What is to be done

What I don’t know about the Liberal Party could fill a warehouse, but most of the prescriptions outlined by Michael Kroger on Sky News on Tuesday accord with my prejudices:

The organisational wings around the country need to be reformed immediately, particularly in relation to the branch structure and preselections. There’s a lot of things that can be done, very quickly. The party is in a terrible electoral position, but it can very quickly put itself into a fantastic position. This is not a five or ten year repair job. You could actually fix all the organisational and structural problems in the Liberal Party within 12 months if you had the will to do it, and make whoever the incoming leader is in a fantastic position to fight the next federal election in three years’ time. But what tends to happens is people retreat to their corners, they want to protect their own power bases and nothing happens. It requires some strong decision-making from the senior people to fix this thing, they can fix it in 12 months … The branch structure is 60 years old and even though the branch members still do a fantastic job, it’s the structure, not the branch members, it’s the structure which is drowning us. We’ve got probably 500 people in the Victorian Liberal Party whose job is as honorary auditor … There need to be branch amalgamations, we need to base the party around state or federal electorates, you need to broaden the base of people voting in preselections, you need to have perhaps a senior committee of senior party people who have the final say over preselections to rubber stamp the selections, you’ve got to stop the petty branch stacking, we should amalgamate with the National Party, we should give the federal party some more power a little like the ALP does, we should make it a federalist party and not just individual states, we need to totally revamp the fundraising within the organisation and we need to give the federal executive some power … you just can’t have situations where five or 10 or 20 people can stack a few branches and take over a safe Liberal Party seat and preselect a C-grade candidate and be happy with that. I pay credit to the Labor Party for some of the candidates they preselected, I don’t like their politics, but the fact is in various places they strong-armed some tired old members out, put some new people in who may or may not succeed but on the face of it some of them have got very good credentials for parliament. That’s the way you have to operate in politics. To leave these things to the branch-stackers is a recipe for disaster.

Malcolm Turnbull – wealthy, assertive, independently powerful – struck me as being just the man for the job outlined by Kroger. Perhaps the party room knows better. Or perhaps, to use Kroger’s formulation, they have signalled an intention to retreat to their corners and protect their own power bases, and nothing will happen.

Recommended reading: Alister Drysdale of the Business Spectator reports that both parties’ internal polling showed a late Coalition recovery that was stopped dead in its tracks by the Lindsay pamphlet disgrace. It’s also argued that the fake Jeff Kennett letter regarding proposed funding cuts to the states had the same impact during the last week of the 1996 campaign. I personally do not imagine that either incident was single-handedly decisive, but this is not the first report to emerge of a sharp shift in party tracking polling following Jackie Kelly’s infamous “Chaser-style prank” interview of last Wednesday. There’s also a very intriguing article on the Liberal Party’s late-term leadership ructions from Pamela Williams in today’s Financial Review (subscriber only unfortunately).

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

1,042 comments on “What is to be done”

Comments Page 2 of 21
1 2 3 21
  1. The question remains – what does the Liberal party stand for with the Admiral at the helm? It isn’t liberalism – see policies casting the poor adrift, no ‘sorry”, Workchoices, which is the opposite of free liberal ‘choice’. It isn’t conservatism in all things – see Workchoices, which was radical change. Is it US-style ‘neo-conservatism’ they stand for now? Possibly – see religious influence – intelligent creator, full funding for new religious schools, Iraq intervention, lies, crush opposition by any means (Lindsay).

    It is hard to pin down though – exactly what are the basic principles of the Liberal Party of Australia? What should their new policies be based on? Anyone?

  2. The article in the Fin Review today is very telling – Janette Howard as the praetorian guard!!!

    I cannot wait for Costello’s tell all autobiography!!!

  3. Re 37,

    “Try to articulate reasons for the eventual demise of the Coalition that are based in reality, rather than listing what you would like to see happen.”

    – the eventual demise of the coalition?

    they are GONE now.

    – reasons based in reality?

    election results 24 November 2007

    – listing what I would like to see happen?

    see #2, it already has happened

  4. John Howard just did not plan for the future. To give Turnbull his dues (Not only is he a “non-direct-election” republican) he did manage to hold back the swing in his electorate.

    John luke Hawke held on to power for too long. His ego and failure to inject new blood and renewal is what has forced the liberals into the reserves. I think he was trying to break that record. Now he will go down in history as being, what the second PM to be voted out of office and parliament.

    Yes, Labor ran a plausible and effective campaign, John only had his daily morning power walks to try and keep himself active. Not sure if Costello would have cut it but he would have pegged back the back-swing. John not the Liberal Party lost this election.

