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Stateline (NSW) -

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(generated from captions) This week, a liberal MP gets

stuck into dirt file

politics. In my view to have

Skeltons in your cupboard,

people will just go and invent

them. And for the religious

rights power. Extremists and

zealots who have got extreme, a

lot of power inside the Liberal

party. Meet the new opposition

leader. Peter Debnam is fit and

focussed. Welcome to Stateline

NSW. I'm Quentin Democratster.

Dirt files have often been used

in politics to undermine, coerce or blackmail individuals

in the battle for political

influence and power T apparent

suicide attempt of John Brogden

on Tuesday night t day after

his resignation as Leader of

the Opposition and state

parliamentary Liberal Party,

raised serious questions about

the use of dirt files, in John

Brogden's political destruction

and personal despair.

Journalists have been asking

why it took four week force the

detail of Mr Brogden's now

admitted in appropriate

behaviour and racist remark

about the former Prime Minister

year's wife to be published.

David Penberthy, under attack

this week, has said his paper's

stories about Mr Brogden's

behaviour, quote "wown't be

appearing if there weren't

people inside the Liberal Party

who were trying to get them

out." Who were these people

inside the Liberal Party?

Journalists protect their

source sos we'll probably never

know for sure, just who's

behind the political

destruction of John Brogden and

the extent to which journalists

have allowed themselves to be

used in that process with the

main issues to emerge from this

dramatic week. Tonight a

serving liberal party MP,

Patricia Forsythe MLC says

extremists and zealots of the

religious right are taking over

the party. Later we will talk

to the new Leader of the Opposition, Peter Debnam, but

first the character as is

nation of - assassination of

John Brogden and exposure of

factionalism forces in the

Liberal Party in NSW. I would

like to state gun by restating

my absolute and unreserved

apology to Hlena and BobCarrT

comments I made were absolutely

in appropriate. They're not

true and I apologise for them

full somely and

genuinely. Faced with damning

headlines arising from his

public admission of in

appropriate behaviour and a

racist remark at a social

function on July 29, on Monday

11am opposition and liberal

leader John Brogden resigned. The majority of my

colleagues have urged me to

stay. Their loyalty this

morning has been absolutely out

standing. That's exactly why I

am resigning. Their loyalty to

me must be returned by my

loyalty to the liberal

party. It was a humiliating end

to the 36-year-old's

leadership. But he repeated

abject apolies about his bae o

behaviour, Mr John Brogden's

suspicions about liberal party

mass nations emerged in this

context. REPORTER: With you

saying interest was no-one in

the liberal party working

against you? I think this's

clear that was the

case. No-one... No, they were

. And they were spreading? I

think that's clear, one of them

has been named, the federal

President of the young young,

Alexander Hawke has been named.

He needs to take a long hard

look at himself. In a statement

that day, Alexander Hawke,

federal President of the young

young of Australia issued a blanket denial of any involve

nment the media reports that

Brogden's behaviour. led to the exposure of John

The allegations that I in any

way assisted this affair are

false. Vie not spoke on the a

single journalist on or off the

record ant this matter."

Alexander Hawke works for

liberal party upper house

member David Clarke. Former

state now federal liberal Bruce

Baird con fiped now widespread

reporting that Mr Clarke and Mr

Hawke have been organising for

an emerging right faction

within the parliamentary and

organisational wings of the

state liberal party. In May...

20 member state Executive Council. Events have confirmed

this week that the power of the moderate parliamentary faction

known as the group has now been

eclipsed. Both Mr Hawk hack and

Mr Clarke have declined State

line's request for interviews.

Like Mr Hawke, Mr Clarke denied

any involvement in the exposure

of Mr Brogden's behaviour.

