NSW Liberals launch at great Perrottet stay away

Sydney has its fair share of former Liberal prime ministers floating around, but few of them were willing — or invited — to make the trek out west for the NSW Liberal Party’s campaign launch on Sunday.

Of the four, only Liberal luminary John Howard, and wife Jannete, popped up at Liverpool Catholic Club to wave and smile as the state’s premier, Dominic Perrottet, made the case for a fourth term.

Just as when Matthew Guy — sorry, Matt Guy — launched his doomed campaign a few months ago in Melbourne, federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton stayed well away from Sunday’s festivities.

So did many others. Sure former foreign minister Marise Payne was there with husband Stuart Ayres, who is fighting to retain his state seat of Penrith; but there was no Scott Morrison, no Malcolm Turnbull and no Tony Abbott.

Guy at least had one former premier in attendance, Ted Baillieu.

None of Perrottet’s predecessors showed up to his launch — Gladys Berejiklian and Mike Baird were absent, and Barry O’Farrell is busy being high commissioner to India.

Even Perrottet’s current frontbench colleagues were thin on the ground. While Treasurer Matt Kean tried his hand at stand-up comedy (at Labor leader Chris Minns′ expense), and a few other ministers were in the crowd, a large cohort of retiring MPs mostly steered clear.

Outgoing ministers Rob Stokes, Victor Dominello and David Elliott couldn’t be found — although Brad Hazzard was present and jovial.

Spinning around

Morrison may have been a notable absence at the campaign launch, but PM30 did have an on-stage presence. Former aide Damian Damjanovski delivered a Liberal-style warm-up act before the show got underway.

Damjanovski is — you guessed it — an advertising guy, plucked from the marketing world by PM Scomo after his 2019 election victory.

After those spinning skills failed to win Morrison another miracle last year, Damjanovski set up a new lobby shop with another chum fresh from the Morrison PMO, Reg Chamberlain.

Together they make General Strategic, an outfit promising candid advice backed by behavioural science. “We know how to influence,” the duo declare.

Before his stint with Scomo, Chamberlain worked at the NRMA and Westpac, before becoming chief of staff to then special minister of state Alex Hawke — who, like Morrison, is still toiling away on the federal opposition backbench.

Vern Hughes from the Sensible Centre.

Vern’s new turn

CBD loves a trier and we’re delighted to learn that Vern Hughes, someone who’s tried as hard as anybody in Australian public life over the years, is not giving up the fight. If you’ve never heard of Hughes, let us take you on a journey.

Vern put his hand up as an independent in Eastern Victoria for last November’s state election, tried his hand in May for the federal poll for the Australian Federation Party after plans for another group he helped found — The Sensible Centre — to field 151 candidates didn’t work out.

He formed the Parents, Families and Carers Party prior to the 2010 election — which they didn’t win — and had a long-ish political partnership with career stirrer Stephen Mayne in the people Power group, with the pair forming a ticket for the 2001 Melbourne Lord Mayoral election, a race that also featured a young Richard Di Natale and a late period Don Chipp.

The partnership with Mayne ended in tears — Hughes expelled Mayne not once but twice, with Hughes quitting the party after Mayne was reinstated. Your man Hughes then had another dip at Williamstown — he’s run in Willy more times than we can count — for the Democratic Labor Party.

Going back even further, Vern was a leading player in the ALP-adjacent Socialist Forum with a young Julia Gillard and Jenny Macklin among his comrades in the ’80s and ’90s.

Now Vern, who has written for the Institute of Public Affairs and even been known to scratch out an op-ed for this august publication, has a new political venture.

His weekly email newsletter The Conservative — not to be confused with Cory Bernardi’s defunct Australian Conservatives — has been lobbing into subscriber inboxes for a few weeks now.

Our efforts to contact Hughes in the past couple of days were in vain, alas, but here’s to you anyway, Vern. Never stop trying and bring on the memoirs.

Praise be

Dan Andrews is always on the look-out for people to spruik the joys of Victoria and Melbourne and we’re tipping they might come knocking on the door of Swedish pop songwriter and producer Max Martin, who has been in town promoting his musical & Juliet.

Swedish songwriter-producer Max Martin.Credit:Eddie Jim

Even us Melbourne tragics at CBD were taken aback by the impression our town and its inhabitants seem to have made on the hitmaker who has penned 25 Billboard number 1 singles, behind only John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

“Everyone’s so nice,” Martin told us. “You walk around the city and you see venues everywhere, you see clubs and theatres and music, it’s all over the place, and I’m actually blown away by that. It’s like, I don’t know, the capital of culture or something. And of coffee.

Martin was also effusive about the & Juliet audiences and Melbourne’s food. “We have to come back and really not work and explore, give it a good month or two. The little I’ve seen this has just been incredible”.

We asked Martin if he was a tennis fan and if he would consider a visit during the Australian Open. “Yeeeaah,” he replied. “If I can get tickets. That’d be great.”

Hear that, Craig Tiley? This bloke might be just the tonic to heal the strained relationship between Tennis Australia and Andrews’ government.

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