By Jon Malota & John Ruddick
The internal workings of the Liberal Party are unfair say some. Jon Malota and John Ruddick give us the lowdown on what happens and what needs to change.
All power in the Liberal Party originates with branches and from there, it is then delegated. The branch votes for delegates to pre-selections, to SECs and FECs, to State Council and to other forums. For 90% of party members, voting for a delegate is the beginning and the end of their say in the party. When someone contacts the Liberal Party to become a member, they want to do more than just vote for a delegate. We constantly lose good members after it dawns on them there is little benefit in their membership. Our party’s was put together in the 1940s. The delegate system was okay then because the branch chose delegates whom the branch could trust to vote for the good of the party. The Liberal Party was founded on a belief in promotion by merit… so it simply didn’t occur to our founders that small but well organised groups would manipulate the delegate system resulting in too many delegates owing greater loyalty to a faction than the party.
POWER IN THE NSW LIBERAL PARTY
The 23 members of the State Executive are effectively our ‘board of directors.’ The State Executive is elected by the 600 or so delegates to State Council and they are effectively our ‘shareholders.’ The State Executive and the State Council have a big say in who our candidates are for parliament. The rest of us are effectively nobodies other than voting for delegates once a year, handing out how to votes and paying membership fees.
Around 80% of delegates to State Council are from the branches (the remainder are delegates from the FECs and SECs, parliamentarians and a handful of others.) Every branch gets to send one delegate to State Council. It doesn’t matter if a branch has 120 members, regular meetings and an enthusiastic executive or a branch that is utterly inactive … each branch gets one delegate to State Council. The factions have thus calculated that the ideal branch has these characteristics listed on the following page:
- 10 members (the minimum required).
- A policy of automatically rejecting new members.
- Have the least amount of activity needed to maintain the technical validity of the branch… and thus its delegates.
- At the Annual General Meeting the faction arranges for the delegates from the branch to be obeyers. The delegate to State Council is given to someone who will hand over their ballot paper for State Executive elections to factional papers for last year’s state executive election were collected from delegates and subsequently filled in by others. An internal party investigation found that at least another 50 ballot papers had been whited-out and redone.’
Geoff Selig was the only president in my 20 years who made a serious effort to defang the factions. His reform paper in 2008 noted:
“Over 50% of all branches have 20 members or less… A great number of branches are inactive… 490 branches means a LOT of administration, bank accounts, financial returns, elections and disputes. State Council entitlements can be in-creased more effectively by establishing smaller branches than by growing membership.
For example, if 150 people join an existing branch then there is no additional representation on State Council. If 15 branches were established with 10 in each then they would receive an additional 15 state council delegates.”
“-Every party member given automatic membership of the State Electorate Conference (SEC) in which the member is enrolled with the Australian Electorate Commission (AEC).
-Automatic membership of the Federal Electorate Conference (FEC) in which the member is enrolled with the AEC.”
-The steps Malota and Ruddick outline to fix the Liberal Party.
We will rejuvenate the NSW Liberal Party in this manner:
- Every party member given automatic membership of the State Electorate Conference (SEC) in which the member is enrolled with the Australian Electorate Commission (AEC).
- Automatic membership of the Federal Electorate Conference (FEC) in which the member is enrolled with the AEC.
These are the necessary action required to reinvigorate the Liberal Party in things great state.