I remember first meeting David Clarke in 1995 at a Young Liberal meeting held at a pub in Kirribilli. At the time, I was on the executive of the Bankstown Young Liberals. My girlfriend at the time was the president of Parramatta Young Liberals. Alex Hawke was nowhere to be seen.
The Young Libs I was associated with were part of a coalition known as “the Team”. These Young Libs were not associated with the ruling “Group”. Most of us were Centrists, but there were some hard-right people at the meeting. One of them was David Clarke.
Among the people at the meeting was a young PhD student from Sydney University named Peter Phelps. He produced a newsletter known as “The Atlas”. Peter was a bright young lad with conservative views. Chairing the meeting was Nick Campbell, then president of Kuring-gai Young Libs. I knew Nick from Macquarie University, where he had some involvement on the periphery of the Liberal Club.
David Clarke was introduced to me as a “hard right-winger” by an old friend John Ruddick, former staffer to Ross Cameron MP and the voice behind “Banjo” on the Stan Zemanek Show. John was a huge fan of “Clarkey” and introduced him as a hero of “the Right”.
Clarke was immediately interested in my background. He was particularly interested in whether I had a “Moslem” affiliation. From Day 1, he encouraged me to get “Moslems” to join the Young Libs. I told him I found it difficult to recruit as most of my friends were ALP voters.
“Don’t worry about that. Even if they’re ALP members, we can get them in. Take me along to their functions. I’d be happy to show them that we hate homosexuals and Jews as much as they do”.
At first, I thought he may have been joking about hating Jews. I wasn't sure whether his beef was with specific Jewish people or with Jews as a whole. It was also often hard to tell if Clarkey was serious or half-joking - he always came across as a jovial fellow.
But in my subsequent encounters, Clarke boasted about how he had acted for Slovenian writer Lyenko Urbanchich in a defamation action against prominent Jewish community figures.
Clarke told me of his affiliation with a Catholic organisation called “Opus Dei”. Both he and his wife were active in the organisation, and Clarkey often boasted about how Gamal Abdel Nasser had asked Opus Dei to help him administer Egyptian universities.
Mr & Mrs Clarke were also huge fans of the late Bob Santamaria. Clarke encouraged me to subscribe to the magazine “News Weekly”, then published by an organisation associated with Mr Santamaria.
I later read about Mr Santamaria’s role in a schism within the ALP and the formation of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). Clarke’s wife was a leading figure in the “Democratic Students Club”, the student wing of the DLP, at the University of New South Wales.
As I got to know David, I noticed he would often invite friends of mine to special meetings in the city. For some reason, I and a number of others were not invited. Us non-invitees all had one thing in common – we were from non-Christian families. Clarke was always "hush-hush" about these meetings, never explaining what they were about. Also attending these meetings was Senator Heffernan.
Later, I started publishing factional publications for non-Group Young Libs. These included a newsletter entitled ‘Westerly Winds” and a magazine entitled “pro-Action”. Clarkey enjoyed reading these publications, but did question my open promotion of multiculturalism.
I recall on one occasion being lectured by Clarkey about Pauline Hanson. I expressed my reservations about Ms Hanson in an article for pro-Action. Clarkey was upset at my article, and said that Pauline was a great conservative Australian who deserved our support.
When I pointed out that she was criticising the Prime Minister, Clarkey told me that the PM actually supported Hanson’s agenda. Clarkey said all good conservaives should support Hanson as she represented what mainstream Australians believed in. He showed his support by sending a letter of support and a donation to the One Nation Party. Clarkey also actively agitated in favour of One Nation within the party, and voted against a State Executive motion to place Ms Hanson’s party last on the Liberal Party how-to-vote card.
Clarkey had a special venom for certain Parliamentarians. These included Senator Marise Payne and John Brogden. Indeed, Clarkey and Bronwyn Bishop would often be seen huddled at State Council meetings plotting against Brogden. Bronwyn was particularly concerned that Brogden was stacking out branches in her Federal Electorate Conference (FEC) to secure his own position as State MP for Pittwater.
In 1998, I sat on a preselection panel for Pittwater. Clarkey sat down with me before the meeting and came up with a nasty question for me to ask Mr Brogden at the preselection. I was reluctant to ask the question as I deemed it too nasty. Clarkey insisted I ask it, even threatening me with expulsion from the non-Group forces.
Against my better judgment, I asked a nasty question. Thankfully, it wasn't the identical question Clarkey had drafted. Clarkey's question concerned lowering the age of consent for homosexual males. My question concerned whether Brogden had any involvement in the Group effort to unseat Federal Member for Cook Stephen Mutch, who was patron of my Young Liberal branch.
Despite my nasty question, John went onto win the preselection convincingly.
At all times, Clarkey insisted that he had no ambitions of ever entering Parliament. He sad he was too devoted to his legal practice. Clarkey’s sole source of work was in personal injury and workers compensation. However, his bread and butter was soon being affected by changes to legislation affecting these compensation regimes. Clarkey decided there was no future in personal injury, and hence began his attempts to gain preselection for the Upper House.
To be continued …
© Irfan Yusuf 2005