New South Wales

Feb 19, 2018

Abbott’s crusade to bring ‘democracy’ back to the Libs is misguided

The Warringah motion is most commonly spruiked as a way to ensure greater democracy within the Liberal Party by taking a one-member, one-vote approach to preselections. Here's the thing though ...

Claire Pullen

Freelance journalist

Last week, erstwhile PM Tony Abbott tried and failed -- again -- to pass the "Warringah motion", which would grant more control over preselections to rank-and-file New South Wales Liberal Party members. Much of the media reporting on the issue focused on the key players, but missed some of the politics, before disappearing entirely under the Barnaby Joyce saga.

The Warringah motion is most commonly spruiked as a way to ensure greater democracy within the Liberal Party by taking a one-member, one-vote approach to preselections. The idea is to give party members in a given seat, a vote in each preselection for that seat, and to give members across the state a vote in upper house preselection. Instead, a compromise "Bennelong motion" was passed, which granted party members some control of lower house preselection, despite the criticism of at least one minister. While newly installed Senator Jim Molan was “personally disappointed”, Abbott struck a slightly disingenuous note  in "urging members not to quit over the loss".

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12 thoughts on “Abbott’s crusade to bring ‘democracy’ back to the Libs is misguided

  1. Ertunc

    There is very little of what emanates from the Member for Warringah that I agree with, but this motion is surely one. Why shouldn’t grass roots members have their say as to who represents their party at election time? If the Liberal party is truly full of odious trogs like this article suggests, then why shouldn’t the electorate get to see, and decide whether to vote for that party on the basis of their true colours? Let the membership nominate their preferred flat-earth, climate denying, right wing knucklehead and let’s see what the community thinks. Instead we get Mr/Ms Reasonable as the respectable face of the LNP (Hello Prime Minister), who, after election, dismays us all with loopy policies (climate denial anyone?), not because it is what they believed, or indeed what the electorate believed they would get when they voted for them, but because of some back-room deal nobody but powerbrokers go a say on. The same goes for the ALP, where armies of young (and old), well intentioned and enthusiastic members have to hand out how-to-votes for some crusty old union hard-head who couldn’t give a fig for the public good. No wonder membership is falling across the board. Why join a party where you have no say, and apart from giving up your time for someone you don’t like, are treated like you have no actual function?

    1. thelorikeet

      um. Your ALP candidate is rarely crusty, old or union hard head. More likely young (ish) lawyer type or maybe worse, apparatchik who’s never had a job per se

      1. zut alors

        Heartily agree with your candidate profile.

        As much as I ache for Tony Abbott to be wrong, I agree the power must shift from the Liberal Party heavies. Surely if grassroot members have more input & influence it would encourage membership numbers – isn’t this what Party boffins want?

    2. Nudiefish

      You beat me to it.

      I heartily agree. In the evolution of ideas there is nothing wrong with the Libs putting up stir crazy candidates for a few election cycles to see them consistently washed out. Nothing like successive defeats to teach the loonies that they may need to have a rethink. If the Liberal party (or any other party) wants to stage manage democracy by taking choice away from party members the party system will fall into disarray. Somebody must do the dog work, parliamentarians will not do it.

      So, give power back to the party members and let the real battle of ideas begin. Just like the postal vote demonstrated, for all the world to see, that there is no silent majority out there in the electorate, the failure for ultra-conservatives to be accepted across the board might give the loonies pause for thought.

      1. Woopwoop

        The trouble is, the general public don’t follow politics as closely as do Crikey subscribers. They will vote for whoever the party they usually vote for puts up.

  2. John Goodwin

    We need to change our undemocratic voting system. Preferential voting forces citizens to give a vote to people/parties the find contemptible. In a true democracy your vote should be counted, not forced.

    1. Marjorie Carless

      I agree. Preferential voting is just another “backroom” tool for our political parties to negotiate better deals for themselves no matter how. Most of voters these days just can’t be bothered to place a tick on every individual name, one of the problems being we do not trust any of them to listen to us. It’s quite sickening to listen to every candidate in any election no matter of what persuasion rolling out the usual promises, the usual claptrap lies about caring for his constituents and spending millions of dollars to get or retain their jobs! Democracy…what a farce.

      1. AR

        In which jurisdiction (in Oz) does “can’t be bothered to place a tick on every individual name,” apply?
        Not even in OPV, unicameral Qld.

  3. AR

    The poisons that lurked in the mud of the Black Lubyanka of SussexSt during the Frazer interregnum finally burst out and were able to enforce a total control on preselection, local party be buggered.
    That gave us HawKeating, the Accord which began the steady – now permanent – collapse of workers wages and now the apotheosis, gumBoil Shlernt who actually pisses away working conditions for emoluments.
    Any grouping/party/mob is less than the sum of its parts, else the members would take the Marxist (Groucho tendency) position and remain unfettered individuals.
    If history teaches us nothing else, it is that the majority of people are never happier than when safely anonymous within a crowd.
    If offers freedom from responsibility for one’s own actions.
    Just like religion.

  4. aghast

    “This is not a matter for discussion.. This will be determined by MYSELF and Her Majesty the Queen.”
    “Sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than seek permission”
    There you have Democracy Tony Abbott style
    Seriously Democracy and “Captain’s Pick” Abbott in the same sentence
    Give me a break .. Since when has democracy been important ..? Only since he was given the flick ..
    Coincidence ..?? No ..just Sad Failed Tony grabbing headlines to stay relevant.

  5. klewso

    Abbott and his motions – he sounds like Christopher Robin.

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