‘Factions are poisoning the Liberal Party’
Senator Jim Molan writes in today’s Australian about the Liberal Party factions. It beggars belief that the present faction bosses can be so brain dead as exhibited by their treatment of Senator Molan. A vote below the line could solve matters!
There has been plenty of commentary about the Liberal Party being in crisis. There can be no doubt the party faces huge challenges. Since the 2013 election we have lost more than a million votes. Recent elections in Sydney’s Wentworth and in Victoria have seen us lose seats thought impregnable. Although many commentators claim the party no longer reflects conservative opinions, or that it has a particular problem with women, there is a much simpler explanation for at least part of the problem — the poisonous influence of factions.
Source: News Corp
Nowhere is this more evident than in NSW. If you want a friend in politics, get a dog. If you want a friend in the NSW division of the Liberal Party, get a faction. The NSW Liberals are a faction-ridden organisation in which factional interests always prevail over those of members, the constitution is a stitch-up, the whatever-it-takes philosophy dominates and candidate selection occurs through a deeply distorted process.
Factions do nothing to advance the interests of the party, much less the country. And while other state divisions have moved towards democratisation, NSW remains unreformed. Too many condone this. They shrug and say it’s just politics. But we should not be so willing to accept this when it is of such importance to all Australians.
Factionalism is a deeply distorting influence that undermines ideas, principles and good policy. As a moderate-faction powerbroker recently admitted: “We don’t stand for anything philosophically.”
Their entire game is about power and influence. What does this say about those who rise to the top of such a system? When such attitudes prevail, are we honestly surprised that Australians are becoming disgusted with politics?
Some will claim that I am having a whinge after failing to be preselected to a winnable position on the Senate ticket. But I have been a consistent opponent of these malignant forces since well before entering the Senate last year. I first encountered the distorted processes of the NSW division in my 2016 preselection, when every immoral, unethical ruse was used in an efforts to defeat me as a “cleanskin” candidate.
The preselection process itself was a foregone conclusion: one faction had already determined what the result would be. Yet many good rural Libs still had to spend $1000 for a weekend in Sydney, for no good reason. All the dominant faction had to do was work hard on the day to achieve its decided objective, including last-minute stacking by faction bosses, influencing voters on the floor, repetitive voting, even sending voters home to achieve the desired result, then reversing the decision once the preselection was over.
That is not “just politics”, it is an appalling system. I did not accept it then and I do not accept it now. Going by the volume of correspondence I have received since my recent preselection woes, there are many others, including many former and wavering Liberal members and supporters, who feel the same way.
Last year a majority of NSW Liberal members voted for a reformed, democratic constitution. But this vote was rejected in a clever way by the factionalised state council last February. The reforms introduced there give the appearance of democracy but factions, not members, still control candidate selection, perhaps even more so in view of a new voting system. Most state and federal preselections in NSW remain predetermined affairs. Sometimes the situation is so bad that the party leader must intervene.
The factional bosses need to operate covertly because they know the public will never accept unelected, unaccountable figures playing such games. As the consequences of factionalism gain greater public attention, more of our supporters drift away.
The NSW division needs true reform, and quickly. Who will man booths in the coming state and federal elections? In 2013, we had about 14,000 people supporting our election campaign statewide. In 2016, the total dropped to about 8000. Can anyone guess how we will go next year?
There may be many ways to reform but the one I favour is to make the executive of the NSW division subject to the same principles that govern corporate law, with its members acting as company directors. The Australian Electoral Commission should run our internal elections, because we cannot be trusted to do so.
The factions are asking reformers to defer action because elections are so close. This is the usual defence of a distorted system. They said that in 2016, then reneged. We should have reformed in February, but instead a patina of democracy was applied and a few overthrew the wishes of the membership.
This nation desperately needs a thriving right-of-centre party full of right-of-centre ideas. We can win with Scott Morrison as Prime Minister, given his experience and ability, but we must inspire. We must inspire our members and supporters, not just those who benefit from the factions, and bring those million voters back.
Jim Molan is a senator for NSW.