The daily newspapers have played along with Ted Baillieu’s enthusiastic claim for the credit of the Kemp Liberal party reforms. John Ferguson gives him credit here. As does Ted’s late-night mobile-phone-chat companion, Paul Austin.
The changes mirror the ALP’s rules in some respects with plebiscites for preselections and the introduction of proportional representation in internal party elections. They were entirely sensible changes that party leader Baillieu had seemed very reluctant to support.
Despite this, he did eventually come around, a positive sign for the party. But let’s not over-state the effect of the changes, they will entrench factionalism on the party Admin committee and in some cases intensify preselection fights and provide incentive for multiple recruiting.
Insiders within the Council say there was cross-factional support of the changes, with 90-95% support.
Inga Peulich – factionally aligned to Ted Baillieu – sternly opposed reform. She argued that the changes would cause the death of party branches. Inga had also arranged a number of other speakers from the south-east to denounce reform. Geoff Leigh – a former MP who was known for his hot-head attitude – also chimed in to oppose changes that could undermine the blue rinse brigade who usually run party branches with an iron fist.
Baillieu aligned people said Ted was at the top of his game, speaking confidently and generously. Others said he was all over the place and that it was impossible to tell whether he was for or against until he said “I will be voting for the changes.”
His desire to keep his supporters like Inga Peulich sweet while voting up the changes anyway gave him quite the rhetorical challenge.
By all accounts, Baillieu passed this test. But how much longer the welcome mat remains out for him is now the big question facing Victorian Liberals.