    Whgilst policies are important but I do not think the average swinging voter considers Foreign Affairs or big economic issues as a deciding issue as long as things are “comfortable” John just out stayed his time. Hang in their without a vision for the future. He had no Tamper and most people remember his lies then the tag Honest (NO GST) John.

    Those that argue “it was the policies” I think their vote is well and truely decided..

  5. Melbcity @ 55:

    Turnbull’s margin was artificially depressed due to the Peter King factor.

    Removing that factor made his job much easier, and his ‘real’ margin much greater than otherwise reported.

  6. Murdoch on editorial control in newspapers.

    Rupert Murdoch has admitted to a parliamentary inquiry that he has “editorial control” over which party The Sun and News of the World back in a general election and what line the papers take on Europe.

    Mr Murdoch’s comments were revealed in the minutes from evidence he gave behind closed doors on 17 September in New York, during the committee’s inquiry into media ownership.

    But the News Corporation chairman said he took a different approach with The Times and The Sunday Times. While he often asked what those papers were doing, he never instructed them or interfered, he said.

    The minute stated: “For The Sun and News of the World he explained that he is a ‘traditional proprietor’. He exercises editorial control on major issues – like which party to back in a general election or policy on Europe.”


  7. Sir, I found your remarks to be astute as to the evolution of the Liberal party. It has not evolved at all let alone allow itself to become ‘progressive’.

    Horatio does not believe in evolution. He is now a fundamentalist born again christian (having been converted by wife no. 3 who is of that ilk) and is a proponent of “intelligent design”,

  8. I think the Liberal Party is in opposition everywhere because of different reasons.

    In Victoria Steve Bracks was well liked and his government made no glaring public mistakes. The opposition had, until recently, been a shambles. Leaders were making (poor) policy decisions by themselves without consulting Shadow Cabinet.

    In New South Wales and Queensland it is more to do with the poor performance of the oppositions. In NSW the Liberals are dominated by the hard right to their detriment, and in Queensland the Premier was an extremely popular straight talker.

    I can’t really speak for the other states.

    I have no idea why the Liberals lost power in New South Wales in the first place, Jeff Kennett in Victoria was a powerhouse in Government but very ordinary electorally, and in Queensland the Nationals were in charge. Nuff said.

    Keating tried to change the country culturally from something it fundamentally was to something it fundamentally wasn’t, at a time when people just wanted competent administration from their government. People weren’t working, interest rates were still too high, and there was Keating, talking about the Republic. Helpful.

    I think Howard tried to make Australians comfortable about being Australians instead of uncomfortable. While many people believe on some social issues Howard could and should have been more compassionate, I think those people (me included) should just accept that the people in the mortgage belt, who make up a large section of the community, just aren’t that interested in those issues, and these issues didn’t inform their decision last Saturday.

  9. So is Labor still a chance of winning McEwen? Have all the supposed missing 3000 votes yet been counted?
    I can’t say I’m too confident about most of the rest, especially Herbert, Bowman and Dickson.

  10. Those people who are suggesting that the main factor in the Liberal’s defeat was Howard staying on too long, ignore the reality that the ex-government really had no policies to run on, just a fear campaign based on the illlusion of economic brilliance.

    Events have not only superseded Howard, they have overtaken the Liberal party itself, which has no way of re-inventing itself, no individuals capable of dealing with the challenges of the 21st century and no policies which have the slightest relevance to anyone except right wing idealogues and tired culture war warriors.

    The world has moved on and the Liberal Party is left floundering in its wake.

  11. Julie (53) Poster 37 is correct. These threads need more analysis and less barracking. Government in this country is won and lost in outer metropolitan and regional seats mainly in NSW and Queensland (compare seats to change hands in the 1996 and 2007 elections). The analysis of what went right and what went wrong for either side of politics is to be found in the reasons why voters in those seats switched sides. None of your posts including Post 2 on this thread, are particularly persuasive as to the reasons, but (for what it is worth) I am pleased for you that you are so delighted with the election outcome.

  12. Kroger’s prescription is just another variation on the ‘strong man’ theme. This is why they have failed to regenerate during Howard’s reign.

  13. Howard C, I agree that the election wasn’t won due necessarily to a rejection of Howard’s Australia but want to qualify it by saying that a significant portion of Australians have not felt more comfortable ‘being Australian’ through the Howard years, and another portion never felt uncomfortable during the Hawke/Keating years.

    I’d say the portion that felt uncomfortable during the Hawke/Keating years are probably the Liberal Party base vote, during the Howard years the Greens and Labor Party base vote, and the ones that generally didn’t feel different either way are the swinging voters.

