An anatomy of Abbott’s army

8 Dec 2015

What unites the group of Liberals who want to steer the party away from its roots?

BACK in the early 1980s, a seemingly invincible Neville Wran strung together a series of Labor victories in New South Wales that left the Liberal Party teetering on the edge of irrelevance. The federal Coalition’s election loss in 1983 under Malcolm Fraser merely compounded the problem. Members were deserting the party in droves.

The inevitable review of the party – its structure, policies and membership – called for a radical rethink at grass roots level to make branch membership both attractive and meaningful, and to give branch members a greater say in party matters. A very senior Liberal had heard it all before and wearily predicted he would hear it again in his lifetime. Shaking his head, he confided to a group of incredulous journalists, safely off the record, “Have you seen the sort of people who attend Liberal Party branch meetings? Well-meaning souls no doubt, but if they were ever entrusted to running the country, we would see capital punishment back tomorrow, military conscription and immediate war with one or more countries…”

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