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Kennett For Canberra Stories Just A Media Beat-Up

The lack of quality Sunday newspapers in Australia oftens means that the public is subjected to quite loopy “reporting” on the day of Rest. So it is today with reports of a possible move by Jeff Kennett to contest pre-selection for the federal electorate of Menzies.

Herald-SunMenzies is held by the conservative Liberal Kevin Andrews, the man responsible for the private members bill that overturned the Northern Territory’s voluntary euthanasia legislation in 1997. Andrews is supported by John Howard.

It is reported that there are two other Liberals possibly in the running for Menzies. One is Louise Staley, a Kennett supporter, whilst the other is Greg Hunt, son of longtime Liberal leader of the Victorian upper house and Kennett critic, Alan Hunt. Were Jeff Kennett to enter this contest, a Herald-Sun source is quoted as saying it would unleash a “shitfight” in the party.

Kennett has previously ruled out attempts to move to Canberra, citing his variation of the “Yes, Minister” dictum that he wants to spend more time with his family and with Victoria. Attempts to draft him in the mid-1990s, when the federal Liberals were continuing to experience leadership difficulties, collapsed after he apparently demanded that a seat also be found for Alan Stockdale and that they assume the leadership shortly after their arrival in the nation’s capital.

Preselection nominations for Menzies close on August 31. If there is a contest, don’t expect to see Kennett’s hat in the ring.

The more interesting likelihood in Menzies is the confrontation between the so-called “moderate” forces versus the conservatives. Andrews will attract strong support from Howard, Costello and the Catholic sections of the Liberal Party. The moderates will be after Andrews because of his success in overturning the euthanasia laws. The conflict is exacerbated by the intertwining of personal conflicts between the Kennett forces and the Costello-Kroger faction.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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