There aren’t enough women in the parliamentary party and that is something that needs to be addressed …

Christopher Pyne

Christopher Pyne is usually an articulate man, but listen to the senior Liberal describe his concerns about merit-based preselection and you wouldn’t know it. In the above interview with The Advertiser, Pyne said candidates should be selected on merit, “unless you get to the point where we are at now”. That is, the merit-based approach has gotten the Liberal Party into a situation that requires abandoning the concept of merit. 

The argument around merit — usually mounted in response to criticism about a lack of women and attendant talk of quotas — is one that has haunted the Liberal Party for years. In the wake of claims of bullying and intimidation from several women in the party, the Liberals have been wrestling with how to boost their female membership. Despite this, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has steadfastly refused to entertain the idea of quotas. “I’m a merit person,” he said, Morrison-ly

But the issue is not likely to go away. If nothing else, it will continue to be something the Labor party use as a cudgel; the ALP introduced a quota system in the early nineties, and, all things going to plan, is likely to be dominated by women after the next election.

In this context, one must conclude that the preference for “merit” over quotas means a great deal to the Liberal Party. We looked at some of the men in their ranks and asked, is this what they mean by merit? 

James McGrath

McGrath recently bubbled up to the surface of the public debate when he tweeted “just because these selfish gits don’t have jobs doesn’t give them a right to deny jobs for Queenslanders” in response to a protest in front of Parliament House. What long haired layabouts where disrupting the hard workers of QLD? It was school children. Yes. That’s right. A grown man, paid six figures worth of public money every year to be a Queensland senator, called protesting school children “selfish gits” because they weren’t currently doing jobs.

Incidentally, McGrath knows a bit about the hardships of unemployment. He was previously a strategist for then-London mayor and giant scarecrow baby Boris Johnson. When asked by a journalist if Johnson’s victory would trigger a mass exodus of Caribbean migrants, McGrath said: “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.” He was “gob-smacked” after this lost him his job, telling The Australian, “I feel I have been unfairly set up in this whole thing”.

We can understand his confusion — the description “too racially insensitive for Boris Johnson” is one that few are forced to wear. 

Stuart Robert

If you want to join the conservatives, a history in business and the military looks great on the CV. Perhaps it’s Robert’s textbook pre-politics career that explains why the blunders detailed below have slowed, but not stopped, his steady rise up the ranks.

In 2016 it was revealed he had traveled to China to watch a friend, Liberal Party donor and Nimrod chairman Paul Marks, sign a deal with Chinese state-controlled company China Minmetals, leading to an embarrassing saga for the government. It later emerged that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had not been informed of the trip until Robert got back, and though he claimed to be there in a “private capacity” Chinese officials at the event appeared to believe he was representing the Australian government. He resigned his ministry, but not his seat.

Then, in 2017, it was revealed he had direct financial links with GMT Group, an IT company that received millions of dollars in government money — a possible breach of section 44. While that died down, it was revealed that Robert’s parents had been mysteriously made directors of GMT without their knowledge

In September this year Robert (who is now assistant treasurer) mixed up debt and deficit in a cringe-inducing Sky interview. In October he had to repay the nearly $38,000 he had overcharged taxpayers for his home internet bills. It was also revealed that he spends more that any other MP  — a touch under $17,000 — on personalised stationary. Because, of course he fucking does. 

Craig Kelly

One could fill a book with Kelly’s gaffe’s. He’s the apotheosis, the platonic ideal, of this interesting definition of merit — I mean, he must be, the party has saved him every time his preselection has come under threat. So we have to summarise:

  • Offered the prime minister’s best wishes to an event that celebrated Croatia’s period of collaboration with Nazi Germany
  • Described  “demonising” coal as “an act of treason”
  • Said that “nothing is going to bring back” children killed in the MH17 disaster and, as such, Russia’s involvement in the shooting down of the plane ought to be “looked over” for the sake of good international relations
  • Threatened to quit, just, all the time. And, time and time again, he is saved

These are just three examples of the kind of merit the Liberal Party are trying to preserve. There are bound to be more. If you have any more suggestions for our list, please write to us at [email protected].

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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