Published on Webdiary - Founded and Inspired by Margo Kingston (/cms)

Death wish

By Fiona Reynolds
Created 29/03/2008 - 21:32

About a hundred years ago (well, 1978, to be more or less precise) I joined the Liberal Party. For me, that was a big step: I am not a joiner. I distrust organizations and (perhaps because I am an only child) have a preference for acting from reasons of integrity – probably a basis for loose alliances at best, rather than blind adherence to a predigested platform.

Nevertheless, I joined – despite having voted for the ALP in 1974 and 1975 (and I would have voted similarly in 1969 and 1972 had I been old enough). I joined for four main reasons: first, I was fed up with the thuggish behaviour of the union movement after Fraser’s second electoral victory (because that first victory is discountable for reasons that should be obvious to anyone with any knowledge of Oz political history); secondly, I was impressed by Fraser’s approach to the boat people (oh, what a contrast….); thirdly, I liked Fraser’s environmental stance – think Fraser Island, whaling, the Ranger inquiry; and finally, I appreciated Fraser’s lack of hubris despite having control of the Senate.

I remained a member well into the 1980s – and (probably because of where I was working) even scored an invite to – and attended – the H.R Nicholls Society’s first annual dinner (yes, I do remember Mr Howard’s belated appearance there). Then, for a whole host of reasons – but largely because of disillusionment with the internecine warfare between Howard and Peacock (was he Australia’s first two-dimensional pollie, or am I really naïve?) – I didn’t renew. Indeed, I switched my vote back to the ALP, and kept voting for them in the House, while voting Democrat in the Senate, until 1996.

1996 – that watershed (Watership Down?) year. Like many others, I switched to the Coalition. Like many others, I find it difficult now to understand how stupid I was; how gullible to think that John Winston Howard had truly changed his spots.

Never again. Despite applauding his stance on gun control (now, why couldn’t he have imparted some of that fervour to Dubya?), I found myself totally unable to support the Lib/Nat coalition.

For me, the Liberal Party under Howard was divisive – a party for the haves who wanted more, rather than Menzies’ party for the forgotten people.

And it seems to me that many so-called Liberal members of federal parliament haven’t yet understood the divisive and ultimately destructive nature of the party to which they adhere.

Since the 2007 election, there has been a great deal of soul-searching among the ranks of the federal Liberal party. Some of it has made its way into print – and here I am being selective: I haven’t saved every piece by every writer. Nevertheless, here is Glenn Milne [1] – admittedly not an admirer of Howard, but certainly not of the “left”, and from a rather different perspective, here’s Annabel Crabb [2].

What’s more important, however, is what the Party members – and possible members – say of themselves. This is Marise Payne’s take [3] on the situation, recently retired Federal MP Bruce Baird’s suggestions [4], and an interesting comment from a potential young member of the Party [5].

And what’s even more important is what the Party is actually doing. What about the fiasco regarding Federal MP Scott Morrison’s membership of his local branch? [6] Not to mention the challenge that my own MP Petro Georgiou [7] is facing? But then, self-interest should always – under current Liberal philosophy – outweigh Party interest any time...

Not happy, Brendan.

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