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).