GAME ON: Victorian Liberals at war over rules changes

The Victorian Liberal Party is trying to change the rules that govern its party. The document to the left makes a compelling case for reform that is being pushed by Party President David Kemp, the 104 Secretariat and many members from the Kroger faction.

Few want to be so directly associated with opposing the reforms, including Leader Ted Baillieu and his factional ally David Davis.

But the changes are so far-reaching that a strong opposition to elements of the package has seemed inevitable. The most important change being shifting the focus of power in the party from individual branches to individual members.

VEXNEWS has obtained an email that sets out the case of some who oppose the change who have called themselves “Save the Party”:

We are a group of ordinary branch members from the Liberal Party. This is a plea to all of our parliamentarians to help us save the party on October 12. We urge you to hear our voice and join with us in voting no to this radical agenda.

We understand it has been sent to all state Liberal MPs and is being more widely circulated this week.

THE PROCESS IS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED

The process behind the radical “Liberal Renewal” upheaval of our party is completely flawed for a number of reasons.

An elitist agenda

We are told that this radical upheaval of the party represents the sum of what ordinary branch members desire for our party. This is a false statement, given that ordinary branch members are expressing shock at the actual details. Those behind this push have long argued for a massive upheaval of the party, both on and off the record. It is no coincidence that the conclusion of the Futures Committee aligns perfectly with their desires.

Asking the wrong questions to the wrong people

The questions asked in the Futures Committee survey were designed to elicit a pre-packaged response. It was always apparent that the survey could be used to justify the radical agenda that those behind this wanted to set. Further, the survey was directed to the wrong people. Those people whose response mattered most were those who had left the party, or who wanted to join the party but couldn’t, or who vote Liberal but don’t join the party, or are swinging voters generally.

Using emotion instead of reason

Branch members are angry, saddened and very disappointed by the fall of the Howard Government. Had it not happened, Peter Costello, a great Victorian, would almost certainly now be Prime Minister. We are also bitter that first, Steve Bracks, and now, John Brumby is our state premier, when we know that Jeff Kennett, Denis Napthine, Robert Doyle or Ted Baillieu would be so much better. Dr Kemp is playing on these understandable emotions to bully us into rushing through this radical upheaval of our party. Yet such a radical upheaval will not reverse the heartbreaking losses of the past, nor would they have prevented them had they been forced upon us years earlier. We must not allow our hurt or despair to prevent us making sensible and rational decisions, rather than engaging in drastic change for the sake of drastic change.

An unfair timeline

The timeline involved is unfair to all of us. It is unfair because ordinary branch members still don’t have in their hands the new radical Constitution that is proposed. It is the detail that matters most, not broad sentiment about how “the party is dying”. Any branch member taking his or her responsibility seriously would need many months to examine the detail. And then we would need many hours to debate with each other the precise details of each proposal. As a party, we have always taken constitutional reform seriously. Only a few years ago, we spent over 2 hours debating the 70/30 rule. That is the right way to develop the Constitution. That is true “reform”. But what we have now is not reform, it is radical upheaval.. How can we realistically be asked to junk the entire constitution that we have built up over time for some 20 – 30 years, and replace it with a complete unknown in a matter of hours?

An impossible timeline

The timeline is not only unfair, it is also impossible. The new Constitution will have to be written in a matter of weeks. We are starting a new party from scratch. It is impossible to foresee the hundreds of problems that this will create. We will be spending the next decade trying to plug all the gaps and problems that eventuate. If there is a particular problem with the current Constitution, why not do what we have always done? We should present the problem at State Council, debate it, and then alter the relevant provision. This radical upheaval is the least appropriate way of moving forward.

Misguided intentions of the advocates

Those advocating this upheaval of the party have misguided intentions. The most vocal supporters of it want it passed so that if and when it is passed, they can then claim a role in its passage, and demand rewards for that achievement in the years to come. They are also very keen to avoid any association with an unsuccessful coup. It is unfair to ordinary branch members that this underlying agenda is not disclosed. Further, there is also a sneaky suspicion amongst ordinary branch members that many of those want this upheaval have done the sums and believe it is to their advantage.

