28 June 2009


Sooner or later the Liberals will have to replace many of the MPs who survived the 2007 election with those who have something to contribute to the future. I have mentioned that there is plenty of dead wood there, but the great state of Victoria is, however unwittingly, doing its bit to show us what the future of the Liberal Party will look like: a reprise of the immediate past.

The only Federal Liberal MPs to have entered Parliament since the 2007 election, Jamie Briggs and Scott Ryan, were ex-staffers. We now face a prospect where "renewal" means replacing a sitting MP with a staffer.

First, there was the winnable seat with the proud name of Deakin in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs, once held by a nice-but-dim man named Phil Barresi. Labor won the seat in 2007 and you have to fancy their chances there again - not because of anything to do with Canberra silliness over utes or even big-picture issues surrounding economic management - but because the Liberals preselected Barresi again. His only real competition was another former MP who was even sillier than Barresi.

Then, there was the preselection that won all the headlines: Kooyong, where a staffer won.

Now there are vacancies in Aston (Chris Pearce, whose behaviour during the Apology signalled his lack of both commitment to and suitability for high office), Wannon (David Hawker, the guy who replaced Malcolm Fraser and achieved nothing other than the attainment of titles) and Higgins. In each case, staffers are touted as frontrunners, a dreary prospect of perpetuating a situation where these would-be MPs:

  • see themselves as relay stations for Liberal policy - and Howard-era policy at that - rather than shapers of it;

  • have so absorbed the disunity-is-death theme that they fail to realise that paralysis and lack of moral courage are toxic too;

  • do not and cannot look at the issues facing this country without the excruciating question of What Would Howard Do (WWHD)?

  • the disconnect between the voter revulsion surrounding Parliamentary theatre and those who are awestruck practitioners of it will widen;

  • think that every issue which cannot have Howard rubrics applied to it is too hard or infra dig; and

  • perpetuate this myth that Experience with the Media is essential to operating in Canberra, rather than learned on the job by a reasonably intelligent person.

It is an indictment on the Victorian Liberals that these jewels are not placed into better hands. The fact that only staffers can handle the toxic swamp, and that eminent Victorians who've been sounded out at various Clubs for their interest have laughingly scorned their advances. Why is it that only staffers are getting sucked into this vacuum? Is it any less of a vacuum for their being there?

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