Transcript of media conference – Electorate Office, 334a Marrickville Rd, Marrickville
21 July 2007
Subject: Liberal Party leadership, Right wing takeover of NSW Liberals, Michael Towke, Malcolm Turnbull
ALBANESE: In the last week Labor has been talking about what is of concern to working families in Australia. We’ve been talking about the cost of living, we’ve been talking about water and climate change, about having a fair balance in industrial relations.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party is concerned only with its own internal squabbles. We have a Prime Minister and Treasurer whose relationship is simply dysfunctional – they don’t like each other, and don’t like having to work with each other, and they accuse each other of not telling the truth.
This week, Peter Costello has put a torpedo through John Howard’s economic credentials, in criticising his record on interest rates and on government spending in the lead up to elections.
And here in NSW, you have the takeover by the extreme right faction who are determined not just to stack out NSW Liberal Party Branches, but now also stack out the Parliamentary Liberal Party in Canberra to thwart Peter Costello’s future leadership ambitions.
The preselection of Michael Towke in Cook, backed by the extreme right faction follows the preselection of Alex Hawke in Mitchell and the concerted attempt by the extreme right to take control of the NSW Liberal Party branch and the Parliamentary Liberal Party at any cost.
Michael Towke was described last Sunday by the Prime Minister as “a successful small businessman – we always like those people in the Liberal Party." The Prime Minister gave that endorsement without taking into account this person’s business record, his membership of other political parties and his associations.
Michael Towke was successful, in spite of the high profile field of other candidates, backed by senior members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. And last night in the Liberal Party meeting, we had a dysfunctional Party fighting itself – including calls for the State Director to resign, and no decision being made in relation to Michael Towke because the Liberal Party in NSW has simply become dysfunctional on the Prime Minister’s watch.
The Prime Minister has encouraged the right wing elements in NSW, and this is the result – a party that has no regard for what the electors in Cook want, and they are solely obsessed with its own internal power struggles.
The preselection of Michael Towke follows reports of his involvement in the preselection in Wentworth, which saw Malcolm Turnbull beat the sitting member, Peter King. Malcolm Turnbull must come clean about his links with the extreme right of the Liberal Party and what commitments were given in return for their support in the Wentworth preselection, which helped him enter the Federal Parliament.
REPORTER: How damaging do you think this is for the Liberal Party?
ALBANESE: This is extremely damaging. This is the Prime Minister’s own Branch in meltdown over not just the Cook preselection, but over the takeover by the extreme right and their determination to control the Parliamentary Liberal Party at any cost, not just in Macquarie St but also in Canberra. And we saw what the result was in NSW with the demise of John Brogden and the turning of the NSW Liberal Party into an unelectable extreme rump. What we’re now seeing is that transformation occurring in the Parliamentary Liberal Party in Canberra.
REPORTER: Do you think John Howard has lost control of the Liberal Party?
ALBANESE: It’s pretty clear that Prime Minister John Howard has failed in his attempt to get a decent mainstream candidate up in the electorate of Mitchell, and in Cook you had candidates such as Scott Morrison who had references from Brendan Nelson, from Arthur Sinodinas, the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, from Malcolm Turnbull and from Nick Minchin. It appears Mr Morrison had more references than he had votes in that preselection. And the extraordinary revelations we have coming out every day about Mr Towke and whether he is the sort of person you would want in a safe seat, just shows that as far as the Liberal Party is concerned they are taking voters in the Sutherland Shire for granted because they have selected someone like Michael Towke to be their candidate in Cook.