Flat White

The Liberal culture of taking voters for granted

8 May 2018

12:13 PM

8 May 2018

12:13 PM

A recent article in the Spectator raised some serious questions and concerns about the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. The concerns centred around a resurgent membership seemingly driven in no small part by a charismatic party member, Marcus Bastiaan.

At first blush, it seems odd that a friend of the Liberal Party such as the article’s author, Terry Barnes, would be reticent for the party to grow. Indeed, the article predicts that the hands-on involvement of the significant numbers of newer party members will “cast aside” sitting Senators, worsen internal divisions, and somehow constitute “a serious political risk”.

The article acknowledges that “contesting internal power and running election campaigns is an essential part of politics – and factionalism in the Liberal party is not new,” but also admits and even defends the infamous hubris of the Liberal Party. Channelling many in the party’s establishment, it bemoans new and organised members being more interested in gaining and pursuing power and influence. Barnes confesses, almost cathartically, that the agenda for which power must be wielded is to ensure “Liberal ideas can be implemented from government” – which he calls “a higher purpose”.

And that’s where so many Liberal Party members’ gag reflexes have resulted, and they’ve left in disillusioned frustration, many joining Cory Bernardi in the quest to find representation.

However, I argue that the “higher purpose” of political power is not to entrench existing politicians in parliament, or the political class in party positions. The purpose most Australians who have become party members have is their own: their family, their mortgage and retirement, their job or business. They don’t care about Liberal ideas, defined solely by the party elites at the wilful ignorance of the members. The feigned horror that an anointed incumbent might be effectively challenged for preselection reflects a culture akin to the divine right of kings.


Liberal Party members, supporters and voters are tired of simply being tolerated once per election cycle when their volunteer hours or donations are needed but ignored when their popular ideas and motions at conferences – such as freedom of speech – never see the light of day in government. So when they see an opportunity to be actually represented, instead of taken for granted by senators and MPs, whose inner-city elitist liberalism is indistinguishable from that of the Labor or Greens parties, they grab that opportunity and invite their like-minded friends to lend a hand.

No, the purpose of political power is precisely to gain power and influence over the direction of your party and country. The same, equal opportunity is given to every Australian citizen of voting age. It’s not horrific, or devious, or treacherous. It’s a competition of ideas within the best imperfect system in world history.

Barnes worryingly speculates that Senators James Patterson and Jane Hume are not long for the Parliament, predicting that the delay of preselections achieved by the vigorous regrowth of conservative members in the Liberal Party will aid in their replacement. He calls this folly. And he’s of course entitled to that opinion. And the Victorian Liberal members are entitled to theirs as well. And that really should be the point.

I believe it’s every patriot’s duty to become a member of a political party and make sure that general elections are not contested between Dumb and Dumber candidates. We’re tired of ballots where both Labor and Liberal candidates have no daylight between them on the issues which are most important to us.

Politics is driven by the economics of supply and demand, except the currency is votes, not money. So when our party or Dumb candidate assumes we’ll always vote for them because we always have, they should experience the pain of not supplying what the voters demand. They should go out of business, get fired by their party members, and not be re-endorsed simply out of the fear of losing to the unknown but predictably Dumber candidate. There’s a wiser, more effective option.

The preselectors, the members of the Liberal Party, in this case, can choose between Dumb and Genuine. Then, at election time, the options on the ballot will be between Dumber and Genuine candidates. And that’s how you rebuild a party to represent your family and values. The Genuine candidate will work for the “rusted on” members, and not take them for granted while futilely chasing after the undecided voters left of centre.

Taking Liberal voters for granted is exactly what Senator Hume did when she resisted the private member’s bill push to repeal 18C, a contender for the most illiberal piece of noxious legislation on the books. A “solid performer” or not, it wouldn’t be hard to find someone who would be willing to better represent Liberal members. But until the supply of preselection votes is withdrawn from incumbents who betray their base, the Liberal Party of Australia will ever lurch leftwards.

Barnes is wrong when he says replacing her with Okotel would be indulgent, and indeed indulges himself when he opines “her time is not now”. Pfft! The once pragmatic notion of a “broad church” with a place for small “l” liberals and small “c” conservatives alike has effectively made way for a party of compromised values. This compromise craves votes from people who will never vote Liberal while abandoning those who always have, dismissing them as having nowhere else to go, and all the while insisting they’re a “broad church”.

The Liberal Party members have a duty to their families and Australia to ensure populism never rules Australia, whether from a Liberal or Labor Party, and that the future we’re advancing to isn’t sold for the fear of a term or two not in government, an eventual inevitability. Our job is not to represent the party’s best interests – but rather to make the party represent ours. The foundation for tomorrow is today. The time to clean house is now.

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