Victorian Liberal Senator Scott Ryan is being closely watched ahead of next weekâ€™s Senate ballot for the Liberal Whipâ€™s position. Controversial Tasmanian Liberal Senator David Bushby is being challenged by Victoriaâ€™s Helen Kroger for the position.
Ryan, while in the same stateÂ faction as Kroger, is thought by friends to have pledged his vote to the Tasmanian.
His reasons for doing so are believed to relate to the forthcoming preselection stoush which will determine whether he is in the â€œdeath-seatâ€ of #3 on the Coalition ticket or whether Senator Kroger will be demoted to this unfortunate position where she could be picked off by conservative randoms such as the revived Democratic Labor Party, Family First or perhaps even the ever-popular Bob Katterâ€™s Australia Party which appears to have received substantial financial backing, including from the Victorian branch of the ETU, headed by Dean Mighell.
With the Coalition vote surging as it is, #3 might not be such a problem next time, but it is still considered a risk.
Ryanâ€™s backers, regular leakers and briefers against Kroger, say that as a shadow parliamentary secretary Ryan trumps back-bencher Kroger and that he would continue to do so even if she was elected Whip.
However, Krogerâ€™s chums are convinced that Ryan is talking out the wrong side of his mouth, telling local party patriots that heâ€™s backing Helen while pledging his vote to Bushby and Eric Abetz in the dark shadows of parliamentary corridors.
They also say that Ryan is being too clever by half, also plotting to effectively run on a Ted Baillieu-backed ticket to shore up his bid for #2 on the Senate ticket. By appealing to everyone in Victoria from right to left and playing sneaky games with interstate colleagues, Ryanâ€™s foes say he might end up with no-oneâ€™s support at all.
The Senate Liberals are not so many in number that there are many â€“ if any â€“ stray votes on rare contentious matters. Indeed, in the era of Count von Minchin â€“ the retiring numbers-man extraordinaire â€“ every vote was accounted for, sometimes with Minchin knowing who people were voting for before they did.
Ryanâ€™s apparently devious plan to pretend to vote for Kroger while actually voting for David Bushby has not been a well-kept secret though with many from Ryanâ€™s own group being aware of his intentions and planning to hold him to account for it if he transgresses state and factional loyalties.
Some wonder whether he will follow the federal party leader Tony Abbottâ€™s example of a CFMEU-style â€œshow-and-tellâ€ ballot to allay fears and paranoias that can arise in these vexing times.