The Right stuff

Andrew Landeryou reports that Alex Hawke, 29-year-old warlord of the Christian Right, has had a landslide win in today’s Liberal preselection for Mitchell. Sitting member Alan Cadman, a man old enough to be Hawke’s grandfather, withdrew yesterday rather than face a defeat everyone knew to be inevitable.

Hawke has worked in the past for federal MPs Ross Cameron and Helen Coonan, but is most closely associated with his current employer, state upper house MP David Clarke (UPDATE: “Anon” in comments tells us Hawke now works for Hawkesbury MP Ray Williams). The pair have become synonymous with the growing influence of religious conservatism in the party, although Clarke is a Catholic and Hawke a member of Hillsong church (UPDATE: it turns out he is actually an Anglican, but one who also makes his present felt at Hillsong). Their first enterprise was a Right takeover of the Young Liberals after a long period of Left control, which led Hawke to the positions of state president in 2002 and national president in 2005. The pair were later held responsible for a series of preselection challenges against Left MPs, which succeeded in ousting state upper house members John Ryan and Patricia Forsythe. Hawke made no apologies for his aggressive pursuit of ideological opponents, suggesting that they “choose the Greens, Labor or the Democrats” instead. However, his biggest claim to fame was his purported role in the demise of John Brogden. Speaking at the press conference called to announce his resignation, Brogden accused Hawke of “pushing” stories about his misbehaviour, and said he should “take a long hard look at himself”.

Hawke’s nomination met powerful opposition from former premier Nick Greiner, monarchist and former Australian Broadcasting Authority chairman David Flint, and former chief-of-staff to the prime minister Arthur Sinodinos, and his success to overcoming them is further testimony to his obvious political skills. However, it’s equally clear that his ideological dogmatism and factional divisiveness will open a new line of attack for the opposition.

UPDATE: The Sydney Morning Herald reports Hawke “won on the first ballot by 107 votes to 81”. Still to come from the NSW Liberal Party are preselection votes for Cook next Saturday, and the Senate the Saturday after.

UPDATE 2: In other NSW Liberal preselection news, Bronwyn Bishop has gone untroubled in Mackellar. The Sydney Morning Herald reports she “waltzed back into the job with 70 votes, ahead of councillor and News Ltd subeditor Maureen Shelley on 17, and businessman Don Wormald, who polled just three votes”.

UPDATE 3: There seems to be a consensus that the Sydney Morning Herald’s figures are wrong. For one thing, there were only 120 voters; Western Suburbs Magpies in commentstells us that “about 60% represent the local branches weighted to the membership of each branch”, “18 votes or so represent the state executive” and “30 votes represent the State Council (attempting to get balance from the broader party organisation). Local Fairfax paper the Hills News reports the margin was in fact 81-20.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

160 comments on “The Right stuff”

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  1. Isabella,

    I worked with David Elliot for some time- he was hardley a leftie. remember he was the National Campaign Director of the “No Republic” case, he workled for both John Howard and bronwyn Bishop and, unlike Alex, he attended Duntroon and was twice decorated for his military service as peacekeeper in Bougainville. Just because he has friends on all sides of the political sphere doesn’t mean he agrees with there politics.

    Hope this helps with your bias views. Have you ever met him?

    Liberal to the bootstraps

  2. A few clarifications:

    Firstly, Hawke now works for the new MLA for Hawkesbury, Ray Williams, and has since the last state election.

    Secondly, he is a committed Anglican and certainly not a member of Hillsong Church – his predecessor in Alan Cadman, however, is.

  3. Anthony Albanese argues:

    ” John Howard has been active in other preselections, such as Pru Goward in NSW and Dennis Jensen in Western Australia, and Alex Hawke would not have been chosen if John Howard opposed him.”

    Given Cadman pulled out on Friday, can anyone tell me where Howard’s support actually went?

  4. The NSW Division of the Liberal Party is the odd one out, the rest are pretty similar to each other, and except for SA don’t have ideological factions.

    Hawke may be symptomatic of NSW but he is not sympatic of the party at large.

  5. Dear posters all, remember the fate of comments on Ozpolitics, and mend yor ways before it is too late and the site administrator takes action.

    I see the signs already, personal abuse, asinine commentary, and subjective, unabashed barrow pushing.

    This is not the forum for this.

    If you must engage in emotional nonsense, spare us all, and infest The Australian letters and blogs pages which are emminently suitable for the accomodation of fools.