Debate has been stifled

It is apparent that most members of parliament are against these proposals. They are saying so to their branch members. And behind closed doors, ordinary branch members are also against them. Yet no one is prepared to speak out in public. Even we are not prepared to reveal our identity.

The reasons for this are most unfortunate. There is an atmosphere in the party that people must never speak out against the leadership of the party. It was an atmosphere created by the “blog-gate” scandal, and continues to carry out in petty media bickering. It is an atmosphere that says anyone who has a different perspective in the party will be accused of disloyalty, and treated accordingly. Members of Parliament are therefore scared to voice their concerns because they will be accused of disloyalty, or of comprising a �cancerous cell�. We saw recently how Ted Baillieu was implicitly threatened in the media over these reforms, the suggestion being that if he did not support them, he would be accused of disloyalty and his leadership would be in danger.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking out against these reforms. People who do should not be shouted down, accused of disloyalty, or accused of contributing to the death of the party. It is not true!

MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT ARE UNDER THREAT

We are concerned about what this radical upheaval means for our current Members of Parliament for a number of reasons.

Lack of respect for our candidates and members of parliaments

Our Members of Parliament are far superior to those who belong to the ALP. And our candidates are always better. It breaks many of our hearts to see our superior team lose on election-day. If anything, it serves as a reminder that the quality of candidate does not determine electoral success.

Ordinary branch members admire and respect the current members of parliament. We put you there and we want you to remain there. To advocate a massive upheaval of the pre-selection process is to suggest that you are inadequate and must be replaced. After all, a completely different process will produce completely different outcomes. And if it does not produce different outcomes, then why do it?

Our current members of parliament will be purged

Those people who are currently responsible for pre-selecting candidates were those who had the trust of their local branch, were active and committed enough to earn that trust, were generally active, and had a good deal of experience about the qualities needed in a potential member of parliament. They are people we used to trust to have the best interests of the party at heart.

We will replace that body with every single member on the books in a local area. These will include people who may never have been to a liberal party gathering in their life, who don’t know a single other person in the party, or who have very narrow agendas. There is nothing necessarily wrong with these people (although there is potential for people who do not have the party’s best interests at heart to automatically earn a right to pre-select our candidates), but they are essentially different. And a different body of pre-selectors means that we will have different candidates, different to those we currently have. This upheaval amounts to a purge of current members of parliament, and as ordinary party members, we don’t like it.

Our members of parliament will focus less time on winning government

This radical upheaval of the party will not produce better candidates. As a rule, politics does not attract society’s best. This is because politics is not enticing. There are very long hours, the pressure is constant, the pay is poor, job security is lacking, privacy is non-existent, reputations can be shot, the decision-making process is often frustrating and unproductive, the agenda is set by others, and that’s before we consider the presence of the media and opinion polls.

And then there is the relationship a member of parliament must have with party members. At the moment, we think the balance is about right. But this radical upheaval of the party will mean that members of parliament have to concentrate on communicating with and retaining the support of over 300 local members. This is good in theory, but in practice, it represents an extraordinary drain on time and resources. There was an accusation at the last state election that some members of parliament spent too much time shoring up local support. This radical upheaval of the party will only dramatically increase the time spent on “doing the numbers”. This represents a disaster, especially for a party in opposition.

More importantly, it makes politics even less enticing. The odds are not good as it stands. But telling a potential candidate that they have to visit, win over, and then retain the support of, more than 300 members will not have candidates banging on our doors. Good people simply don’t have the time or inclination to do this.

Pre-selections determined by head office

It is quite possible that any of the following seats may never have a pre-selection, with the candidate instead chosen by head office.

Mildura

Rodney

Morwell

Eltham

Mulgrave

Murray Valley

Gippsland East

Gippsland South

Yan Yean

Narre Warren North

Ferntree Gully

Bayswater

Shepparton

Bendigo West

Mordialloc

Mithcam

Monbulk

Evelyn

Warrandyte

Bruce

Gippsland

Isaacs

Mallee

Murray.

