The Kooyong Liberal preselection contest will be a source of fascination and joy for political voyeurs throughout the year.
One candidate has emerged in left-wing press speculation, Jason Thomas, who has not previously appeared on VEXNEWS’s radar so we’ll take a good insiders look at him and review the rest of the field in our trademarked nasty way.
WE SHARE SOME KIND THOUGHTS ABOUT A CANDIDATE
Prospective Liberal candidate for Kooyong Jason Thomas has been attacked by Lib insiders as an untrustworthy muscle-bound “nutter.”
Opponents describe Thomas as “built like a brick sh*t-house and twice as thick.”
He was a member and President of the Kew branch for a number of years and also became a Policy Assembly delegate through Kooyong Electorate Council.
Both the Kroger and Baillieu factions regard him with little more than contempt, saying all that male testosterone has left him a little crazy and marked as “not to be trusted”. Retiring MP leftard Petro Georgiou once tolerated Thomas but has since gone cold on him.
The blue rinse ladies of Kooyong sometimes struggle with his thick New Zealand accent – suspecting he might be part Maori perhaps – with some of them horrified by the prospect of the Liberal He-Man representing them.
A MAN WITH A PAST
Insiders are also concerned saying that the international he has a colourful political past, having worked with the Nationals in NZ and the UK Conservatives. Tory sources say he was “let go” from their ranks for indiscretions and leaking of a gravely serious kind.
Thomas was at one stage during the Howard years the Government Relations Manager at Mayne Health, in charge of rent-seeking. Some say that Thomas was also affiliated with notorious Saddam Hussein money laundering outfit AWB and that as a gesture of solidarity with the shamed outfit, Jason continues to carry around a clearly marked AWB leather satchel when visiting CBR.
He kicked on from that well salaried gig to work at a firm called Sinclair Thomas where he worked with the illustrious NSW Liberal bovver boy Ian Kortlang on “campaigns”.
On their company website no clients or testimonials are listed. Perhaps they also mark the passing of fallen comrades with anonymous stars in the foyer as is the custom at Langley.
While working in “public affairs” was his cover, he served to position himself as a do-gooder version of Rambo, assisting with the distribution of medical equipment and supplies. He would frequently recount tales of being shot at by “gooks” and having to engage in legally dubious activities such as bribery to get the life-saving equipment to its intended destination.
This brave and heroic approach extends to politics too, with him extending the opportunity of employing him to nearly every politician he meets of the conservative persuasion, Nats excluded, even he has his standards.
EXPLORING EMERGING MARKETS IN FUNDRAISING
One candidate to whom he extended the hand of friendship was Emmanuel Chiccello, of the south-east badlands. He cemented himself into local legend with his wacky campaign, partly financed by a cash donation of $50,000 from a colourful nightclub identity from the region who it is said has also made a good living from the unregulated pharmaceutical market.
Just the sort of chap the Liberals need in a “leadership” seat. Not.
The enterprising lad though has a Plan B in case he fails in the dash for Kooyong. He has also cast a covetous eye over Menzies, a neighbouring seat currently occupied by Kevin Andrews, the highly regarded senior former minister.
The unflappable Andrews is believed to have laughed off the prospect of being challenged, pointing to his much strengthened branch support following a tough fight in 2000. Critics insist Andrews has had his go and should make way for the next generation. Andrews is so low-key and hard to rattle that some jokingly speculate lithium is involved.
MORE KOOYONG FUN
Another figure lurking ominously in the Kooyong hood is Baillieu staffer Simon Troeth who fantasises over Kooyong for himself and also fancies he could emerge in Box Hill should Clark shuffle off quietly into the Parliamentary Library one day and disappear.
Kroger folks insist that Josh Frydenberg still has enough numbers and a gee-whiz CV with which he can win over swingers in a non Austen Powers kinda way.
Some even claim that “Metro” Petro Georgiou jumped before he was inevitably pushed, so nervous was he about the gathering storm.
FIRST AMONG EQUALS
The IPA head John Roskam is seen by some as the lead Baillieu faction candidate. Either that or the #3 Senate spot for him, which some party insiders believe should go to a Liberal woman.
John Pesutto, the highly regarded industrial lawyer, is also from the Baillieu group but is seen by some of their hard-heads like David Davis of improperly consorting with “the other side.”
They point to Pesutto’s acceptance of an offer from the Kroger forces to him to take up the Chairmanship of the Constitutional committee, which some Baillieuistas saw as a betrayal and an indication Pesutto is a pragmatist. Some see him as factionally unreliable by comparison to Roskam who they count as solid. Pesutto’s defenders say he is a strong supporter of Baillieu who is just not interested in fighting old battles.
BAILLIEU FORCES ON THE SLIDE
Some of those battles have seen Baillieu backer Andrew McIntosh lose his electoral chair, suggesting to some the Kooyong Baillieu faction heartland is under siege.
This is welcomed by the Kroger ascendancy because they see there is a desperate need in Spring Street Liberal ranks to “take out the trash” to present the strongest possible team in 2010 in what could be the middle of a serious economic slowdown as the effects of very nervous banks are felt throughout.
They will – as ever – face the sternest resistance from the Baillieu faction whose spiritual leader isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty by quizzing new arrivals at branch meetings in his area about “why they’ve joined the party” and where their loyalties lie. His presumption that all membership recruits are part of a factional ploy causes much embarrassment and consternation among Liberals, our sources say.
Baillieu’s opponents in the area insist Frydenberg could be part of the answer for a revitalised Liberal party. They say they hate him because he has now established himself as a part of the Liberal scene in Kooyong and is much less able to demonised by Petro because he has a personal rapport with most branch members. No longer the Johnny come lately, Josh has demonstrated his bona fides by raising plenty of money for the party and patiently attending many local party branch meetings making a favourable impression.
Unlike Ted, increasingly seen as an isolated and grouchy figure in the party who refuses to move on and let go.