Modia Minotaur

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Monday, April 16, 2007

One Baird In, One Baird Out

Veteran Liberal MP Bruce Baird has announced that he plans to retire at the next election. His announcement comes a matter of weeks after his son, Michael Baird, took the seat of Manly from independent David Barr and followed his father, a former Deputy Leader and Transport Minister, into NSW politics.

Baird must be confident in two things - firstly, that Peter Costello is unlikely to assume the Liberal leadership any time soon, given that Costello's ascendancy would have given him his best chance of attaining a Federal ministry after fourteen years on the back bench.

Secondly - and he seems quite open about this - Baird suspected his pre-selection would have been challenged before the election. This is notable in that Baird is acknowledged as the senior statesman of the Liberal moderates and, as such, first in the firing line of pre-selection challenges. As pre-selections take place in the next few months, it will be extremely interesting - and telling - to observe who else is either subjected to such challenges or steps down in anticipation of them; including Judi Moylan, Marise Payne and perhaps even Baird's neighbour in the seat of Hughes, Danna Vale (who, when she isn't digging up Gallipoli, occasionally has some sensible and reasonable things to say). Vale and Baird hold their seats by comfortable margins, but that's rarely the point when such pre-selection challenges take place.

Petro Georgiou is a notable absence from the above list - but let's not forget that Georgiou, considered at severe risk of losing his pre-selection to former Alexander Downer staffer Josh Frydenberg, ended up romping in over his young turk challenger.

It's entirely possible that a number of young and ambitious locals are currently drumming up support amongst influential figures in order to challenge the moderates.

Howard has previously been very talented at painting the Liberal Party as a `broad church'; at letting dissidents such as Vale and Georgiou off the leash every now and then (in the phenomenon American political observers are now referring to as `catch and release' ). A monochrome party makes for a church that is decidedly less broad, with a support base likewise.

Whether such pre-selection will be nipped in the bud, or encouraged, or successful - as occurred in the NSW election - may say a lot about the character of what could be the next government (and yes, despite the current euphoria over Labor's polling, we can't lose sight of the notion that the government may still win after all).

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