Despite wielding support from two of the most powerful figures in South Australian Liberal politics, Christopher Pyne and Alexander Downer, one-time front-runner Houssam Abiad was defeated for party preselection for the winnable federal seat of Adelaide today.
A well-regarded Liberal patriot Luke Westley was nominated after a strong and stirring speech. Others praised Sam Duluk for also impressing preselectors.
Those present at the preselection told VEXNEWS that Abiad was quizzed about his now widely-reported views on Israel and the United States that had been brought to national attention by VEXNEWS and that he struggled to explain himself.
It was certainly a bizarre episode in recent political history.
And as always, VEXNEWS was first with the worst. We reported his bizarre statements and prompted a tsunami of concern among Liberal party members and supporters across the nation with press reports in The Advertiser, The Australian and public expressions of concern about the matter from conservative commentators Andrew Bolt and Christopher Pearson.
Abiad was clearly not well advised. If heâ€™d gone out on the front foot and had explained that his views had changed and how heâ€™d transformed from a hot-head Israel hater favourably quoted in the official publication of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) to a moderate businessman who had left his extremism behind where it belonged the things might have been different.
But he didnâ€™t. He seemed to think he could gloss over his previously expressed views or perhaps even take them to federal Parliament to fill the hole left by the departure of Laborâ€™s disgraceful Israel lasher Julia Irwin.
Either way, he paid the price.
We suspect heâ€™d struggle to get preselected even by a caucus of Labor Lefties these days, they have sympathy for the Palestinian people but they â€“ for the most part â€“ refrain from the language of hate in which Abiad engaged.
Some of Abiadâ€™s supporters had publicly questioned whether weâ€™d had a partisan political agenda by reporting the truth about his candidacy. They even pointed to the fact that my father was a Labor politician (who retired – mind you – in 1992) to attack our credibility.
Of course, a partisan politically motivated agenda would have pursued the political loon after â€“ not before â€“ his preselection. Before our coverage commenced, he was universally described as the favoured candidate, most likely to prevail. Our record of being equally unfair to both sides of politics and supporting those who support freedom speaks for itself, we think anyway.
We support freedom fighters in all major parties and we think Australian political life would not have benefited one bit from having such a publicly avowed hater of Israel anywhere near a seat in the Australian Parliament.
UPDATE: The Australian reports
SOUTH Australian Liberal Party members have rejected a Muslim businessman accused of strong anti-Israel views as their candidate against federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis, instead choosing a candidate who describes himself as “not anti anyone”.
Marketing manager Luke Westley defeated Houssam Abiad yesterday to become the Liberal candidate for the seat of Adelaide in the upcoming federal election.
Mr Abiad received broad publicity during his preselection run for comments he allegedly made at a 2006 rally criticising the Howard government’s stance during Israel-Lebanon hostilities. [VEXNEWS: They don’t like giving credit where it’s due sometimes. Tsk. Tsk]
Despite this, Mr Abiad had the support of former foreign minister Alexander Downer and Liberal powerbroker Christopher Pyne. [VEXNEWS: Yes, who’d given that support without knowing Abiad had protested against the government of which they were both part] Â State party president Sean Edwards said Mr Abiad still had a future with the party.
“It was disappointing to see obviously some elements of the community were concerned about Houssam’s entry into the federal parliamentary arena,” Mr Edwards said. “The fact that we had an Australian of Lebanese descent who is also a Muslim attracted to joining the Liberal Party speaks volumes about where we are right now.” [VEXNEWS: Edwards’ contemptible implication is that those expressing concern about Houssam were bigoted is ridiculous. He was merely being held to account for his stated and virulent views]
Mr Abiad said last night he was not anti-Israel and he had only asked Israel to “exercise restraint” in 2006 so Australians trapped in Lebanon could escape. [VEXNEWS: Those reading a text of Abiad’s remarks know he said plenty more than that]
“Israel has the right to exist, same as the Palestinians,” he said, [VEXNEWS: Very big of him] foreshadowing another run for public office [VEXNEWS: We’ll be waiting]. He said he did not believe the Liberal preselectors had counted the views attributed to him on Israel against him. [VEXNEWS: From proud peacock frontrunner to carved game, he is an enthusiastic denier]
Mr Westley, who turns 28 today, ran unsuccessfully in the March state election, achieving a 14 per cent swing in the safe Labor seat of Enfield.
He said the party members had judged the candidates based on the information before them.
“Houssam is a great party member, he’s a very big supporter of Tony Abbott now,” Mr Westley said. Asked if he shared Mr Abiad’s views about Israel, Mr Westley said: “I’m generally not anti anyone.” [VEXNEWS: A polite slap at Mr Abiad’s anti-Israel rhetoric]
The Liberals are hoping Ms Ellis will suffer the same fate as her state counterpart in Adelaide, Jane Lomax-Smith, who was toppled in the state election.
Ms Ellis has an 8.5 per cent margin in the seat, which she has held since 2004.