    The real reason for a government change, I believe, is far more superficial than a lot of other people would imagine. To me, leadership plays a huge part in it. Howard was seen as stale just as Keating was arrogant. People were prepared to accept Howard in ’96 and Rudd in ’07, not because they were particularly inspired by either, but because they’d just had enough of the old leader.

    I suppose at the end of the day, any government change is made up of a ‘cobble-up’ of issues. Perhaps WorkChoices played a small part, the leadership issues another part and the negative reaction to Howard’s Australia another part. I think if we looked at it, the most significant chunk of the vote was people rejecting Howard’s vision for Australia, but the most important chunk (the chunk that decided the election) was a cobble-up of a lot of tiny issues.

  14. 35

    You obviously weren’t here late yesterday Neil, so don’t worry, you can bet your $6 billion this little bit of (dare I say it?) Napoleonic folly will not go unnoticed by Her Majesty’s Government.

    Anyway, I took the liberty of dubbing the young Lord Nelson ‘Horatio Hornet’, in honour of this singular acheivement.

    Kinda suits him, n’est pas?

  15. Lose the election please – I would agree with all of that, except I would find most swinging voters probably agree more with Howard on cultural issues.

    To see evidence that this election was not fought on cultural issues (Australia waking up), look at all the things Kevin Rudd said during the election.

    Most people don’t want the government to weigh in on cultural issues or spend too much time on it. Keating was seen as spending too much time on things that didn’t matter. Rudd spoke all the time about “kitchen-table” issues. He ran a perfect campaign, there wasn’t an actor or muso to be seen, and he won.

    Personally, I think the Yanks have it right when they refer to “administrations”, because good governments are those that administrate rather than other things.

  16. Nelson’s election is easy to understand. He received a swag of WA votes.
    But, of course, there are strings attached!
    No Sorry and also Workchoices is to be defended.
    I can do that, Brendan thinks to himself.
    However his effort last night on 7.30 Report left me in a spin. Is his elevation a break from the past, which the Party certainly needs, or are they still in a rut – and doggedly determined to stay there?
    For WA to be in the position of determining the Liberal leader – AND determining policy direction – demonstrates how close to irrelevance the Libs are becoming.

    The strings attached are there for all to see – and they are attached to each joint of Nelson’s body. But the Libs have few options left and irrelevance is nigh.

  17. Howard C @ 60.

    The Libs were a bit unlucky to lose power in 1995.

    They got 52% of the 2PP but Labor managed to form government with a majority of one.

  18. Howard C – yet the link to the Alister Drysdale article above in William’s opening indicates that both parties noticed a movement in their tracking polls back towards the Liberals which stopped after the Jackie Kelly fiasco. And the swinging seat in question, Lindsay, was resoundingly returned to Labor. Subconsciously or otherwise, people pay attention to what underlies these sorts of indicents.

    I don’t think it is a black and white issue, but more and more people were certainly feeling uncomfortable with the way that Howard has played such cultural politics particularly over this year, cases in point being the emerging reactions to Hicks and Haneef. None of these was a knockout, but Howard just went too far for too long, and this was an issue.

  19. Nice background piece on Penny Wong in the SMH.

    Could this be a reference to, well, us, on this blog? –

    “Her appearances on the ABC’s Lateline won a solid fan base among news and political junkies and anyone else who watches current affairs late on Friday night.”

  20. There is nothing wrong with WorkChoices per se. The problem was in the selling. Once people understand that this is good for them, they will vote us back into power where we belong.

    Can I also say that saying sorry to Aborigines is wrong. Why should we be held responsible for the sins of our forefather which had only the best intentions? The same way as we should not boast or brag about our forefathers who fought so bravely in Gallipolli. It has nothing do with us and we should not be constantly reminded about their deeds.

  21. Both Nelson and Bishop’s positions on an apology are rediculous. It is obvious that both individuals find the position that they are advocating odious. I wonder how long this obfuscation will continue before they are either crushed or confront the deniers hiding in their backrooms.

  22. Wrong as always LETP. The swing was about 75% WorkChoices and about 25% “it’s time,” except in the Qld seats where “we want Kevin” was also a big factor. WC was completely toxic for the Coalition in the suburban and regional marginals. Hockey, who ought to know, has admitted as much, and Turnbull would probably have also done so as leader. But now the Trogs are in control there will be no backdown from WC, which suits us Labor hacks just fine.

  23. William

    Corangamite: I calculate will be a cliffhanger despite Labor 2 PP now at 50.47%
    with 86.16% vote counted.

