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Hawkesbury Mayor’s Fall from Grace as Liberal Party as Voters Reject her as “Under a Cloud”

Mar 11, 2024

Hawkesbury Mayor Sarah McMahon has been dumped by the NSW Liberal Party from her role  as Vice President after only two years in the role. After the vote she ran last of three candidates for one of two roles in state-wide voting after results were signed off Saturday.

Conservative Peter O’Hanlon grabbed the “urban” VP spot held by McMahon. She gained only 28% of the vote compared to the winner’s 38%, lawyer James Wallace came second with 34%. 

She is also facing being cut from the Party’s State Executive completely if she fails to secure a role as Federal delegate after standing for two separate positions. Sources say she is facing an uphill battle to clinch a spot with allocation of voting for delegate positions expected to be finalised in coming days. The State Executive is an elite group of decision makers that run the Liberal Party and have strong influence on who are the candidates that run at local, state and federal elections.

The race to replace Jason Falinski, who stood down voluntarily,  as the NSW Liberal Party President appears to have been won by State Upper House MP and former minister Don Harwin by only one vote, separating from the  Party’s conservative Treasurer Mark Baillie. The other VP spot for “rural” representatives is yet to be decided with a dead heat between the top two candidates.

In a fresh twist, a handful of informal votes that were marked with ticks and crosses are expected to be reviewed and could determine the outcome of a number of top positions in the executive.

The entire State Executive was slammed mercilessly by former NSW Premier Nick Griener in his review of the Liberal National Party coalition’s loss in last March’s State election as an ‘appalling toxic waste of time’.” 

“In further comments he noted: “The (NSW) Division is at a critical point. If the Executive is not reformed, it is impossible to see how any future election could be won.”

And this: “Most conversations about State Executive elicit strong and angry reactions from Division members, including that the Division should be put into administration.” and “Members have expressed concern and distaste about the operations of the State Executive since the 2022 Federal election.”

The result, in state-wide voting amongst more than 700 delegates commenced after the Party’s Annual General Meeting on February 24. It is likely no women will be elected to the State Executive further compounding the organisation’s recent poor record with women.

It is a precipitous fall from grace for McMahon inside the party. Less than two years ago she was trounced in her second bid to replace the Australian Labor Party’s Susan Templeman as the Federal Member for Macquarie in the 2023 Federal election.  In that election Templeman turned the country’s most marginal seat into a comfortable Labor seat with a swing of 7% well above the state and national average.

Liberal Party sources who spoke to the Hawkesbury Post on the condition of anonymity said that there were three reasons that McMahon had failed to secure re-election including being seen as “damaged goods” following two consecutive Federal election losses. She is also seen as being “under a cloud” due to multiple complaints to regulatory authorities concerning her domestic relations with property developer Matthew Bennett.

While Bennett was a officially deemed “not a property developer” by the Office of Local Government in 2022 he has since commenced two controversial property developments in Kurrajong. The Hawkesbury Post understands that various authorities in the state bureaucracy have received further complaints and could now be taking a different view, especially in light of the change in the NSW government last year.

McMahon has also aligned herself with the former power broker Alex Hawke’s centre right faction. Hawke was former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s close ally. Feelings against Hawke are so strong inside the Party that there was a motion to expel him at the AGM, While that failed, his faction has lost influence according to the vote count leaving the Executive marked split between the rising (religious) conservatives and moderate factions but the closeness of the vote could, ironically, see his faction have the balance of power with just  handful of representatives.

When McMahon was contacted for comment she replied “This is breaking news? Goodness me, please find some perspective”


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