‘The Firm’ – NSW Liberals Factional Underbelly

The Hon. Charlie Lynn

‘The Firm’ is an exclusive political body run by factional chieftains. It rivals Labor’s legendary ‘Sussex Street’ in the ruthless exercise of political power in NSW. ‘The Firm’s’ authority allows it to defy the wishes of its own Prime Ministers, Premiers and grassroots membership.

‘The Firm’ is the NSW Liberal Party State Executive.

Under ‘The Firm’s’ secretive dictatorship only two percent of their 10,000 members get to vote for who they want to represent their political interests in the NSW Legislative Council. And these two percenters are carefully selected through tightly controlled processes.

The remaining 98 per cent are left to ponder the conflicting democratic ideals of ‘The Firm’ and the wider membership of the NSW Liberal Party.

Aggrieved members who dare to speak out risk suspension or expulsion. They are left to ponder the values of free speech espoused by their very own MPs in Parliament.

Those running ‘The Firm’ are not necessarily in ‘The Firm’ as a result of Tony Abbott’s declaration that factional leaders can either be State Executive members or lobbyists – but not both. This caused the lobbyists to withdraw to a parallel enclave to plan who they would clone to represent their interests in ‘The Firm’. The clones didn’t need a voice – just an arm to vote with whenever they got the nod from their chieftain. To disobey would be death – politically speaking!

The roots of this factional cult were seeded by former Opposition leaders, Barry O’Farrell and Malcolm Turnbull when they convinced State Council, the ruling body of the Liberal Party, to approve ‘special powers’ for ‘The Firm’. During the debate the wider membership was assured that ‘special powers’ would only be used in emergencies such as the lead-up to an election when their might be insufficient time to allow for a normal preselection process if an endorsed candidate was to withdraw for any reason.

Since then ‘The Firm’ has serially rorted the provisions of ‘special powers’ to consolidate and firewall their control of the NSW Liberal Party.

Former Ambassador to the United States, Senator Michael Baume, retired to the Southern Highlands and sought approval to establish a new Branch in his area within the electorate of Wollondilly. Unwittingly he was intruding into the factional fiefdom of the sitting member, the unremarkable Jai Rowell MP.

‘The Firm’ rejected Senator Baume’s application without explanation.

Rowell then marshalled his factional forces for the following State Executive meeting. As a result ‘The Firm’ used ‘special powers’ to approve an additional five new Branches within Rowell’s electorate. It was game, set and match in favour of Rowell who already has a very safe margin of 21.8 per cent. He now has 10 branches in a classic case of factional overkill.

In Rowell’s neighbouring electorate of Campbelltown former Police Inspector, Bryan Doyle, is fighting for his political life. Doyle was the first Liberal to wrest the seat from Labor and holds it with a narrow margin of 6.8 per cent. The only political infrastructure to support Doyle in his last campaign was an ineffectual Young Liberal Branch established as a factional outpost for Rowell.

After Doyle’s historic win he sought to develop his local Branch structure to repel the inevitable fightback from Labor. He soon learned that Labor was not his real enemy. By refusing his attempts to build a local branch structure ‘The Firm’ had handicapped him more effectively than Labor ever could.

Doyle mistakenly assumed that both ‘The Firm’ and his fellow Liberal colleagues would be mutually supporting in the lead-up to election campaigns. He had not reckoned on the politics of self-interest espoused by factional warlords who have perfected the art of the deal within ‘The Firm’. He learned that if Jai Rowell was not able to control the membership of any Branch within his fiefdom, which included Campbelltown, ‘The Firm’ would not allow it to happen. The political power of the faction was more important to Rowell and his stooges than the survival of a colleague in a neighbouring electorate. Doyle has been left to campaign on his own with both hands tied behind his back.

Vietnam War refugee and former ABC reporter, Dai Le, is the most high profile victim of Rowell’s factional dealings and double dealings within ‘The Firm’. She was the popular favourite for Liberal preselection for the South West Sydney Province – until Rowell summoned her to a secret meeting and ‘influenced’ her to withdraw and sign the nomination for an unknown factional stooge he had recruited.

The Firm’s shameful endorsement of Rowell’s grubby strategy to ‘game’ his stooge into the Upper House – and their defiance of Premier Mike Baird’s wishes to have more women in Parliament after the March election – should be cause enough for their political execution if there is a decline in the Liberal vote at the March election.

The assurances given by Barry O’Farrell and Malcolm Turnbull to State Council in regard to the use of ‘special powers’ have turned out to be a load of
croc.

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