Former national rower and likely Liberal lad Tim Smith has been elected to Stonnington Council, but he has immediately come under pressure from within his own party to stand aside because he won’t be in town to do his job – he accepted a job as adviser to Malcolm Turnbull during a campaign he never expected to win.
“This is a fine mess Malcolm’s got us in,” fumed a local Lib powerbroker yesterday as it became clear that the surging vote for popular former local mayor, Melina Sehr, would tow Smith through to council on her preference skirts.
Smith was duly elected one of three south ward councillors but has already packed his bags for Canberra. He now faces the dilemma; deal with the dreary dustbin & bus shelter duties on Chapel St, or advise the next prime minister. Says one local: “He’d be mad to take his seat on council. If he does, he’ll be subjected to intense scrutiny, and minor meeting he misses – and there would be plenty – will be declared an insult to the voters of Stonnington.”
“And if he doesn’t take the spot, he’ll immediately get the local party offside because his vacant position won’t necessarily go to a Liberal or a Lib-friendly candidate.”
“This bloke’s suddenly become the Chauncey Gardiner of Liberal politics,” our insider told VEXNEWS.
“Smith didn’t expect to win. That’s why he took the job with Malcolm. Now he’s been elected he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t”.
Turnbull, well aware that he’s viewed south of the Murray with distrust as a Sydney spiv who toyed with running for Labor, hired Smith last month during the local campaign as a sop to placate Victorian Liberals in the belief he was promoting a rising Victorian star. But that is a disputed assertion. “Smith’s seen as a brash newcomer who’s done himself no favours in his high-handed attitude to long-standing Liberals,” says one well-placed observer. “He wouldn’t be missed on council if he turned down the seat.”