  6. Anon, I have corrected the bit about Hawke’s current employer. With respect to his religion, I’m getting conflicting messages. I’ve found a couple of references to his supposed links with Hillsong in the press, including the following correction in a Mike Carlton column from the SMH:

    “An article ‘Ah, the tears of crocodiles’ in the weekend edition of September 3-4 should not have described Alex Hawke, the national president of the Young Liberals, as a “Jensenite Anglican”. Mr Hawke is not an Anglican and attends Hillsong Church.”

    Can anyone provide more information that might resolve this?

  7. Well, let’s put it this way – I’m off to my Sunday service at Hillsong and I’ll let you know if I see him there. I certainly haven’t on any other occasion. Additionally, I don’t believe he is even attending the upcoming 32,000-strong Hillsong Conference – an event represented by many denominations and which has previously had John Howard, Peter Costello and Bob Carr in attendance.

    For better or for worse, Hillsong is the scapegoat for that is decried as the ‘religious right’ – I’d be too biased to prove or disprove that for obvious reasons, but to me it seems all very convenient that the media portray Hawke as a rabid Hillsong-attending religious extremist to support their theory of the upcoming ‘religious right interfada’. The only Hillsong attendee vying for preselection over the coming weeks is Scott Morrison in Cook.

  8. I’m 99% sure that Hawke is a member of Hillsong along with a few other members of the Parramatta and Baulkham Hills Young Libs. Does it really matter though? Watch the Hillsong show on ACC and tell me if you hear anything extreme. BTW I’m not a member of Hillsong.

    As a fiscal Conservative and social liberal I don’t care much for Christian Conservatives. But they are much better than the unwashed socialists that dominate the ALP and Greens. You lefties do not have a right to redistribute my income to achieve ‘social justice’.

  9. In a seat as safe as Mitchell it doesn’t matter whether the Liberal candidate is a genius or a moron, they will still get elected. The point about this choice is the message it sends to middle-of-the-road voters about where the NSW Liberal Party is going under the current extreme-right fundamentalist ruling faction, who make the old Victorian Socialist Left look moderate. I’m sure the NSW ALP has a very fat file indeed on Hawke and his antics, and its contents will find their way into the press at an appropriate moment. The Libs can’t say they weren’t warned.

    Dear me, Edward and Isabella at the same time. Why can’t we get some intelligent conservatives at this site rather than this pair of frothers?

  10. Are you people naive enough to believe that there are Liberal or Labor MPs that have NOT been involved in branch stacking? Hawke probably was involved in branch stacking…whoopty do!

  11. Ah Adam,

    Claws out tonight are they? You’ve obviously come home from Europe to your dreary Walter Mitty existence in Melbourne. Oh well.

    People like you who resort to abuse and personal denigration when they cant win an argument are what gives the “left” a bad name. Sigh.

    I won’t be intimidated though. I’ll keep exposing the errors!

  12. If the Liberal vote hovers around 40 for any length of time, a quality Small Liberal type independent, would have a good chance of winning in safer Liberal seats such as against Hawke, Bishop, Abbott and in Cook
    The Polls tomorrow to show Lab 48 Lib 38 TTP 58 to 42

  13. I am currently in Bangkok. I’d love to exchange personal abuse with you, Edward, but it’s nearly time for my foot massage.

  14. what concerns me most about Hawke is not his views but that he does not appear to have any life experience. just another example of the slow demise of the political parties in the country – being taken over by lifeless hacks who have never run a business etc.

    At least Keating had worked outside of politics (for the Sydney Council) before he got preselected for blaxland.

  15. Given the frequency of your comments Adam or should I say Walter M, I’d question if you really ever left your lounge room and the comments from Brussels were just a rhetorical device

  16. Oh my, the Army Reserve, Isabella? Dad’s Army meets Gormless Knox Boy? Saints preserve me.

    Those of us in NSW know exactly what Alex Hawke has been up to and how he’s crusted on in not a nice way to David Clarke. We also know that his particular faction in the NSW libs was why the inept Iemma government was re-elected. Play the same game Federally, and the Liberal Party will find itself in the wilderness for years to come. Australia doesn’t like the Religious Right. If Federal Liberals go down that path, they’ll pay a hefty and extended price.

  17. My sources are pretty clear that the result was something like 81 votes out of 107 rather than the Sun Herald reported amount.

    Alex does work for Ray Williams at the moment (and has since Ray was elected). He has always come across to me (in the flesh) as a committed social conservative, but a pragmatist when it comes to knowing what he could achieve. He will not be any more conservative than the MP he is replacing, and is a good fit for the Hills District.