This is lunacy on a grand scale. It is reason enough to vote no on October 12.

Pre-selections will be dominated by money, spin, and the media

Radical upheaval of the type proposed will make the process unseemly. Candidates will be forced to use the media to assist them in an attempt to break through to over 300 local members. We currently ban this because we know it is bad. But such a process will only encourage it.

There is also a suggestion that only those with money could afford such a draining process. The worst thing for the image of our party would be to only have candidates that are considered rich or “toffs”. Although it is unfair, such accusations often form the focus of advertisement campaigns against us, and they are very effective.

Finally, there is a suggestion that making the process this way will force us to parachute star candidates into the party. But the “stars” never quite turn out that way. We know the ALP does this, and it leads to bad representation for the local community. The future stars of the Liberal Party are already in the party, they are not coaching AFL teams, they are not leading the police union, and they are not appearing on gimmicky reality shows..

Evidence in other states and the ALP is not good

The radical upheaval proposed will make the Liberal Party more like the ALP, and like interstate liberal divisions. But their pre-selections are worse than ours. And there is no evidence that other divisions, or the ALP, are attracting more candidates or better candidates, or that they are performing as well as us in terms of membership or participation.

The creation of local fiefdoms, ALP style

It won’t happen immediately, but to create a system modeled on the ALP is to inevitably end up with the same problems: local factional fiefdoms, infiltrated by ethnic and sport-club branch stacking.

WE WILL HAVE LESS MEMBERS WITH LESS DIVERSITY

An underclass of membership

If this radical upheaval occurs, we will create an underclass of member. If you live in a safe liberal electorate (such as Hawthorn) you will be able to participate in the Hawthorn pre-selection, and the Kooyong pre-selection. You will also have a greater chance of being a member of state wide bodies, meaning you will a good chance of being selected to participate in state upper house and Senate pre-selections. Further, because of the size of local pre-selections in these areas, participation by locals will be exclusive. The result is that such members become important, valued, listened to by members of parliament, courted and welcomed.

If you live in a marginal or safe Labor electorate, however, there will be no local pre-selections. You will also have a very slim chance of being a member of state-wide bodies, meaning you also won’t get to participate in state upper house and Senate pre-selections. Such members will be ignored by the party. They will disappear. To invite them to nonetheless become a branch member in a marginal or safe seat (but without any voting rights) is an insult to them.

Less diversity in the party membership

The creation of an underclass of membership means less people from marginal or safe Labor seats will join our party. These people are young, hungry, hard-working, come from diverse backgrounds, they are aspirational, home-owners, and experience the daily struggles of balancing family and work. These people should be given the freedom to join the party in a marginal seat (we already have adequate safeguards). Without this freedom of mobility, we lose these people for good.

Networks will be destroyed

The best way to recruit people is to ask a friend or relative or colleague to join the party with you in your electorate. But unless they happen to live near you, that network will be lost for good. No one wants to join the party in an area where they don’t know anybody. And it is an insult to suggest that they can still join a branch, but without any voting entitlements.

A lack of competition and alternatives in party forums

We all know that some pockets of the party can become rotten. Bad apples exist in any organization. But under the current system, if you are unfortunate enough to land in a branch that is rotten, you can transfer to another branch, and still participate in a meaningful way. This creates healthy competition amongst the branches, and serves as a check and balance. But under the proposed radical upheaval of the party, you are stuck in the electorate that you live. If your Electorate Council (the only body that will now have any significance) happens to rot away, there is nothing that can be done. You will be stuck with it. Your only refuge will be to leave the party. Bullying will be encouraged by those who desire smaller memberships.

No more incentives to attract and retain members

Branch membership hovers just above 20. The reason is simple; it is necessary in order for the branch to participate in any meaningful way in the party. But the upheaval of the party eliminates this incentive. In fact, the incentive for so-called power brokers is a membership that is as small as possible. Many people who work hard to attract or retain members to keep their branch above 20 members will no longer do so. Numbers will drop very quickly very fast, and we will no longer have their membership fees to use. There is no doubt that, soon enough, many electorate councils will be hovering just above 20 members.

