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.