David Clarke entered the upper

house on the liberal ticket at

the 2003 election. He declared

himself a strong Christian,

Conservative, a constitutional

mon nar chift, opposed to

institutionalising homosexual

concepts such as same sex

marriage and unchangeable

opposition to the culture of

abortion and human embryo stem

cell research and compulsory

student unionism. David Clarke,

58, a devotee of the Catholic

Church's Opus Dei order has

been a life long member of the

liberal party. It's not the

first time he's been involved

in con trough si N the late

1970s, he was on the liberal's

ethnic council and was pictured

in a 1989 book which covered

the political activism of Lianc

and his organisational work to

develop an extreme right-wing

network in Australia. There

have been mutterings about the

increasing influence of Clarke

and hawk in the liberal's

organisational and

parliamentary wing force

months. Stateline is not

suggesting any link between the

newspaper exposure of John

Brogden's in discretions and

the activities of Mr Clarke and

Mr Hawke but would like to

question them about their

political and organisational agenda, particularly after the

events which followed the

apparent suicide attempt of

John Brogden at his Mona Vale

electorate office on Tuesday

night. As fellow liberals hurried to Royal North Shore

Hospital to offer their

personal support for Mr

Brogden, the man considered

likely to replace him as

leader, Barry O'Farrell, says

he decided only then to

withdraw from the contest.

Colleagues have told Stateline,

Mr O'Farrell had the numbers to

take the leadership by 19 votes

to ten. Vie to say to you that

the events of last night have

put all this in perspective for

me. I made the decision last

night. I told one of my

think it's the right decision colleagues at the hospital I

for the party. In spite of

having the numbers, in spite of

losing more than 50 kg in an

exhausting diet and exercise

regime to prepare himself to

fulfil his ambition to lead his

party, Mr O'Farrell was telling

us he was handing the leap to

Peter Debnam because he cown't

guarantee party unity, meaning

presumably he feared elements

within his party would

immediately try to white ant

his leadership. The point is

what's right for the party,

what's ultimately right for

NSW, is having a united

alternative government which is

able to hold the government to

account which is able to

presental tennive policies. You

can't do that as leader. You

can't do that as alternative

premier if you look over your

shoulder. What does he mean,

looking over your should sner

in an interview with the 7.30

report, dib ral upper house

moderate John Ryan whose preselection maybe under

challenge soon gave us this in

sight into what seem s an

underlying fear within the

parliamentary party. It was a surprise Barry O'Farrell zooed

aside I guess. The reason for

that hasn't been answered with

any clarity. No, and the only

person that can answer that qu

with any clarity is Barry and

he's not explained that to me

so I'm not going to try to

speculate. But maybe, maybe the

sight of what happened to John

Brogden may have been something

that crossed his mind as to

whether he wouldn't be in a

similar position if he exposed

his family without complete

party unity behind him as to

whether he might to be facing,

if not suicide, certainly

dragging his family into an

area he didn't want them to

go. Tonight on Stateline,

another liberal upper house

member, Patricia Forsythe MLC,

also likely to be under

preselection threat within the

next few months, publicly

expresses her fears about extremism and factionalism

developing within her party.

Patricia Forsythe MLC has been

a liberal for 37 years. Ten

years on state Executive

Council, 14 an upper house MP,

eight a frontbencher. She's

been a Salva Kiir supporters

and - Kerry Chikarovski

supporters and has been

Parliament fri secretary to

John Brogden. Patricia Forsythe

MLC what are your con creches

about what's happening from

your party? On Wednesday night

I went home from Parliament

house sickened by what's been

taking place. I'd been part of

it for 36 hours but I couldn't

face the r, what was emerging.

I phoned a colleague yesterday

and said I didn't want my

collection to be part of any

factional deal.Ly face my

selection by going out to the

ordinary members of the liberal

party. My preselection will be

a few weeks away and I think

the people in the area I have

to appeal to won't have a bar

of what I think has emerged.

What I've seen for the first

time is the emergence of a

formalised factional system

inside our parliamentary party.

That's not the liberal party

that I know, that's not the

liberal party I've been part

of. I certainly don't want to

be beholden to anybody, least

of all the extremists in the

party, for my position. If it's

my position today, if it's my

preselection, what will it be

tomorrow? Do I have to be

beholden to their extremist

agenda? That's what's at the

heart of my concerns. So there

were factional intermediaries

negotiating within the off

fitss of the parliamentary

party for the first time in

your 14 year

experience? Absolutely. For the

first type ever people were

sitting down to cut a deal

about a whole range of things

from preselections through to

organisation al matters of the

party. Quite frankly, for all

my years in the party, that is

just absolutely unprecedented.

