Liberal Party must change with politics

Factionalism, a mystery to just about everyone outside the political class, was the root cause for the vote-losing debacle surrounding the preselection of candidates in a swag of key marginal seats in NSW. Winnable electorates such as Bennelong, Eden Monaro, Hughes, Warringah and Parramatta were left without candidates until two minutes to midnight, while faction warlords argued through the courts and in Liberal Party backrooms.


Like many other organizations embarrassed by low membership, finding out how many members the Liberal Party has is pretty much impossible. By my calculations the answer is about 40,000. How many are financial members is unclear. That’s 40,000 members out of the 17.5 million Australians on the electoral roll. That’s a pathetic 0.23 percent, barely recognizable on the political Richter scale.

The inescapable truth is the Liberal Party is not a mass-membership organisation. It should be and likes to intend it is. Nowhere was that more apparent than during the recent six-week campaign in many of the now-teal seats, where Liberal Party workers were hopelessly outnumbered. Desperate SOS messages from frazzled party organizers were flying around to get volunteers out. Well-intentioned for sure, but too little too late. The horse had bolted, reflected in a sea of ​​teal that dominated their strategically cherry-picked seats.

Feet on the ground for the ALP, the Greens and other left-leaning parties are augmented by trade unions and allied organizations – and GetUp. According to its website, GetUp has 1 million members – more than 20 times the size of the Liberal Party. Even if it’s half of that, it’s 10 times more than the combined membership of the Liberal Party in six states and two territories.

Let’s get this point out in the open. Factions and their leaders do not like members, other than the members they control. Try and suggest a membership drive to double the size of the Liberal Party. For all the worst reasons, that is viewed far more as a threat than an opportunity.


For those who say the Liberal Party was let down by the defeated Morrison government, the truth is more that the government was let down by the Liberal Party.

For the Liberal Party, four core KPIs stand out for which failure is not an option – a large membership, the orderly conduct of preselections, putting feet on the ground between and especially during election campaigns, and successful fundraising. In NSW, at least, the Liberal Party failed at all four. Anecdotal feedback from other states and territories tells a similar story. More importantly, only do the results.

Scott Morrison has rightly taken the rap for failure at the polls. That goes with the job. But he and the large number of candidates who were either defeated as sitting or aspiring members need to call out the abject organizational failure for which the Liberal Party machine is responsible.

The exciting news is there is a solution. But that can only follow a forensic post-mortem and willingness on the part of factional players to focus on the party’s core roles and essential reforms. That’s the big call.

Australian politics has just changed forever. It’s now time for the Liberal Party to change forever.

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