28 March 2008

Membership of the Liberal Party

Bruce Baird made many of the same points that have been made about the Liberal Party for some time. He has also done what others have done: raised important issues and then skated around them.

It's true that people are building little fiefdoms, but the answer to that is simple: break down the fiefdoms. If you join the Liberal Party, then you join the Liberal Party; not some branch or other sub-unit thereof.

Branches should be gatherings of like-minded people who live or work in a given area and are prepared to contribute politically (standing for elected office and/or supporting those who do) in that area. Local/State/Federal Electorate Conferences should comprise individuals - not branches - interested in policy and campaigns at that level and prepared to help at election time.

Attending meetings of these party sub-units, which keep people motivated between elections and raise small amounts of money incidentally, is the busywork of the Liberal Party. A great deal of effort is consumed in this busywork but stripping it away diminishes momentum at election time; and the Liberal Party in particular can't afford any less momentum than it currently has.

When it comes to preselections (choosing candidates to stand for local, state or federal elections for a party), it should be a matter of registering an interest. Naturally, the relevant parliamentary leader and various nobs like the State President will demand a right for themselves, or a nominee, to sit on all Liberal preselections and it's hard to argue against that. A member who has been active in a given area for many years should have the right to sit on preselections in a particular electorate. Apart from that, it should be up for grabs; the remaining numbers of people necessary to make up a preselection should comprise anyone sufficiently motivated to turn up.

A person should be able to stand for the Liberal Party without having been a member for a certain period - but a person should not be able to vote in a preselection unless they have been a member for at least a year without having been suspended.

When it comes to party state executives, nobody gives a shit about regional representation so it should be abolished. The same applies to NSW Legislative Council preselections divided by geographically: sheer, utter bullshit. Smash the fiefdoms, save the Liberal Party (from itself). The moderates who caved in to accept that structure deserve shooting. All members should vote for state executive.

The flipside of all this democracy is that any elected office - any preselection or state executive post - won by a pinhead should be negated. The relevant parliamentary leader and the state director, if they both agree, should negate the election of any given pinhead with no right of appeal (the office-bearers might change their minds with or without persuasion, but definitely no right of appeal).

The Liberal Party sends regular mailouts to members, asking for money and notifying them of events - where any mail to an individual member is returned twice in a row, that person's membership should be suspended.

The reason why the Taliban have been so successful in the NSW Liberal Party is because of the system of local fiefdoms. They go to small-scale religious communities with little savvy in Australian society generally, let alone its political system. They persuade them that the government is out to introduce all sorts of abhorrent measures - unless they give money and/or lend their names to some Liberal fiefdom headed by a Talibani.

If you smash local fiefdoms and suspend the membership of inactive members, you are well on your way to a party where the genuinely motivated have maximum political impact and where petty-minded ditherers and wreckers have no power whatsoever. Assuming Liberals want an outcome like that, of course.

Baird confronts the issue of "rotten boroughs" but takes the branch structure as given, which means the problem he identifies can't and won't ever be solved.

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