It's not the way I think the

ordinary members of the party

would want us to behave and I

just had to step away and so

yesterday probably at great

cost for me to some close friendships, I've said I

coupn't be part of that

particular process. You sound

fearful of reprisals. Look, I

think in this game at the

moment I think a lot of people

are playing by a different set

of rules than most of us

understand. In this day and age

in my view you don't need

Skeltons in your cupboard,

people will invent them. No to

knock you off, so it's an

ideological struggle to get

position. There are extremists

and zealots who have a lot of power inside the Liberal Party

at the moment. Ordinary members

and ordinary people standing up

for their position, standing up

for the policies that they

think are important are quite

capable of being swept aside

and merit, a candidate just

standing on their merit is not

necessarily the basis of which

these people will make a

choice. When you say extremists

and zealots, are you prepared

to name the extremists and zealots? I'm prepared to say

that within the parliamentary

party I am very fearful of the

power of David

Clarke. Why? Because he has

around him a Sig nif cant group

of people who are absolutely

fixated on their agenda, and a

very narrow ayen da. When I

talk of extremism and zealots

I'm talking about a group who

in my view seem to lack a focus

on normal human decency of

tolerance, and the sort of

compassion that most of us see

is the heart of liberalism t

basis on which we operate, as

individuals standing up for the

rights of individuals, that's

not what these people are

about. They're trying to shift

the agenda of the Liberal

Party. I've been in the Liberal

Party all my adult life. I

believe my policies are

grounded in good Liberal

principles. I don't see that in

many of these people. It's a

hard right agenda. It usually

goes to social issues like

abortion, same sex marriage,

euthanasia, home sexuality,

things like that. It's the

religious right S that what

you're talking about? Yes, at

the heart of it is a religious

right, but it seems to be an

extreme religious right,

because people are invoking

religion and yet my under

standing of religion is also

one of tolerance and

compassion. What is lacking in

this agenda is any sense of

tolerance and compassion. You

are either with them on all of

those policies or they want to

take you out. Most people in

the Liberal Party, most

ordinary members have a genuine

sense of compassion and

tolerance. They don't want to

be part of this and some of the

specific policies, I know they

think they have a whole lot of

people in the party who back

them, but I've had people come

to me who they would regard as

being part of their, sort of,

right-wing, and say to me they

are terrified with some of the

agendas. Most particularly want

- wanting to narrow the rules

around abortion in this state.

I can say that that alone will

be the one issue that will

drive some of the people that

David Clarke thinks he has on

his side clearly and firmly

back to the middle ground. The

middle ground is where the

Liberal Party has always been T

middle ground is the only way

forward. The mainstream of the

community of NSW in Australia

wants us to reflect them. They

want broad, middle of the road

policies. There is no place for

extremism. That goes to the

left as well. So I've just

said, I want to step back from

that, I'm prepared, I'm going

to run, I want to win my

preselection, but I want to win

it on my terms, not beholden to

any group, any faction. So you

didn't enter into negotiation

with the factional

intermediaries so you don't

know what they were going to

say, whether they would

threaten you, coerce you,

induce you on some agenda or

what? My name was on the table

to get support. I went to bed

on Wednesday night and I

thought what on earth am I

doing, this goes against

everything I stood for in the

Liberal Party. I stand for

individual merit. I'm not going

to lend my name to be part of a

deal, so I made it very clear yesterday morning that I was

out of any deal. As I said,

that might cause me to lose

some friends, but frankly I'll

stand on my principles and I'll

face the Liberal Party

membership being able to say

that I am not beholden to

anybody. They will take me on

my merist, - merit, so it's me

facing my lek selectors with no

group standing behind me. Do

you suspect h this right-wing

group is responsible for the

character assassination of John

Brogden? I don't have evidence.

I haven't been talking to

journalists. If you listen to

the scuttle bug around

Parliament house f you listen

to what people are saying, yes,

there is a genuine sense that

this was about bringing down

John Brogden, that he stood for

something other people didn't.

