin’s behaviour during the first COVID-19 shutdown have been calculated to draw the State Director into the mix of the increasingly self-destructive battle the various wings of the Liberal Party are now engaged in.
One of the major issues that the State Director has had to deal with is the budgetary constraints around staffing, the loss of institutional knowledge with staff and an unacceptably high degree of turnover of Secretariat staff. There are always legal troubles brewing too.
Morale is at an all time low.
Party members are not that sympathetic or forgiving though, with the Membership department under constant fire from party members, where staff are being accused of incompetence and excessive control. One multicultural staff member has borne the brunt of members’ frustrations especially in the lead up to State Council and in regard to preselection nominations.
To his credit, Mr McQuestin has been able to forge good personal relationships with a number of influential party members despite the terrible circumstances. With the release of the proposed boundaries and insights from polling and the current state of the Party, the State Director has found himself in a perfect storm where the only lighthouse is a future promotion to Canberra.