  18. “I also forgot to mention that there is a Lib margin of about 20%, so it doesn’t really matter.”

    Oh, it matters, A-C. Someone like Hawke in the Opposition Front Bench will do wonders for the Labor Government’s longevity.

  19. That is a very interesting piece on the Young Libs but the bias of its author is plainly obvious. Fails to talk to and know some people, and selectively chooses what he includes.

  20. No one knows who Alex Hawke is outside us political geeks and he won’t make a difference to anything. The mug voter doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

    If the Coalition can get elected with people like Wilson Tuckey, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and Bob Katter (yes I know he’s left now) then Alex Hawke definitely isnt going to matter.

    You guys all hate him so much you’ve lost your perspective.

  21. it is regretable that isabella refers to “tenth rate Army failures and traitors that make up the ALP ranks”. The attempt to target your opponents as being security threats reminds me of stories of the Mccarthy era. If Isabella represents the dominant faction in the Liberal party i fear for the future of the country.

  22. Quite right Mr Speaker. While some may enjoy commenting on Hawke and branch stacking, we should all remember Turnbull & King and the branch-stacking nightmare of Wentworth in ’04. While there is a prize to be won (election to parliament, power etc) there will be people who will engage in this sort of practice. My curiosity is pricked, however, when a selection meeting for a sure fire winner seat has only 188 votes in it – what is the pre-selection method used here is? Is it votes to sub-branches per member, the actual number of members at the meeting or what? What does 188 votes actually mean?

  23. Just a note from a Liberal oberver. Elliott and Hawke are actually both conservative. It’s just that one of them has actually had a job, kids, mortgage and respected in the business community, and the other is named Alex.

  24. Apart from the fact that it was only 120 votes (despite the Sun Herald getting basic facts wrong people are keen to appropriate any other things they have read in that paper) those votes are made up as follows:

    – about 60% represent the local branches weighted to the membership of each branch.
    – 18 votes or so represent the state executive
    – 30 votes represent the State Council (attempting to get balance from the broader party organisation)

    To get over 80 votes in this means that you have overwhelming support from the local branches and quite high support from the party at large.

  25. You’re right- as Elliott said “that’s a comprehensive victory for Alex (but maybe not for the Liberal Party) I understand that the left backed Alex in return for Right support in Cook for their preferred candidate. Politics makes interesting bedpartners. I wonder what the business community is making of all this??

  26. Isabella – Mrs Hawke?

    Possibly. The only way that one could have a complimentary word to say about Alex Hawke would be:
    (a) if one had been a member of the ALSF, particularly as a flunkie in the Extra Dry sub-faction, or
    (b) if one had been intimate with Alex Hawke on more than one occasion.
    (And some wags may allege it’s possible to have been both – at the same time!)

    Isabella’s rantings aren’t those of a fully-reasoned rank-and-file member of the Liberal Party. Those who have had the pleasure/misfortune (strike out as applicable) of attending an NUS National Conference would know not just the antics of the ALSF attendees (singing God Save The Queen during a Welcome To Country, anyone?), but of the unashamed compliance of faction members to the ultra-right doctrine of the likes of David Clarke. From what I’ve learned (albeit over a cask of goon with a nameless Wet at Ballarat), while many members of the greater party are rather ashamed of both their outlook and their childish behaviour, the very people that the Young Liberals claim to represent – young people with a leaning to the right – feel that they are forced to toe the ultra-right line in order to maintain their position in the organisation. Of course, while many become disillusioned with such behaviour that they restrict their activism to the party proper, there are some who are happy to become the Extra Dry Fan Club, to the point where they’ll spout all sorts of rubbish in order to defend their ‘heroes’.

    It’s no different to calling calling someone ‘gay’ for not agreeing with your views – and it’s just as pointless and destructive.

    (Incidentally, wouldn’t Isabella’s work on this thread constitute trolling?)

  27. I first heard of Alex Hawke through the atrocious magazine MONTHLY which of course demonised him like any leftist publication would. I didn’t buy the magazine, but I did flick through it in the library – I wouldn’t dream of ever giving such a horrid magazine a farthing of revenue.

    Oh, btw, the trend back to the Government continues in the latest AC Nielsen poll! It now has 43-57 on two party preferred – the nominal gap has closed by another two points. Slowly but surely the forces of competence are inching ahead.

  28. Hilarious! All you political geeks spewing your venom in regards to Mr Hawke’s victory. Just so typical of the young, under-graduate culture and mentality that’s so prevalent in today’s media circles.