Fifteen minutes before John

gave his press conference, one

of the members of the

right-wing sent around, what I

read, I read into it a gloating

email that said "John Brogden

is about to resign". No, at

that stage parliamentary

members had not even been told,

this came from someone in the

organisation, I obviously was

just on his email list and I

just had a sense that this was

a group of people gloating. So

they were highly organised. Is

what you're say ing is they

were completely networked,

instantaneously

networked? Well, 15 minutes

before any of us were told the

basis of the networks you have

one of their number sending

around an email. There is a suggestion, but I don't have

the evidence. Given these

concerns, should there be some

sort of inquiry into the

circumstances leading up to

John Brogden's resignation and

the consequent events with a

view to clearing the air? Look,

for John and Lucy's sake, I

think it's done, we've just got

to put it behind us. Anything

that involves dragging it

through for the sake of John

and Lucy at the moment, that's

not the way forward. I think

the fact that I'm now saying

that there was definitely a an

attempt during this week to

organise, to sit down groups of

people, to plan people's future

s through who's in and who's

out and pre selections, other

items in on the ayen da. I think they are the sort of

things that some people in the

liberal party at every level

are going to be horrified

about. Most of us are here

because we are loyal to the

Liberal Party. I'm always loyal

to the Liberal leader. Peter

Debnam hasn't bnt part of

what's been going on, let me

make that very clear. For John

and Lucy's sake, we can't go on

dragging this through. But I

think we've got to learn some

lessons from it. Someone

yesterday said we had peace in

our time. Quite frankly, as

someone who has a degree in

history, those honours just

rang very hollow for me. We

will put Patricia Forsythe MLC's fears about the direction

of her party to new leader

Peter Debnam in a studio

interview shortly. The question

arising from all this factionalism is Peter Debnam

his own man? He was elected

unopposed as party leader after

Barry O'Farrell's surprise

withdrawal. He has a big job

ahead of him to lead his

shattered party to rebuild a

credible campaign for the state

election in 18 months time. At

0600 hours this morning

Stateline caught wup the

opposition leader at Bondi

Beach to observe his morning

exercise routine. Peter

Debnam's daily routine starts

with a brisk walk and bracing

swim, winter and summer with

Deborah, his wife of 6 years.

Peter Debnam, 51, second

marriage, two step children s a

former naval officer, 1972 to

80. He's an Anglican, has an

MBA from Macquarie University,

he's worked for Dalgety's and

Hawker de Haviland, so he's no

political aparatchik as such.

He's had real jobs. Since he

beat John Brogden for party

preselection for Vaucluse in

1994, he's held the frontbench

positions of transport, police,

Treasury, consumer affairs,

planning and housesing. As you

can see, he's disciplined and a

fitness fanatic. Obviously he

is hoping to keep his mind and objectives clear. With 18

months to the next state

election, he will need to.

Peter Debnam, welcome to

Stateline and congratulations

on your election as leader.

You've seen the Patricia

Forsythe MLC interview. Let's

deal with that first. Do you

confirm there are extremist s

and zealots in a religious

right organised around David

Clarke MLC operating within the parliamentary and

organisational wing of your

party? Quentin and I have look

at the tape. I heard what

Patricia has to say. It's a

very emotional address from

Patricia. But given the

circumstances of this week, I'm

not surprised that this there's

a lot of emotion still

remaining at this stage. In

terms of the parliamentary

party there are no extremists

I'm aware of in the 29 people

in our party room. Patricia

Forsythe MLC says you are not

part of it but you must know,

so do you confirm that

intermediaries for the right

and the group faction, the

moderate faction, namely David

Clarke, Nick Campbell from

state Executive Council, Mike

and Chris Harcher from the

right have been negotiating

preselection and other deals

with Sam Ridderid ge, and

others for the group, within

the party room on the tenth

floor? Quentin a lot of things

have happened this week. It's

been the week from hell for the

Liberal Party. Many the middle

of that process, that crisis,

if you like, we also had to

have a leadership ballot. We

moved it 24 hours to give

ourselves a chance to support

John and - John and Lucy in

Flynners but we had to resolve

the leadership. At the same

time as you've had the crisis

with John, you have had John

going discussions between 29

MPs about how to resolve the leadership. The point Mrs

Forsyth is making is there,

what she's saying for the first

time in her 14-year exspers in

the Liberal Party, you have

formal negotiations and deals

including your preselections on

the table. Quentin, you have to understand... Is ta that

true? You have to understand

between Monday and Thursday

morning I spent just about

every hour talking to every MP

I don't know how many times and

in various meetings with more

than one MP and I sought one

thing, or I sought two things.

