By all accounts, the weekend’s state council of the Victorian Liberal Party wasn’t very exciting. The main elections were uncontested, the PM’s speech was predictable – as The Age reports here – and the policy debates were as innocuous as ever. A proposal to pre-select candidates for non-existent seats was apparently toned down before being carried.
Unfortunately your psephologist has to rely on second-hand reports of all this because, although other media reports the event freely, as a Crikey representative I was denied entry on Saturday morning.
No, I wasn’t wearing a seven-foot foam Crikey suit or behaving improperly at all. I even rang during the week to ask about credentials and wasn’t told there was a problem. Nonetheless, a senior party official told me I was not welcome and, with the aid of a security guard, I was escorted me from the building.
Since he refused to offer any reasons I can only speculate, but my impression was that the objection was to Crikey rather than to me personally. It may have been a personal frolic by one official, or it may be that camp Costello is getting jittery about its image and thinks that it can wish internet media out of existence. It’s the Robert Mugabe approach to PR: don’t admit the journalists who might be critical of you.
Like most such exercises, it is counter-productive: this is a much more damaging story than anything I could have got from sitting in the gallery. It is all rather sad, because since the Costello group took over the party two years ago it has actually become more open in some respects.
For example, the agenda and standing orders for state council are now publicly available. But events like this show that there is a long way to go. In the words of one delegate (who of course had to come outside to talk to me), the party has “experienced a renaissance that has taken it from irrelevance to mediocrity.”
CRIKEY: We have put in a call to Robert Doyle’s press secretary for an explanation, without response. If this is Doyle’s idea of democracy, he should book the restaurant now for his farewell dinner (it gets busy towards the end of the year). Perhaps it could be a joint function with Melbourne’s other jittery man-on-the-gangplank, Andrew Jaspan?