The party will become cold and heartless

One of the joys of the party is attending branch meetings at someone’s home. A party elder opens their home to you, and like-minded people gather in the warmth of their lounge room to discuss policy and the party. They mingle, enjoy each other’s company, learn new things, and share a nice meal or refreshments. We must not denigrate this system. It is the best thing about us.

But under this radical upheaval, the heart and warmth of the party disappears. Instead, they will be replaced with community hall meetings, cold and heartless, with plastic chairs, and too many people. It will be an intimidating environment. The loud, aggressive and domineering will control these forums, as will the young upstarts who believe they are the next Prime Minister of the nation. Those who are elderly, shy, or reserved, and generally the best-intentioned, will feel left out. Soon enough, they will stop going. And they won’t have a branch to go to, because people will stop running branches as the incentive for them will disappear.

Country members are being ignored

If you live in the country, there is the potential that your relevant electorate meetings will be hundreds of kilometers away. Many people simply won’t attend. To suggest that this does not matter because branches can still exist is a facade. Why would a branch remain active when the sole incentive for its existence (the election of delegates) is removed? This radical upheaval is city-centric, devised by people who have never had the experience of being a member in the country.

THIS IS A CONFUSING AND LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE

There are still further arguments against this radical upheaval of the party

Confusing structure

New party members will be greeted with the most complicated structure yet devised for our party. They can be member of any branch, in any location, and they can have more than one membership. But they will also be a local member, and it is only that locality that determines their true status in the party. People will no doubt be enthusiastic and join many branches. They will spread themselves too thinly. We will lose the traditional path which was people concentrating on their one branch.

An expensive and logistical nightmare

Assume that there are hundreds of new people who will join the party once Dr Kemp forces through this radical upheaval. Assume further that there are hundreds of people who are inactive but will now become active. Where will all these meeting be held? They will all have to be held at external venues. This costs time, money and creates an administrative burden. And local venues who know that we must have these meetings will charge large prices. We will be held to ransom by greedy, external organisations.

Holding good ideas hostage to a radical agenda

Some good ideas are being suggested. Good and simple ideas. Things like creating a better website, giving new members more information, improving dialogue with new members, creating interest-group branches, and so on. But these things don’t need Constitutional amendment. Yet they are being held hostage to a radical constitutional agenda.

Misleading people into thinking this is a factional issue

Ordinary branch members are also being confused by suggestions that this is a factional issue. People who would ordinarily vote with a faction (as anyone is entitled to do in a political party) are being told that this is a factional issue. But it is not. Many MPs from a variety of groups are privately saying they do not support this. As are ordinary branch members from across the divide. People need to look beyond the identity of key advocates of this approach and assess the evidence and the reasoning. They will quickly see there isn’t any.

Complete arbitrariness

Many of these suggestions are completely arbitrary.. Why are the cut-offs where they are? The fact is they are completely arbitrary, determined in a ham-fisted manner. Why must people be members for 2 years before they can vote in a pre-selection, instead of 1 or 3 or 5 years? Why is the cut off for state council participation where it is? And how did we arrive at the percentages? These are crucial decisions, and yet we have no debate, and no input from a wide body. We saw in the 70/30 debate how important it is to get the figure right, and we need to debate each of them so that we can hear all perspectives and get it right. But that will be impossible under the radical upheaval that is being suggested.

Complete inconsistency

Adding to much of the confusion is the complete lack of consistency. Why is the method for pre-selection different between the lower houses and the upper houses? If the justification for the former is the need to ensure greater participation, why does that argument not apply to the latter? If logistics are ignored for the former, why are they determinative in the latter?

And there is one further massive inconsistency. How can a party that takes itself to the electorate by proudly boasting to be the upholders of conservatism, who argues against radical change for the sake of radical change, completely junk its entire constitution, effectively kill of everything it has and create something new in its place, and then seem credible to the electorate?