One I sought to secure 29 votes

for the leadership ballot and I

sought to ensure a sense of

good will across the party

room, that we all move

forward. Please f it's not

true, please deny it. Tell me,

is it true that what I've just

put to you, and the names I've

had from my inform yants about

a formal factional

negotiation? Look, I am not

going to discuss in detail the

process of actually a

leadership ballot and

discussions that take place

privately between 29 people who

have to... She's saying, by all

means, what she's saying is

that it's formal a formalised

faction. Unlike the NSW branch

of the Labour Party as we know,

all the factional deals that go

on, this is a fundamental

difference in procedure for the

Liberal Party. In the use of

words, the Labour Party has

formal factions t Liberal Party

doesn't, but vie no

intention... Except now namely

- maybe. Vie no intention of discussing what happened

between 29 people on Monday and

Thursday morping other thaz

than to say Quentin I worked

with every one of these for

11.5 years. I was one of

Patricia's preselectors a the

first time she came to

Parliament, in the late 80s.

I'm not sure. Vie no known pa

Patricia for that period of

time. I also know the other 28

people in the party room

extremely well and I negotiated

with each individual all the

way through until Thursday morning. You know Patricia

Forsythe MLC, you're saying

it's emotional, it is

baseless? Look, this has been a

crisis that the MPs and the

staff in pairlt have not seen

before running a number of

days. We have suffered body

blows day after day and I have

to tell you it's Friday, people

are still emotional. I made a

speech yesterday that I had

been elected unanimously and

that we were getting back to

work. I got back to work

yesterday and I've been out at

Maquarie Fields with a dozen

MPs but there are still MPs and

staff extremely fragile. I

understand that Mr Peter

Debnam. Do you suspect people

in the Liberal Party have been

responsible for the character

assassination of John Brogden,

urging the media to publish

what they might not ordinarily

have published about Mr Brogden

o's behaviour, particularly

after no witness had formally complained about that behaviour

at the time. No, I don't accept

that. You deny completely there

were Liberal Party machinations

behind the media

exposure? Quentin f you're

asking me do I believe Liberal

Party people did that, no, I

don't. In spite of the fact the

editor of the daily tell depraf

said they wown't be publishing

unless people within the

Liberal Party urged them to

publish? Quentin, I can't say

any more simply. I know my

cloegs, I know many of the

people in the Liberal

Party. Wouldn't be capable of

such viciousness? Look, the

only comment I'll make is that

I was over seas in Israel and

then in New York with my

grandson, baby sitting him for

a week. I arrived back in

Sydney on whatever it was, 10,

11 August and heard every

journalist in Sydney suggest to

me rumours such as that. That

was it. I certainly know

journalists were talking about it. Rests with the journalists

not with the party? I know

journ ichts were talking about

it. From my poin of view, I am

not aware of any of this

conspiracy theory. We want to

focus on supporting John and

Lucy and Flinders and people

digging over there are not

doing any favours to "her the

Liberal Party or John and Lucy

and I think it is very

important, as I said the other

day, I mean, we all need to

tack a 24-hour break. We

actually moved the party

meeting. We moved the

leadership vote for 24 hours to

allow the party and allow the

individuals to care for John

and Lucy, but also to care for

themselves. I suggested to the

media they might like to take a

breath of fresh air too. The

question for you after all,

particularly after Mrs

Forsyth's re marks are is are

you your own man, we heard her

machinations. Today you say you weren't involved in the

declared if your party becomes

the government, the heroin

injecting room at King's Cross

will be closed. Let's look at

the other religious right

agenda items. I haven't had a

chance to search the Hansard

record, I'm sure your poks are

on the record. For the purposes

of the viewers. Where do you

stand on abortion? I stand in

the same position as John

Howard and John Brogden. We

don't see any reason to change

situation. Euthanasia? I think the current

anyone who looks a t the detail

of euthanasia legislatively

would reach my conclusion is

you can't legislate there, you

shouldn't go there. Peter

Debnam, thanks very much.

That's Stateline for this week.

The 7.30 report is back on

Monday. Bye, bye.