The Menzies battle

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Abalinx 10 February 2020 Peter Adamis 

A battle within the labyrinth of Menzies is soon to be played out. The battle lines have been drawn up and the opposing camps sharpening their political spears, formations are at the ready and the electorate standing by. A copy of the article may be downloaded by clicking on: MENZIES A BATTLE WITHIN THE LABYRINTH

Two men from two different backgrounds and outlook on life are going to do battle within the vast labyrinth of the electorate of Menzies.  There can be only one winner! The whole Liberal party I looking at the looming pre-selection battle and will wonder whether the concept of conducting early pre-selections was worth defying the Prime Minister and all the parliamentarians.  If it fails then Robert Clark and his sycophantic minions will be dancing on political coals come end of May.

The challenger, Keith Wolahan is a young barrister of Irish background born in Dublin. He arrived in Australian as a youngster, studied hard to become a barrister and works in Victoria.  Although Keith Wolahan comes across as a nice guy, he has not been seen to kick goals with the leadership roles he’s held in the party. For example he has limited experience in fundraising, attended very few events in Bulleen and has been absent at time during his leadership. However his alternative role as an officer in the Army reserve is very demanding and that may be the reason for his lack of political commitment. I am impressed with his support of veterans in obtaining benefits and providing legal advice to numerous cases on humanitarian grounds

Keith Wolahan other passion is the art of warfare and as member of the Army Reserve he has had the experience of at least three tours of service in Afghanistan. Those who have served with him have advised me that he is a “good hand” meaning he can be relied upon and supports his men under his command. This indeed high praise from those who have served with him and I for would not expect anything less from him.  I guess I am somewhat biased towards veterans, given my own background.

It appears that Keith Wolahan has been groomed from a young age to take on higher responsibilities, by being exposed to life experiences that have matured him beyond those of his peers. Keeping a low profile for some odd twenty five years a Liberal Party member, Keith Wolahan to his credit had been concentrating on his legal and Army Reserve pursuits. Therefore, it is safe to say that although much is expected of him he places a high priority on duty and the welfare of the men under his command.  It seems natural that his parents seeking to elevate their son to higher office laid the foundations for their son to take on a political career. Branches, State Electorate Committees, Federal Electorate Committees, Women’s organisations, Committees and Social Media platforms were ‘infiltrated’ with the aim of influence party members.       

This is a classic approach to challenging well entrenched long serving members of parliament. A well-known technique that has been used many times in the past by others seeking office. It happened in Bulleen when Nick Kotsiras engineered to replace David Perrin, followed on his heels by Matthew Guy and his camp of followers. Josh Frydenberg was successful in replacing Petro Georgiou after two attempts and Srinivasan Vasan applied the same techniques to win pre-selection in Forrest Hill. The only difference in these four examples is that Srinivasan Vasan was unable to emulate their successes during the election had it not been for the internal conflicts at that time.

Keith Wolahan aligned himself with that failed and disastrous administration led by Tony Snell who unfortunately had to weather the corruption storm of the State Director Damien Mantach.  On the departure of Tony Snell and his administrative team, an investigation led to the downfall of the State Director Damian Mantach. The departure of Tony Snell was a severe blow for the Keith Wolahan camp. With the change in leadership and at the Secretariat level, many who had joined the Liberal Party under Tony Snell found that their membership was revoked under the ‘Grandfathering’ concept.  The concept of ‘Grandfathering ‘ became a problem for Keith Wolahan and did not bode well with the Wolahan camp.  Many of those recruited by the Wolahan camp found themselves outside the Menzies electorate and therefore not in a position to vote.

Keith had recruited over 80 new members into Menzies in 2008, who didn’t live in the electorate. Almost all of these left the party straight after they lost the ability to vote at a pre-selection.  This was pure unlucky for Keith Wolahan who had worked silently behind the scenes preparing for a challenge.  What is of interest is that many of those affected were found to be ex-Army Reserve members or currently serving members of the Australian Defence Force.  On reflection, we are left wondering whether Keith Wolahan was trying to emulate his colleague Andrew Hastie in West Australia who was also a special services officer deployed in Afghanistan or was he motivated by Tim Fischer a Vietnam veteran and revered past Deputy Prime Minister.  Although both men are worth emulating, I am of the belief that Keith Wolahan had not factored on changes at the Administrative level occurring.

This blow not expected by the Wolahan camp, removed any opportunities of challenging the sitting member Kevin Andrews at that time.  As a result of this setback, Keith Wolahans friend and colleague Eddie Gisonda stood down as the Electorate Chairman of Menzies and was replaced by Andrew Asten, a senior management consultant.  These sudden changes and setbacks to the Wolahan camp created a panic and they sought refuge within the Federal Electorate of Menzies under the umbrella of the Bullen State electorate where Keith Wolahan has been chairman for some years. This position enabled Keith Wolahan like the good Army Reserve officer that he is to plan, control, and influence, recruit and marshal his supporters into positions of influence.                            

In addition to maintaining a political fortress, Keith Wolahan has renewed his friendship with Ian Quick who is currently on the Administrative Committee advising Robert Clark.  It has been alleged but not yet proven that Ian Quick in order to help his mate Keith Wolahan masterminded the concept of early pre-selections. It is important to note that the Bulleen sitting member Matthew Guy who was the previous Opposition Leader, was undermined by Ian Quick and those currently on the Administrative Committee led by Robert Clark.    This did not deter Keith Wolahan from his mission.