SAVE THE PARTY – VOTE NO!!!

No way will a new Constitution win us any more votes at the next election. No way will a single person want to join the party because we have a new Constitution. But we will certainly lose members. And by that, we will lose votes.

To completely revolutionise the party is wrong. It is disrespectful to branch members. It is disrespectful to our members of parliament. And it is disrespectful to previous State Councils who finely tuned our Constitution into the form it takes today.

Don’t be fooled by rhetorical flushes on October 12. And don’t be taken in by threats about how bad things will look in the media if the reforms don’t go through. We are a party if principle, not a party that is dictated to by the media. Look at the lack of the evidence, look at the lack of reason, and help us save the party. Vote no!

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “GAME ON: Victorian Liberals at war over rules changes

  1. Anonymous

    A verbose, illogical rant that is essentially a defence of current lazy state MPs. I wonder who could possibly have authored such a document?!?

    Though to be fair, this is the most work Inga has done in a long time.

  2. inga binga

    I was too busy on my outhouse to write all that. Blame Anderton.

  3. simon troeth

    Wasn’t me. Too many big words.

  4. Anonymous

    Dear Inga
    I read with interest your email calling the Party Futures Committee Flawed, and would like to reply to your remarks
    1. An elitist Agenda- Yeh, an agenda that takes the power out of small groups of idiots you control and hands it to the masses – very elitist.
    2. Asking the wrong questions – Unlike you most of our members have a brain. They would put forward the correct answers regardless of how it was worded. I actually did not see the survey the way you did, so not an issue anyway . Also, they know the reasons why people are leaving, in fact most of them have thought of it too but for their strong belief in the Liberal Party’s ideals. Removing you from the party would surly keep a lot of members in. If you want to go survey the world at large, then go for it, wish you luck. Look forward to seeing the results in 2025.
    3. Using the emotion – so you have accepted that we can never return to power in Victoria and we should all start to accept it Federally too. Not exactly the attitude of a member we want. Why don’t you just get out now.
    4. Unfair Timeline – If you are aiming for 2025, then yeh, I guess so. The reason we debated the 70/30 rule for 2 hours was because a lot of David Davis’ Young Liberals with vested interests were determined to defeat it. Notice how David did not do it himself, as he did not want to get his hands dirty and If they did not clown around for so long the debate would have been over in 10 mins.
    5. An impossible timeline – Pretty sure it will be debated at State Council. Can’t change it without State Council. We have some smart people who will get it right. So, no argument there
    6. Misguided intentions – Feeling a little left out Inga?? Your opinion not being listened too?? Stiff!!! How can a system that creates a broader pool of votes be bad?? Oh I get it, because you prey on unemployed morns that have heaps of time to take on mindless activities in the party and use that a justification to argue for the votes at conventions. Yeh, I can see how it would not work for you
    7. Debate has been stifled – Well from what we understand you have turned up to evey branch meeting you can and bagged the crap out of the changes, so sounds like you have been debating it. Most MP’s are against it because they are crap and realise without their sheltered little power base they will be venerable to a challenge. Bring it on, only the fittest will survive. (Thats not you Inga)
    8. MPs under threat – Good, its time for a clean out – starting with you!!
    9. Lack of respect for our MP – Superior to the ALP?? You did notice we have been in opposition in Victoria for coming on 10 years?? Candidates far better?? What are you smoking Inga?
    10. Current members of parliament will be purged – Only the bad ones, like you!!!
    11. Our MP’s will focus less time on winning government – Only hacks like you. Branch members will judge you on how how effective you are. You spend all your time at branch meetings as you don’t have anything else to show for your time.
    12. Preselction determined by head office – Firstly, State Seats held by the crazy Nats we will not be contesting anyway, so that shortens your list. Mithcam?? Clearly don’t care enough about this seat to spell it correctly. Mordialloc, anything to keep your hands away from deciding it would be a good thing. By the way, is it true you are pushing Michael Carty in to running for council so he cannot nominate fro Mordialloc preselection??
    13. Preselections will be dominated by spin- yeh, how do you think you win elections??
    14. Evidence from ALP is not good – hey aren’t they in government?
    15. Local fiefdoms – yeh, because there is none of this going on now??
    16. An underclass of membership – think you will have to rewrite that one, don’t really get what you are trying to say there. If you live in Hawthorn you will be able to vote in Hawthorn, if you live in a marginal, you will vote in a marginal. What’s your point? Living in a marginal is good, tend to have preselections every time there is an election, living in Hawthorn it can be 20 years between conventions.
    17. Less diversity – If I read to document correctly, you can join a branch where ever you like, only voting is restricted on residence. Don’t like it, move. You would have to if you wanted to vote in a different electorate on election day.
    18. Networks will be destroyed- So you only join a branch to vote. What happened about debating ideas and help out with fundraising and local campaigning???
    19. A lack of competition – If your EC rots away, how about putting your hand up to fix it? Oh, that’s right, all your supporters are idiots so no one will trust them anyway. Your pretty good at bullying people you don’t like, so surely this helps you
    20. No more incentives – People that drag members to keep their branch over 20 are just using friends anyway who have little interest. Akin to branch stacking
    21. The party will be come cold and heartless – Wow, did not read that bit. Where exactly in the book does it say that?? Where does it say branch meetings can no longer be held in peoples homes??
    22. Country members being ignored – Electorate meetings are already hundreds of KM’s away. So what different? All part of being in the country
    23. Confusing an logistical nightmare – only for idiots like you Inga
    24. Confusing structure – If they cant work out what state and federal electorate they live in they probably should not be members of the party in the first place
    25. Expensive & logistical nightmare – People pay membership fees, how about using that to pay some of the costs??
    26. Holding good ideas to hostage – A new website. Of course, that will solve all our problems, how stupid of me. Your right, you should be running the whole party.
    27. Misleading people – Thats what you do best, isn’t it?
    28. Complete arbitrariness – Thats a big word, well done. Well if you want to debate each % and date Inga, we will be until 2025. I know you have the time, but the rest of us don’t
    29. Complete inconsistency – Well if you want a upper house preselection with 900 people, or thousands in Southern Region, then go for it. At some stage you have to cut it down.
    30. Save the party – vote no. No thanks, I will be voting yes!!! Yes for the future, yes for better MP’s, yes for the end of you.
    Look, its you time to go. I know that mean you can no longer employ Michael Shepherdson and continue your affair with him, but all good, in this case bad, things must come to an end.
    In the end, the part is about participant and involvement, not just voting.

