Federal Party leadership reviewing Opposition Leader’s office
Former Federal Director Brian Loughnane has been called in to investigate and review Michael O’Brien’s Opposition Office after numerous complaints from MPs were made along with information about secretive operations around factional organising for Liberal power broker Ian Quick.
MPs have expressed concerns that the Opposition Leader’s office has been behaving in a way that could potentially jeopardise an upcoming Federal election as well as not preparing for the Victorian State election in November 2022.
As Opposition office staff are funded by the taxpayer, it would be highly improper for them to engage in internal party activities.
There is a prevailing view among party members that the Opposition Leader’s office has had a break down in its relationship with the wider party, with serious allegations of improper and irregular activities.
Michael O’Brien has been forced to accept Mr Loughnane’s review and assessment of the Opposition Office after MPs complained that it was not functioning effectively in the lead up to the State election.
A number of MPs have publicly confirmed they have had serious issues, citing internal problems stemming from O’Brien’s office, including poor communication, difficulties when trying to get meetings for possible donors and the murky spectre of factional activities.
“It’s Stalinesque, you can’t get in,” one backbencher has said publicly.
MPs also raised concerns about Mr O’Brien’s chief-of-staff Brett Hogan, who they said was working in isolation from the wider party. Mr O’Brien did not respond to questions about Mr Hogan.
It is understood that Mr Hogan is directly responsible for activities within Mr O’Brien’s Opposition rooms that include factional operations in direct cooperation with Ian Quick.
It has been revealed that a strange impasse or personally conflict has also unfolded between Victorian State Director Sam McQuestin and Opposition Chief of Staff Brett Hogan. This is largely due to the fact that Mr McQuestin came from Tasmania where the party was small and reasonably unified, unlike Victoria where Ian Quick and Robert Clark have been supervising Mr McQuestin on a daily basis, and attempting to (ab)use the Secretariat for factional purposes, which has forced Mr McQuestin into an unenviable position. Whereas Mr Hogan is a rigid factionalist and friend of Ian Quick, and has been working unsupervised and tirelessly to ensure that his taxpayer funded office can assist Mr Quick, particularly in ways which are “off the record”. This alleged activity has been endorsed and sanctioned by Michael O’Brien who is completely backed by Ian Quick.
Liberal MPs have publicly stated that they are concerned that the Opposition Office has not been working co-operatively with the party’s head office or the wider interests of the party.
In the meantime, counter arguments have been made. Mr McQuestin has been accused of being increasingly “uncomfortable” with Ian Quick’s activities and it is suggested by some senior Liberals that Mr Quick may be moving to fire Mr McQuestin straight after the party holds its long overdue State Council in early June.
Mr McQuestin’s record in Tasmania was exemplary, but he has been ill prepared for the balkanised grubby factionalism of Victorian Liberal politics.
At the same time Mr Hogan and the Shadow Cabinet have deliberately not developed many policies, as their view is to hold onto their positions through factional operations rather than focussing on winning the next State election.
In a written statement, a spokesman for Mr O’Brien conceded that Mr Loughnane had been appointed by the Federal Executive to review his office.
Ian Quick’s faction has declared war on the party at the Federal level. In an astonishing move, supporters of Mr McQuestin privately briefed one Melbourne newspaper with the intent of talking up Mr McQuestin’s allegiance to the Federal leadership of the party, which will hold him in good stead as Ian Quick’s faction try to purge any opponents from all levels of the party.
“They got rid of Tony McKenna, Mile and the old 104 team,” said one senior Liberal. “Now Quick, Clark and O’Brien are questioning their own State Director.”
“Half of the State and Federal MPs, and over half the members have had enough of this bloody factional infighting. Quickie is directly responsible for putting this huge strain on the party. Something needs to give.”
The serious allegations about the misuse and unusual activities of the Opposition Office has led to the welcome development of Mr Loughnane investigating the situation in the Victorian Division. There are hopes that he will be recommending solutions to the current factional crisis which must be resolved as soon as possible.