With the pre-selection now closed there are only two candidates in the field. Many believe that the seat of Menzies should have attracted a much wider field given the talent of Victorian diverse communities and changes in the demographics. It appears that two candidates for the highly coveted seat of Menzies is just not good enough for those living within the boundaries of Menzies. It therefore is not a surprise to find that some long term residents do not believe that Keith Wolahan has the political skills and knowledge for a Federal seat and others feel that Keith is better suited for a State seat. Yet there are the persistent rumours making the rounds stating that Kevin Andrews should step down after the next Federal election and prepare a successor such as Matthew Guy.  If this was to occur then it would create a vacancy for Keith Wolahan in Bullen where he is entrenched. I believe all of these so called rumours are merely just that, rumours.

To ensure the success of his early pre-selection concept, Ian Quick is alleged to have engineered the Menzies pre-selection to favour his mate Keith Wolahan.      Ian Quick is on record as a result of his disloyal and corrosive emails to members as disliking long serving members of parliament.  It is not hard to see that the Menzies is a test case for Robert Clark, Ian Quick and those who have supported the concept of early pre-selections.  Related sources associated with Keith Wolahans camp believe that the Prime Minister should offer Kevin Andrews a responsible role representing Australia overseas.

If this happens and Keith Wolahan decides to challenge, it may attract Peta Credlin to enter the fray. In today’s world of political intrigue anything is possible. One could hazard a guess that Kevin Andrews is still a relative young man and when he decides to announce a successor he will do so. However I am of the belief that none of the above are being considered by the Keith Wolahan camp for the simple reason that they may be deliberate diversions and digressions.      

Such actions and non-actions have not gone unnoticed by the supporters of Kevin Andrews who are appalled by the political machinations of the Keith Wolahan camp. Therefore it is no wonder that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come out in favour of Kevin Andrews. Scott Morrison came in favour of Kevin Andrews stating: “I fully endorse his application and urge members to support him.”  One could say that Scott Morrison has extended his support to all Victorian Federal Members as well as Kevin Andrews.  This is seen by many as a snub to Robert Clark and his sycophant followers.  Many of whom are now regretting to have supported the current administration.

According to the Australian, “Among others to provide testimonials are parliamentary colleagues Josh Frydenberg, Mathias Cormann, Peter Dutton, Dan Tehan, Greg Hunt, Alan Tudge, Angus Taylor, Michael Sukkar, Sarah Henderson, Andrew Hastie and Jim Molan. Endorsements are included from Sky News anchors Peta Credlin and Andrew Bolt, as well as Liberal Party figures Brian Loughnane, Nick Minchin, Helen Kroger and Caroline Inge.”

In a another political twist to the Menzies labyrinth is an interesting telephone call made by Holly Byrne, (the current female Vice President)  on the 16 January 2020.  It is alleged that Holly Byrne, in a telephone conversation with Andrew McNabb of the La Trobe Federal Electorate Chair, admitted that the reason for the accelerated preselection timeline was “because if we hold it in September, Keith Wolahan won’t win – .Andrew Asten will”. Now what has Andrew Asten to do with a pre-selection in September when it is being held next month? Does this mean that Ian Quick’s friendship with Keith Wolahan had something to do with it?  All too confusing if I may say so and is it fair to say it appears like collusion, a conspiracy or just plain politics.

Another interesting point of view is by a biased Wolahan supporter stating that: “marshalling so many power­ful Liberals behind Mr Andrews shows his camp is “scared of a challenge from a younger, better credentialed candidate”. Chuckling as I normally do when reading such tripe, I read between the lines and wonder whether the statement was made by an ex-military serviceman or maybe someone like the self-proclaimed Information technology guru Ian Quick.  But that’s merely my honest opinion based on Ian Quicks past behaviour. Still it may have come from sources associated with those who supported Damian Mantach as State Director. Whatever the case may be, the statement is wrong considering the service Kevin Andrews has provided and continues to provide to the electorate and to the nation.

Readers must also take into account Robert Clark, Ian Quick and the Administrative Committee who defied all the members of parliament as well as defying the Prime Minister Scott Morrison regarding early pre-selections.  Therefore it does not take an Einstein to unravel the threads of communication and links between Keith Wolahan’s camp and that of Robert Clark, Ian Quick and their crew currently on the Administrative Committee, let alone the links between Tony Snell, his administrative Committee and that of their unfortunate association with Damian Mantach, the disgraced State Director.

The other matter to take into consideration is the fact that Keith Wolahan kept a low profile for some odd twenty five years as a Liberal Party member. He had the opportunity to create a far greater visible presence but did not do so. As a result very few Liberal Party members are aware of Keith Wolahan.  Kevin Andrew on the other hand has the support of every Victorian Liberal Minister. Interestingly, Matthew Guy has also pledged his support for Kevin, even though Keith is the Bulleen SEC Chair. Both candidates as we speak are touring the various branches that are still active, the various organisations associated with the electorate, and eventually will face the electorate at Federal Electorate councils upon being invitation.

I know enough of both men to realise that they are good people. Both have served the nation in various ways with different skills and knowledge. Both are ambitious and fit enough for the long yards that are required in Canberra. Both are are gentlemen in their own right with different points of view and outlook on life. One has the political life long experience, the other in legal and the art of warfare. It is up to the both of them to sell themselves to the electorate as well on the day of the pre-selection process. From what I gather, both camps have a long road to travel, a road where there is only one outcome: Winners or Grinners.  May the best man win!

Peter Adamis is a Journalist/Social Media Commentator and writer. He is a retired Australian military serviceman and an Industry organisational & Occupational (OHS) & Training Consultant whose interests are within the parameters of domestic and international political spectrum.  He is an avid blogger and contributes to domestic and international community news media outlets as well as to local and Ethnic News.  He holds a Bachelor   of Adult Learning & Development (Monash), Grad Dip Occupational Health & Safety, (Monash), and Dip. Training & Assessment, Dip Public Administration, and Dip Frontline Management. Website: Contact via Email: [email protected] 


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