“It is simply not possible to turn the Canberra Liberals around with leadership from the current Zed Seselja-dominated faction and management committee,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
THE Canberra Liberals need to sack their management committee and start again. The only way for them to effectively heed the lessons of the last two elections is to make a fresh start.
A fresh start is needed both within the party and within the ACT Legislative Assembly members.
Without a clean sweep, the Canberra Liberals will remain complacent, building a political party that is not engaged and is out of touch with the vast majority of Canberrans. For more than a couple of decades there has been a systematic effort to undermine moderates and to build a more conservative party.
It is simply not possible to turn the party around with leadership from the current Zed Seselja-dominated faction and management committee. Senator Seselja was rejected by Canberrans and that rejection ought to be carried through to the management committee.
It is no accident that the Canberra Liberals have become more and more conservative. The management committee has been systematically rejecting applications to join the Canberra Liberals by people who have spoken out against conservatism before lodging an application.
Imagine the damage to be done by someone applying to join a political party that is struggling for members and then being rejected! The concept of the “broad church” has given way to conservative values. Instead of building a party more in line with the values of the Canberra community, they have supported a narrow, right-wing agenda.
The conservatives in the federal parliament, including Seselja, demonstrated how out of touch they are with the rest of Australia when they rejected the right of elected parliaments of the territories to have the power to determine what is best for their own communities. This is despite the ACT being the first Australian jurisdiction to introduce legislation on voluntary assisted dying. Ironically, only the territories, of all Australian jurisdictions, no longer have such legislation in place.
Being so far out of touch was further demonstrated by the revelations through the ABC RMIT “Fact Check” regarding conservative lobby group Advance Australia. Deceitful, dirty tricks politics in an attempt to save Seselja backfired. The directors and staff of Advance Australia in the ACT included Seselja’s close political allies and their staffers along with other group leaders who were directly related to the then senator.
The Australian Electoral Commission found that signage of Advance Australia was in breach of Section 329 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The electoral commission pointed out that “it is an offence to publish… any matter or thing that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of a vote”.
The push-polling call many of us received on the morning of the election from Advance Australia was a pathetically amateur and blatant last-minute attempt to swing voters to reject David Pocock and to vote Liberal in the Senate. This also backfired. The Canberra electorate is more sophisticated than to fall for such a barefaced attempt.
Lack of trust in our politicians has been growing exponentially and dishonesty and deceit of this kind simply feed into that distrust. The Canberra Liberals need a fresh start. They must build trust. They need to put a broom through the management committee and reject anyone who played any part in this sort of behaviour.
Canberra no longer has Liberal representation at the Federal level. However, the fall from grace goes further. The Canberra Liberals ought to have been able to replace a tired, long-term government at the last ACT election. However, for too many Canberrans the leader and the majority of candidates were just too conservative.
The only thing that provided a light at the end of the tunnel is that the Hare-Clark system with an enhanced Robson Rotation, as used in the ACT, did allow moderates to be elected in a disproportionate number despite the wishes of the leadership of the Canberra Liberals.
The importance of a strong opposition as a key element in an effective democracy ought not be underestimated. The party policy platforms that put restrictions around the current ACT Assembly Liberals need to be reviewed. This will provide an opportunity for the Liberal MLAs who have two years to prove that they have learnt the lessons and to rebuild the confidence and trust of the community.
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006. There is more of Moore at citynews.com.au
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor