Don Corleone’s famous line “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” may account for the launch of two new Liberal Party publications this week. On Monday the prime minister launched The Party Room, edited by two Costello supporters from Victoria, Andrew Robb and Mitch Fifield. Two days later, the treasurer launched Looking Forward, edited by Andrew Southcott from the South Australian Right.

The Party Room is probably the more interesting of the two as it’s written exclusively by MPs (or at least in their names), ranging in the first issue from Brett Mason to Wilson Tuckey. This allows new policy ideas to be floated semi-officially. Its appearance is evidently part of John Howard’s new policy of tolerating slightly wider internal debate, which has also seen him make concessions to the Georgiou group on mandatory detention and endorse his factional opponent Chris McDiven as the party’s new president at this weekend’s Federal Council.

Looking Forward comes with a photo from the 1940s on its front cover; which seems curious but is explained by the fact that the title comes from an IPA publication quoted by Menzies at the time of the Liberal Party’s formation. Sure enough, most of the first issue actually looks backward, rehashing aspects of the Liberal Party’s history in somewhat tendentious fashion. (Costello’s remarks at the launch – reported here – were also in this vein, and are comprehensively answered by Bob Hawke in today’s Australian, here.

But even tendentious history is better than none at all (which is usually the alternative in the Liberal Party), and it also includes a call by Nick Minchin for drastic internal reform of the party. If independent thought really is still alive in the Liberal Party, it will be interesting to see which of the two journals will be the first to publish an article by Petro Georgiou.

Peter Fray

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