Beginner’s guide to factionalism

Beginner’s guide to factionalism


Former Prime Minister John Howard described the factions in the Liberal Party as “preferment cooperatives”. This is because in the Liberal Party, personality has a lot more to do with the stratification of the party, though since 2015 in Victoria, social issues have become an increasingly important factor in these “cooperatives”.

Factionalism in the Labor Party is very formalised and rigid, whereas in the Liberal Party, the factions are far more fluid.

One can never escape a level of partisan groupings forming within larger groups like political parties, however, such groupings can be innocuous or they can sometimes be quite dangerous and destructive.

Cath Finn, a tribal factional warrior in the Victorian Liberal Party is known to walk up to people at party events and say, “Do I know you? Am I supposed to talk to you?”

Apparently even being seen talking with someone is subject to the unwritten rules of factionalism which is why a veteran like Cath Finn loudly broadcasts her questions.

Factionalism has done huge damage, especially where a faction or subversive group forms to push anti-Liberal, anti-Menzian ideas. Hence, in recent years, the pro-climate change activism, the push for same sex marriage and other dark and underhanded agendas which were never traditionally views within the Liberal Party.

Therefore, in response, those who have tried to keep the Liberal Party true to the spirit of Robert Menzies have had to organise themselves in response to these threats, both from the left so called “moderate” progressives and the centrists.

The factionalism within the party also has a cumulative effect onto who becomes an MP and consequently their groupings in both Spring St and in Canberra.

One of the most hated figures within the Liberal Party of all time is Malcolm Turnbull. He was the darling of the left faction, whose MPs today include Tim Wilson, Jane Hume and Katie Allen. Aligned with them were Scott Ryan and perhaps Tony Smith. The most enigmatic from Victoria is libertarian James Paterson, who is very committed to the left on social issues but to the right on things like climate change.

The left-leaning MPs call themselves “modern liberals” and use a secretive sign called the dark hand, referring to their subversive agenda and their advocacy on all progressive social policy.

In Canberra there is also a centrist group, which straddles the left and the right, as led by Scott Morrison. This group is made up of an array of left-leaning and right-leaning MPs.

Stepping down into Victoria, the Victorian left, as led by Michael O’Brien and Georgie Crozier, aligns with the Canberra left. In Victoria there is also a centre group of State MPs as led by Matthew Guy, which aligns to the centre Federal MPs such as Josh Frydenberg. In Victoria, while there are also right-leaning Federal MPs, there are no obvious State level right-leaning MPs, as State MPs tend to gravitate to the centre. In some ways, Bev McArthur alone could be considered a right-leaning State MP.

What is strange in Victoria is that the allegedly conservative MP Bernie Finn is aligned to the left of the party, as is Neil Angus.

The problem with the Federal and State centrists is that they tend to vacillate on issues or take up positions which compromise with the left of the party.

The old saying that if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything is also true.

Centrists from Victoria in Canberra include Josh Frydenberg, Greg Hunt, Dan Tehan, Jason Wood, David Van and Sarah Henderson.

The right from Victoria in Canberra include Michael Sukkar, Alan Tudge, Kevin Andrews and apparently Gladys Liu. Though in the case of Gladys, her personal relationship with Victoria’s left faction figurehead leader Robert Clark puts her in an odd position.

Interestingly, then, the State MPs in Victoria are aligned to two centre groups and a left-wing group. The leader of one centre group is Matthew Guy and the leader of the other is Brad Battin.

Importantly, however, the two centre groups in Victoria and the centre and the right groups in Canberra form a centre-right coalition against the left of the party in Victoria.

The left in Victoria arose in the 1970’s and eventually morphed into what might be called the Costello camp. While Peter Costello personally was centre-left in his outlook, he paved the way for increasingly hardline leftwing operators like Mitch Fifield. In turn, James Paterson worked for Mitch. Consequently, during the same sex marriage debate, James Paterson used his office to support Prime Minister Turnbull’s position.

Within Victoria between approximately 2005 to 2013, far left powerbroker Frank Greenstein worked to take control of the party, and federal electorates in the party like Melbourne and Higgins became strongholds for the likes of today’s factional operators, as led by political octopus Ian Quick.

Because Victoria’s state politics has not been heavily guided by ideology, strange things have happened where people like Karina Okotel, who claimed to hold radical right wing views also concurrently co-operated with left-leaning elements such as Ian Quick and the erratic Bernie Finn to ensure that a cynical, anti-democratic cabal could take control over the party, undermining Matthew Guy and openly declaring war on the federal MPs.

Factionalism has its Judases, but also has its redemption stories. People like Greg Hannan, Anthony Mitchell and Greg Mirabella show that sensible thought can prevail over the cannibalistic nature of factional politics.

It takes people of stature like Michael Kroger to act in the party’s interests rather than the self-destructive narrow factional agenda that is pushed by the majority of Ian Quick’s dysfunctional administrative committee.

Finally, factionalism gives power through Admin to who runs the party’s headquarters and what direction preselections might go. There is ample evidence that Ian Quick has been abusing this power and is running the Liberal Party as his personal kingdom. Factionalism therefore can become dangerous, and makes enemies of order, democracy and Liberal values. Once the rot is set in it becomes so hard to root out.

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