Federal Liberal MPs behind radical push: John Hewson
September 3, 2005
Federal MPs are helping drive a push to factionalise the NSW Liberal Party, former federal Liberal leader John Hewson says.
A prominent Liberal upper house member in NSW, Patricia Forsythe, yesterday said extremists and zealots wanted to push the party to the far right.
Ms Forsythe, a former member of the shadow ministry and parliamentary secretary to former Liberal leader John Brogden, said the views of ordinary members were being swept aside.
Mr Hewson said the state party's problems stem from attempts to create factions similar to those which exist in the Labor Party, and that it was happening with the approval of federal MPs.
"I think what's happening in NSW would not be happening though without the tacit approval of some federal MPs," he told ABC radio.
"A number of them have always wanted to see the [moderate] group pull back ... probably from the Prime Minister down.
"You have people like [Health Minister] Tony Abbott and [Senator] Bill Heffernan and others ... they're hardline right.
"They might at least have a wry smile about what's happening in NSW even if they're not part of it."
Mr Hewson said there was a conscious attempt to factionalise the party and "there's no doubt that some of those people played a part in the demise of John Brogden."
He agreed with Ms Forsythe's comments. "Well this so-called religious right, I think it's true that some of the greatest atrocities in history have been perpetrated in the name of religion and it should be no different in the Liberal Party I would think," he said.
"You're seeing it in the US, I mean [President George] Bush has exploited the religion card, if you like, pretty extensively.
"He's used it as a very divisive mechanism to get himself re-elected, and I think there's a tendency in Australia to say we've drifted too far to the centre, or we've become to too moderate or too progressive and that issues like abortion and euthanasia and so on have gone soft on them, we'd better take a hardline position.
"And I think Patricia's right, that if we did that as a party we'd lose a tremendous amount of support in the electorate because people are far more tolerant than the hardline right, I can tell you."
Mr Hewson said deputy leader Barry O'Farrell was telling the truth when he said he could not unify the state party as well as new leader Peter Debnam.
"All my sources tell me [Mr O'Farrell] had the numbers [to win], he said.
"I think that what he said is the truth, that he didn't think he could unify the party as well as Peter Debnam could because there are people in the party that would never accept Barry O'Farrell.
"I won't name them but I know who they are and they would never accept him and they would leak out of shadow cabinet constantly and they would undermine him and his life would be a misery."
Mr Debnam has said Ms Forsythe was being emotional and there were no extremists in a right faction within his parliamentary party.
Should John Brogden have resigned ?
Not all Liberals agree that Pittwater MP John Brogden's should have resigned from his role as state Opposition leader.
Pinching a journalist's bottom and referring to Bob Carr's wife as ``a mail-order bride'' is ``not a hanging offence'', Davidson state Liberal MP Andrew Humpherson said.
He said Mr Brogden's behaviour did not warrant a resignation from his role as Opposition leader.
I think he made a mistake. He's made an error of judgment which he shouldn't have, he said.
Mr Humpherson said Mr Brogden would have to accept he's tarnished his image and work doubly hard to correct that.
Pittwater Mayor Lynne Czinner pointed out Bill Clinton hadn't been forced to resign for his behaviour.
I am surprised because he (Brogden) does not seem to be that sort of person, Cr Czinner said. We all do pretty stupid things when we have had too much to drink.