  5. Dr Dean

    This radical upheaval of the Liberal Party is the most insidious reform every proposed for the great party of Menzies.

    If people can only vote in the area in which they live, then this will mean there will need to be some means of verifying where they live. This in turn may mean that party membership must be verified against the ….oh no…. electoral roll!

    Don’t these people realise that the Victorian electoral roll is the law of the jungle, a breach of human rights, a betrayal of the Menzies Legacy.

    This is an outrage! It must be stopped! We must all follow my lead and take a Principled Stand by not renewing our party membership, just as I took a stand against the evil law of the jungle that is the electoral roll.

  6. Anon

    Seems that DJ Mitchy Fife has been busy.

  7. Chairman Lui

    No, no, no! The reforms will be great for the Party, great for the people of Box Hill and especially great for me!

  8. Evil Bastard

    Let’s see now. Party membership has gone from 30,000 to 13,000. And we should keep on doing what we’ve always done? Sounds like a plan. A plan for political oblivion.

  9. Pingback: Mangled Thoughts » Liberal Party News: Wreckers resist reform of the Victorian Division. They will be dealt with.

  10. Anon

    Re 2/09 18.36, if Gerard Jackson has taken it upon himself to defend Dr Kemp’s proposed changes then the case for change must be even weaker then I had previously thought.

  11. Anonanonski

    A purge of Liberal MP’s? Heaven forfend!! How could the party survive the loss of so very many talented political stars pounding away at the government with intellectual rigour and flair???

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