    I mean, let us all be honest? Alex Hawke being labelled an extremist by Anthony Albanese? Now there’s the pot calling the kettle black…… A socialist telling someone that there views are out of touch with modern day Australia, not that is funny!!

    If ever there was a problem with the modern day Liberal Party, it is that there’s an abundance of dead wood in its safe seats. Alan Cadman, the best case in point. He held the seat for 33 years and did a good job of presenting himself as a nice guy but at some point the party had to make a call to remove him.

    Alex is someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and certainly someone who’s motivated and hard working and will do an excellent job for the residents of Mitchell. Just because some of his lesser talented political opponents leak to the press and shriek the label “extreme” doesn’t actually make him one!

  29. I have no formal links to the Liberal Party; I just vote for them because they are the best party that can govern this great Commonwealth.

    BTW, I find it cutely ironic how Alex Hawke and Alex White respectively are, Good and Evil personified. It’s only right that a Good God has anointed the former as His servant to represent our marvellous nation.

  30. Its unfortunate the state of the NSW Liberal Party. The purpose of the two major parties is to win elections. Many on the NSW Liberal party’s right are not serious about winning elections, rather they are just using the party as an ideological plaything. They should go set up their own minor party if they want to do this. Their existence in the party would not concern me if they had not allegedly used questionable tatics to seize control, subverting the democratic functioning of the party to drag it away from the middle ground (The party is afterall meant to be a broad church). The two major parties have to stay towards the center of politics (With room of cause for moderate differentiation). All attempts move too far to either side must be resisted. Extremism is death. Hotelling’s Model is quite a good explaination why this is so.

  31. Nostradamus is reflecting the prevailing view in the new Uglies. Branch stacking is okay because it’s God’s will that Hawke be elected. Exclusive Brethren-style.

  32. Thanks Western Magpie. Always wondered how they did it!

    So, that leads me to think that Hawke must have had probably had between 50-60% of the branches, if he had the support of the left on State Exec & State Council (of course, without knowing the internal divisions of the Liberal Party at all). If there was branch stacking (which it doesn’t really sound like there needed to be much of anyway) I’d be curious as to what that actually translates to in terms of numbers of members. I can remember days (in WA) when Noel Crichton-Browne was claimed to have signed up 10,000 members, but I never believed those numbers.

  33. isabella mentioned that she spoke to ‘someone’ who was at the preselection……alex hawke???? who has never worked a day in his life, still lives with mum, is dishonest, and lets not forget comments he makes like (SNIP – Quote excised owing to moderator’s terror of defamation laws. To give readers the general idea: statement is not nice and, if accurate, would reflect poorly on Mr Hawke – PB) ….yes, isabelle he made this comment at a sydney liberal function… like my friends, tory, alex, and others, we will enjoy watching one-term-wonder hawke making a fool of himself….oh, and isabella who has provided you with mr elliott’s cv??? at least he served in the forces…..he didnt play dress up on the weekends….

  34. Donna and all other Leftards please note:

    There is little point in your sour-graping over Alex Hawke who won his pre-selection fair and square and looks like being cemented as a Federal MP for the next 30 years. Your lack of immaturity is one reason why your side of politics will never get elected to government, not this time, and almost certainly not next time either.

  35. Nostradamus (or should that be Right-wad), the fact you have to resort to slinging names in order to make your point strongly suggests that you have emerged from the shallow end of the gene pool, just like your Tory colleagues Isabella and Edward.
    I differ from my left colleagues in that I welcome Alex Hawke’s preselection. He is the Liberal’s equivalent of a “union hack” and will hang around their neck just like the NSW parliament equivalent David Clarke. Further, I am excited that he has a safe seat. This means when the Liberals lose the 2007 election, he will retain his seat and be in a position of influence post the election. I pray for an Abbott/Hawke leadership ticket. This will help Rudd become a longer serving PM than Menzies.
    The Australian people have a lot of common sense and I know that Hawke does not represent the majority. Be prepared to bet whatever you like on that.

  36. Nostradamus, Isabella etal

    I would greatly appreciate it if you could answer my questions regarding Alex Hawke’s win in the preselection, as you are obviously well-connected. I was wanting to know what the 80 votes he is reported to have had at the preselection meeting translate into – the State Exec/Council numbers and branch numbers, and if that actually translates into “branch-stacking” or just straight out support? People often go on about “branch-stacking” but don’t provide evidence. By my calculation, if he had the unanimous support of State Exec/Council he only needed 50% of the branches. On that basis, what does that mean in terms of actual Liberal Party members?

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