Internal tensions within Victorian Liberal ranks are set to re-ignite over the Ted Baillieu faction’s deployment of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in the battle over constitutional reform of the party.
Andrew Stuart and Tim Wilson, Baillieu faction operatives, have arranged Fraser to talk to a gathering next Monday at the Craig Community Centre in Ashburton where he will speak on “Renewing the Liberal Party for the 21st Century.”
The invitation specifically refers to the event being a “seated forum” (as distinct from the standing room only cocktail party plan) to comfort those familiar with what Liberal insiders say is the ever-increasing length of Fraser’s speeches as he harkens back to his defence of Mugabe, tariffs for sclerotic industries and state pegging of the currency.
Earlier in the year, Fraser told the left-wing press that the party was “in the grip of ideological conservatives” and that it had “lurched to the right” and was “factionalised”.
But he took time to lavish current Liberal state leader Ted Baillieu with praise:
“He is a Liberal in the true sense â€” liberal in attitude and liberal in approach,” Mr Fraser said. “He stands for basic liberal principles â€” that is, liberal with a small-L.”
In recent times, Fraser has slammed President Bush and the US Ambassador to Australia while defending Labor Leader Mark Latham, accused former PM John Howard of targeting Muslims, opposed the liberation of Iraq, struggled to explain his involvement in assisting Zimbabwean President Mugabe and his praise of former Chinese dictator Mao Zedong and also declared his ideological connection with former Labor PM Gough Whitlam.
Burwood Electorate Council insiders pointed out they have keen to encourage a genuine debate on the issue of the party structure and have already hosted Party President David Kemp and arranged Federal President Alan Stockdale to speak to their group already.