The Age yesterday had a piece on factional warfare in the DLP and Right to Life in Victoria:
"THEY are both on the far right of Australian religion and politics. But anti-abortion lobby group Right to Life Australia and the Democratic Labor Party are now fighting for the souls of their organisations against the same well-organised people from the even further right-wing fringe of the Catholic faith.
In the DLP's Victorian branch, so entrenched has the ideological battle become that the party's first parliamentary representative in a generation, Peter Kavanagh, has told The Sunday Age he would seriously reconsider his relationship with the party if a takeover attempt by his enemies succeeded.
Margaret Tighe, the hardline and long-serving former Right to Life president, has labelled the interlopers ''religious zealots'' and, late last night, the organisation endured a rowdy annual general meeting as Mrs Tighe and the traditionalists tried to oust the newcomers.
The same two men are at the centre of both power grabs. Marcel White is a Catholic convert who is the current president of Right to Life and, until he relinquished it earlier this month, was a preselected DLP candidate for the state upper house. The second is theological student Peter McBroom, a current DLP candidate.
By assiduous recruitment (their enemies call it branch stacking) among Catholic hardliners, Mr White and Mr McBroom have gained significant grassroots power in each organisation, and are trying to introduce a new Catholic purity.
It is said they talk of visitations from the Virgin Mary, accuse their enemies of not being good enough Catholics, of not reciting the rosary passionately enough and of marital infidelity. The tactics have split the DLP's Victorian branch and prompted a crisis for the organisation's constitution. They have changed the locks at Right to Life headquarters, tried to sack staff and have been accused of incurring ''extraordinary expenses''.
''There is a group there who want to re-establish the Inquisition,'' said one observer.
''Meanwhile, babies are being killed. These bloody lunatics who seem to think they will use this as their personal meal ticket to heaven.''
Both organisations have, until now, been predominantly Catholic but have also allowed Protestant members, even non-believers, in their ranks.
Mr White is Mrs Tighe's former protege and she helped him become president last year. Now she accuses him of trying to ''hijack our organisation''.
Mrs Tighe has enlisted Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart to her campaign, quoting him from an August 13 meeting saying he believed Right to Life ''should be a secular organisation in order to attract support from the wider community''.
But another observer says Mr White and Mr McBroom believe community support will come from religious purity: ''They think the more Catholic they are, the more votes they'll win.''
Mr White's proposed amendments to the Right to Life constitution would see it campaigning against contraception as well as abortion.
Now was the time, he wrote to members this month, to ''strike at the root of the rotten anti-life tree''.
''Artificial contraception is the underlying problem … you cannot be 100 per cent pro-life unless you oppose contraception.''
But this is a can of worms for the organisation. Deputy president John James agrees with Mr White about the dangers of contraception, but says the organisation should focus its resources on ''attacks on human life from conception onwards''.
Another Right to Lifer said: ''We are about saving unborn babies … What people do with pills, condoms, diaphragms is up to them.''
Mr White's other proposed amendments include introducing Catholic prayer at meetings, and making Our Lady of Guadalupe the organisation's patron.
In a letter to potential members recently, Mr White complained that those who opposed him were ''secularists, Protestants and modernist Catholics''.
Mr White boasts of signing up 500 new members to Right to Life. Dr James said many had been drawn from the ranks of those who prefer their Mass said in Latin, or from the Lebanese Maronite community.
The Right to Life executive has refused to accept the new members, heightening the controversy.
Last night's meeting was prompted by a vote of no confidence in Mr White at the previous meeting, and has been followed by vigorous proxy campaigns by both him and the alternative presidential candidate, Veronica Andrews. Neither would comment to The Sunday Age.
On Mr White's team are the wives of two DLP members, prompting concerns that they sought Right to Life's considerable asset base to use for political purposes.
''These are two organisations hungry for members and funding, and our concern is that Right to Life's assets could be vulnerable … it has enough to be attractive,'' Dr James said.
Mr Kavanagh said in a statement his concern was that the DLP traditions were under threat. These traditions included ''opposing all forms of extremism, welcoming and working for all Australians of all religions, and of no religion'' as well as ''being committed to truth as an ideal and an objective and maintaining a culture of peaceful and ordered debate''.
''I doubt if I could remain in and continue to work for the DLP if the party does not retain its great, long-held traditions,'' he said.
Mr Kavanagh would not comment further but said, if necessary, he would go into more detail in Parliament.
Mrs Tighe was happy to make her views known: ''It seems to me they're like religious zealots … it's crazy stuff, and I just hope that people wake up to it.''
Given that Victoria now has the most draconian pro-abortion laws on the books, clearly old approaches have failed. So a catholic revamp is surely worth a try?