Insight from 4 Corners on factional warlords

Please remember this ABC Four Corners program Man on a Wire.

If you look closely at some of the transcript from this program it gives rise to many questions on what is happening within the NSW Baird Government:


Michael Photios

MARIAN WILKINSON: The key factional warlord in Abbott’s sights is Michael Photios. ….

MARIAN WILKINSON: The former state MP is an influential lobbyist and powerbroker in the so-called moderate faction that dominates the NSW Liberal Party. He’s also a member of its state council.

TONY ABBOTT “There is absolutely no doubt ah that there is a dominant faction, um there is a dominant individual inside that faction, ah and that individual is a lobbyist.


MARIAN WILKINSON: While Photios is with the moderate faction, his lobbyist partner, Nick Campbell, is a powerbroker in the NSW centre right faction. Both factions swung numbers behind Malcolm Turnbull when he took the leadership from Tony Abbott.

MARIAN WILKINSON: Can you explain to us how is it that even though these people don’t have a formal position, they still wield power?

TONY ABBOTT: Because they spend half their life on the telephone ah ringing people up, um suggesting to them that ah if they do this ah certain benefits and rewards in terms of party advancement or preferment might come their way. Um there’s no doubt that ah there are people not on state executive who caucus regularly on the phone and face to face with people who are on the state executive to try to get ah pre-cooked outcomes.

MARIAN WILKINSON: As Prime Minister, Abbott successfully moved to ban lobbyists like Photios and Campbell from holding official positions in the Liberal party. But Abbott’s right wing faction remains on the outer. And the lobbyists kept their influence in the party as another senior Liberal told Four Corners.

MARIAN WILKINSON: I want you to frankly tell us do you think these two lobbyists have too much influence?

MICHAEL YABSLEY, FORMER FEDERAL LIBERAL PARTY HONORARY TREASURER: Look you know they are clearly um the key players in New South Wales. Um I would be less than frank if I didn’t say that um you know I, I think it’s I think it’s time for the for the serving faction leaders to vacate the field. Um that that is really a prerequisite for…

MARIAN WILKINSON: And who are they?

MICHAEL YABSELEY: Well you mentioned Michael Photios and Nick Campbell both of whom I know well. Um I don’t necessarily attribute ill intent to them. I think they are caught up in something that has been going on now for a long period of time. They have been leading the charge and I think any honest appraisal would point to the fact that um it is it it creates real problems as far as the Liberal Party is concerned.

MARIAN WILKINSON: Michael Photios and Nick Campbell are key players in two highly influential lobbying firms. PremierState Consulting in NSW; and CapitalHill Advisory in Canberra. Their long list of Canberra clients have interests in pharmaceuticals, sports betting and Australia’s detention centres – all dealing with the federal government.

MARIAN WILKINSON: Both of them have a very big client list in Canberra of a lot of important companies dealing with the Federal government. Is that a problem?

MICHAEL YABSELEY: Er yes I I think it it creates a perception um of of insiders um being able to get access or being able to exert influence and I think that is um a very ah unfortunate and difficult situation for them and for the Liberal Party.

List of PremierState clients from website Lobby lens

MARIAN WILKINSON: Abbott’s campaign will destabilise the Liberal Party right in Turnbull’s backyard. But he has support from unlikely quarters. The party’s former federal treasurer, Michael Yabsley, is a supporter of Malcolm Turnbull. But he is also going public over the influence of big lobbyists in the NSW Liberal Party.

MICHAEL YABSELEY: Well it’s run by factions and there is a very, very strong [sigh] um association between the factions and um at least a couple of lobbying firms. Now I have to be upfront. I I have been a a lobbyist um for a relatively short period of my career, um and [sigh] you know you really have to be, you you have to go to great lengths to make sure that the role that you play as a lobbyist as distinct from a a a ah an office bearer within the Party does not create a conflict and I think those lines have been hopelessly blurred ah over recent years and and that of course is an overlay of of real trouble as far as the Party is concerned.


MICHAEL YABSELEY: Because it gives rise to a perception of conflict of interest. You know er whether whether a perception is based on fact or or just appearances really becomes beside the point. It’s how it looks and how it looks in New South Wales is not good and it should be fixed.

PremierState Consulting’s client list

From its website:

That’s why strong client partnerships are our priority. Our areas of expertise cover a wide variety of sectors, and we are proud to represent a number of Australia’s most respected companies and organisations, including:

  • Australia’s largest financial services company
  • The world’s largest thermal coal exporter
  • The industry leader in workers compensation
  • The peak organisation representing the State’s entire hotel and accommodation industry
  • The peak industry body for Australia’s largest manufacturing sector
  • Some of NSW’s leading public transport providers under the government’s PPP programmes
  • The owner and operator of Sydney’s most exclusive restaurants, bars, hotel accommodation and event spaces
  • One of Australia’s largest distributers of petroleum
  • One of Australia’s leaders in the design, development and construction of commercial and residential property
  • The peak industry organisation representing the largest export earner for NSW and Australia
  • One of the world’s oldest and most respected not-for-profit organisations
  • Australia’s largest cinema chain
  • An iconic hotel brand, with locations across Australasia, the Middle East, and Europe
  • Australia’s largest telecommunications company
  • One of the country’s most famous alpine resort destinations
  • The largest network of convenience stores across Australia
  • Australia’s largest Australian-owned car park operator

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