Tuesday, August 30, 2005

POLITICS/COMMENT: It's one thing to make racist comments when you are drunk ...

John Brogden made some disgraceful remarks whilst in a state of intoxication. I do not wish to cause more distress to Mr & Mrs Carr by repeating those remarks. But one matter which Mr Brogden did raise at his press conference announcing his resignation was the role of the Federal President of the Young Liberal Movement, Alex Hawke.

So who is Alex Hawke? Who is behind him? What are his links to Mr Brogden and to the PM? Why did he choose to undermine Mr Brogden?

More importantly, what are Mr Hawke’s own views on racial and ethnic issues? Where does he stand on assimilation, multiculturalism and racial and religious tolerance? Where does he stand on indigenous Australians?

Hawke was recruited to he Young Liberals in 1995. His first branch was the Parramatta Young Liberals, then presided over by a centrist president. In those days, the “Group” or left of the Liberal Party were in control of the Young Liberal Movement in NSW and of the NSW State Executive.

Opposition to the Group was managed by a hotchpotch of Centrists and the far-right. Despite their small numbers, the Centrists were a formidable force in the NSW Party, delivering pre-selection victories to 2 successive non-Group candidates in the Parramatta federal pre-selection as well as to ex-Group MLC Stephen Mutch in the seat of Cook, Tony Abbott in Warringah and Andrew Thomson in Wentworth.

Centrists were mainly associated with the Macquarie University Liberal Club and with Young Liberal branches in the Hills, Bankstown, Parramatta and Manly. Most Centrists came from working class backgrounds.

Centrist forces were characterised by a multilingual, multicultural and multiconfessional composition. Alex Hawke’s own branch president made a point of learning to speak fluent Bahasa Indonesia and involving herself in the Australian Indonesian Association. One Centrist branch, Bankstown Young Liberals, was more known for its social functions. Guests included former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan and the Mayor of Sarajevo.

Yet when Alex Hawke tried to revive Bankstown Young Liberals, his efforts resulted in violent assaults and racist remarks about “Islamic stackers”. Hawke’s first grand political act in his own branch was to stab his own Centrist president in the back and take over the branch.

Hawke is at the centre of a process of Talibanisation of the Liberal Party in NSW. He currently is employed by former member of the extreme-right faction known as the “Uglies”, David Clarke. A former personal injury solicitor, Clarke had for years expressed little interest in a parliamentary career. Following the demise of personal injury law in NSW, Clarke’s view changed.

Clarke, Hawke and others went on a rampage within the non-Group forces. This involved purging the non-Group of all remnants of the old Centrist faction. It seemed the new Hawke Young Liberals saw the Centrists and not the Group (or indeed the ALP) as the real enemy.

Hawke eventually became President of the NSW Young Liberals. In his role, he has moved and passed motions calling for the dismantlement of multiculturalism, an end to Aboriginal Land Rights and rolling back anti-discrimination legislation. Hawke has also supported policies attacking homosexuals and women seeking abortions.

Of greater worry is Hawke’s using fringe ethno-religious groups to stack Young Liberal branches. The stacking usually occurs following a speech by Mr Clarke in which he praises a particular group.

On 3 May 2005, Clarke gave a speech in the Upper House praising Samir Geagea and the Lebanese Forces (LF), a group responsible for the massacre of over 2,000 Palestinians and many more Lebanese during Lebanon’s civil war. In praising the role of Geagea’s forces, Clarke noted:
Had it not been for the Lebanese Forces, a Christian presence in the country would probably no longer exist.
Since that time, Hawke has been recruiting young supporters of the LF into Young Liberal branches, causing some consternation amongst numerous non-LF party members of Lebanese background.

Both Clarke and Hawke are the masters of wedge politics, both within and outside the party. Hawke and his boss have made no secret of their wish to see moderate John Brogden removed as Opposition Leader. Yet their antics undermining parliamentarians are not limited to the state party. Hawke and Clarke have their sights set on Federal Parliamentarians such as Marise Payne, Brendan Nelson, Bruce Baird and Joe Hockey.

In recent times, Hawke has been quoted as expressing anti-Muslim views. I have been told by at least 3 journalists that Hawke has told them Muslims are not Australian enough. One wonders what Hawke’s views are on the PM’s rejection of all calls to ban the wearing of traditional Muslim headscarves in state schools.

Hawke’s role in the Brogden downfall in no way diminish the seriousness of the actions and comments made by Mr Brogden. But while it takes Mr Brogden a quantity of drinks to make such comments in a private conversation, Hawke and his supporters make similar remarks in the open.

Brogden’s continued presence as leader may have severely dampened the NSW Liberals’ electoral chances. But in the long term, the Talibanisation of the NSW Liberals at the hands of Hawke, Clarke & Co can only guarantee a long period in the state political wilderness for NSW Liberals.

Words © 2005 Irfan Yusuf