Last week’s Young Liberal federal council changed the dynamics of the party’s factions – but how long will the new alignments last? Tiny Tina and Little John were there with the junior Libs and report on the aftermath.
The Young Liberal AGM was more than just political theatre, it represented a realignment of the factions at a young liberal level.

Last Sunday’s result was the inevitable consequence of a decade of infighting between the dominant factions in the Liberal Party – the “National Right” who have historically included a mixture of conservatives, libertarians, new right and Nut Bar types and the Moderates who have always been a rainbow coalition from classical Whigs to socialist left.

For over a decade, the National Right has been bitterly divided between hard right views in NSW, the ACT and WA and the more centrist attitudes in Victoria and Queensland. In previous years the election of garden variety nutters like WA’s Marc Dale and the ACT’s Danny Clode left a bitter taste for the more reasonable elements within the National Right.

This is not the first time those tensions have bubbled over splitting the National Right. The mid 1990s saw a very public split along similar geographic and philosophical lines, with the Victorian and Queensland mainstream disaffiliating from what had become an extremist Australian Liberal Students’ Federation, dominated by WA and the NSW Right, whose President described women getting the vote as the thin edge of the wedge, and who advocated for other electorally popular causes like abolition of public health care, the abolition of Aboriginal welfare and the reinstatement of God Save the Queen as Australia’s National Anthem.

Similarly, the antipathy between more liberal South Australian moderates and the hard core left in NSW has been legendary. The public knifing of Marise Payne’s grouping including the underwhelming Andrew Constance within the left by Tony Chappell and Ben Franklin has changed the balance of power within the moderates nationally, making them politically acceptable to many in the National Right.

But in politics the enemies within the faction are usually far graver than those from outside. The election of Muller and Chappell was a triumph of merit against a tide of factional infighting and incompetence. They are without doubt the most competent President/Vice President team elected in living memory, and few on any side would be wise to challenge their authority without expecting a bloody nose from their minders for their trouble.

The big loser of the weekend was Conrad Xanthos and his rag tag team of opportunists. The low point for Conrad was during his vote of thanks to Denis Napthine when he announced that he looked forward to working with Napthine as Federal President, when there will still seven candidates and a ballot to be held.

He walked into the AGM with 4 votes and a rapidly diminishing ego. His four numbers were less than half the votes received by Louise Staley in the Casey preselection, it’s a pitiful showing even by the low standards of the Howley/Poggioli/Staley/Davis/Xanthos group of rebel outcastes.

With the Conrad faction quickly disintegrating, it is clear they can not survive unless they cut Conrad and Dave Phillips loose and move to quickly distance themselves from David Davis.

Peter Fray

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