The Liberal Party is nothing if not democratic : perhaps it’s closer to being nothing after what happened over the Craig Kelly preselection for the NSW seat of Hughes.
Last year the Liberal party in NSW voted on what came to be known as the Warringah Motion sponsored by Tony Abbott and vigorously supported by temporary senator, Jim Molan.
The so-called Warringah motion was designed to reform the Liberal preselection process and ensure a members’ plebiscite to select candidates for state and federal seats in NSW. The motion passed 748 votes to 476 at a party convention in Sydney in July last year.
Tony Abbott emerged victorious from the NSW Liberal Party convention after his motion to give party members a greater say in selecting candidates was passed. “This, gives grassroots members more power in selecting candidates,” Abbott said. He went on to say that it would create a more democratic Liberal Party and end the potential for corruption : “It’s a clear road ahead to one member one vote preselections, a clear road ahead to a democratic political party which is controlled by its members not by lobbyists, not by factionists, not by strong pullers.”
“I think this is a great day for the NSW Liberal Party. And because it’s been a great day for the NSW Liberal Party, I think it will be good for our Government in Canberra and I think it will be very good for Australia” Abbott concluded.
So, a jubilant Tony Abbott must have been a bit non-plussed when this new era of democratic preselections was thrown under a bus at the first available opportunity, essentially to preserve a numpty by the name of Craig Kelly who is nominally the member for Hughes in the federal parliament. Nominally because he seems to spend more time waffling on the Sky-after-dark Muppet Show than he does making a useful contribution to our parliament.
When the preselectors in Hughes were showing signs of getting themselves a decent local member in the lead up to the 2019 election, Kelly made it known that if he was dumped by the grass roots membership, he would go to the cross-benches for the remainder of this parliamentary term and further erode the authority of this already lame minority government ; perhaps even bring the government down .
Our prime minister acknowledging the power of the Right, in an act of desperation, capitulated and decided that expedience was the way to go and that preselections by the grass roots Liberal membership was all very well but only when they do as they are told. Clearly in Hughes they were not prepared to preselect Craig Kelly, so our action-man prime minister quite incredibly called on the NSW Liberal party executive to scrap all democratic processes and re-endorse all sitting members – including of course, Kelly – without the need for the messy and inconvenient involvement of the party membership : and that’s just what they did.
Ironically, the Warringah Motion was promoted as broadening the democratic processes within the Liberal party which in turn it was thought would boost branch membership, a win win it was suggested.
The question is, when the executive of a political party are prepared to scrap their own democratic principles and processes to appease threats of blackmail from a person like Craig Kelly, is that the sort of party with which you would wish to associate yourself ?