    Using current todate pre polls , postals & ordinary votes 2PP percentages ,
    the current 764 Labor lead will drop to a 160 majority **

    (there are no absentee votes in Corrangamite
    none of the 5579 absentee votes issued have been received back by aec !)
    if there most of these absentee votes issued are in play , Labor can not win it

    William , what do you think

  24. Do the bookies have odds on how long this care-taker Nelson will last – I would guess it’ll be as long as it takes for Lib branch members to see the footage they ran on ABC last night of the young Nelson screaming “I’ve never voted Liberal in my life!!!!!”

  25. Optimist – although he wasn’t that young. 93 wasn’t it? And then in the Liberal Party in 94? Must be an impressionable young chap. I wonder when he’ll be off for his stint with the Socialist Alliance?

  26. 82 – There would have to be some absentee votes .. and should they run roughly along the same % as the polling booths ?

  27. Adam, I agree with you partially, but think WorkChoices directly played into the ‘its time’ factor. Do you think, if Howard had had his way in 1996 with the Workplace Relations Act that they would’ve definately been thrown out in 1998?

    I’d like to think so, but I’m not completely sure. To me, I think WorkChoices deserved a bigger reaction than it received. It really was a terrible moment in Australian history, and think it should be rightly remembered as such.

    Generally, I think governments try and introduce their most unpopular policies after big wins (eg. 1996 and 2004). The problem was, the ’04 win wasn’t anywhere near large enough to counter WC.

    I still don’t really understand why, if WorkChoices was such a toxic policy Labor didn’t stick with their original Forward with Fairness plan, without watering it down. Would people have been so scared of it they wouldn’t have voted Labor? I doubt it.

  28. Re 60,

    Howard C Says:

    November 30th, 2007 at 10:17 am
    I think the Liberal Party is in opposition everywhere because of different reasons.
    I can’t really speak for the other states.

    Jeff Kennett in Victoria was a powerhouse in Government but very ordinary electorally </blockquote.

    Kennett lost government by ignoring the needs of the bush. That was why Bracks flew in under the radar in 1999 as the pollsters didn’t adequately poll country residents in their polls. Bracks was astute enough to realize this, maximized his campaign efforts in the country and the rest is history 🙂

  29. Well LTEP, wait till you see the IR legislation, I think it will be presented as the abolition of WorkChoices but in reality will be WorkChoices Lite.

    Many of the unions have experienced membership losses of 10% of their membership in the last year and the insidious effect of the legislation is that it actually encouraged large companies to think of how to de-unionise. These companies tend to be slow and have slow processes with the effects of these strategies panning out over years.

    Look at Qantas, it agreed to cut wages for new staff by 30% and increase working time by 30%, didnt use AWA’s but the effect is likely to be the same.

  30. The election of Nelson and Bishop shows that an “old guard” still have the numbers in the Liberal Party. The Liberals are unreconstructed on the labour market and indigenous affairs: two areas where the Liberals allow ideology to over-rule reason. The WA division is clearly ascendant, which has to be bad news. They have a very great talent for elevating mediocrity and compliance over ability and strength. As long as they control the federal parliamentiary party, the Liberals will go nowehere.

  31. Re 64,

    Howard C Says:

    November 30th, 2007 at 10:19 am
    Julie – just don’t cut and run from the country when the Liberals (eventually) gain government again.

    I adopted Australia as my home. I don’t cut and run from anything. I have to live the rest of my life with Amanda Vanstones stamped signature on my citizenship certificate [ eeewwwwwwww ]. Will be a long long time though before Labor are again in opposition 🙂

  32. Blindoptimist @ 91- And wait until the NSW branch goat sacrificers get together with the WA division. The old guard will look tame compared to what they will cook up together.

  33. I’m with Adam there – not backing down on Workchoices is the biggest “welcome to Government” gift that the Libs could give the ALP.
    I think that Keating summed it up with this line…..

    “We will not adopt the fantastic hypocrisy of modern conservatism which preaches the values of families and communities, while conducting a direct assault on them through reduced wages and conditions and job security.”
    Keating’s Election campaign launch, February 14, 1996.(Very prescient).

  34. Q’ld is by far the most parochial state having lived there for many years,

    The selection of a ‘reasonable’ Queenslander as ALP leader RESULTED in the ALP winning the election by winning huge winning seat margins in Q’ld seats

    Without a Q’ld ALP leader , Howard may have won a cliffhanger victory with ALP getting under 52% 2PP.

    BEFORE RUDD WAS HEARD OF , from Sept 2006 the polls showed a 4% swing directly caused by the ACTU work choices ads.

    Clearly work choices is what won the 4% swing (Rudd’s elevation locked the 4% in and being a Queenslander then delivered the bonus big swing Q’ld seats)

Comments are closed.

Comments Page 2 of 21
1 2 3 21