Grassroots 1

JULY 2020

From the Editor

Welcome to the first edition of “Grassroots”! 

Grassroots is an initiative of volunteer members of the Liberal Party. 

The purpose of Grassroots is to provide an engaging forum for volunteer Liberal Party members to share and discuss original policy ideas, successful membership development strategies, successful fundraising projects and engagement activities, and the celebration of success. 

Grassroots will also provide an avenue for MPs to report on current high-interest parliamentary and electorate work. 

The genesis of Grassroots is the need for Party members, particularly volunteer members, to have a voice within the Party. This has always been very important and has never been more important than now during the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, where face-to-face gatherings and interchange are not possible, and on present indications, may not be possible in Victoria for a very long time. 

Members are invited to submit contributions including brief notices of upcoming Party events and Letters to the Editor at: [email protected]

The Grassroots website can be found at grengagement.com

Eden Monaro by-election

by Senator Jim Molan AO DSC
Senator for NSW

As I write this, the counting continues for the Eden-Monaro by-election but our candidate, Fiona Kotvojs has conceded. As I said when introducing Fiona before her speech on Saturday evening, the voters of Eden-Monaro have spoken. At that time we were not too sure what they had said, but now we know. By a very small margin, Kristy McBain (Labor) has won, and I congratulate her. It was a great disappointment that the hard work of Fiona Kotvojs was not rewarded, and the policies of government were not clearly reinforced by an extra Liberal Member in the House, at least on this occasion. 

However, Labor should have been at least 4% ahead of us on day one given what traditionally happens in a by-election, and they are actually behind on primary votes and only just ahead (730 out of 114,000 votes, 0.46%) on two party preferred. For the reasons we all know, we had a stumbling start and were a month behind Labor. Our delayed start was primarily due to the democratic process we Liberals enjoy to choose, for the second time, Fiona Kotvojs through a democratic plebiscite process involving all eligible Liberal Party members of the electorate, the first time this has occurred officially (not a ‘trial’) in a NSW lower house federal Liberal seat. That we have plebiscites is a result of the NSW Division adopting the basis of the Democratic Reform Movement’s long campaign to give significance to members. Compare this to the Labor process which merely imposes a candidate chosen by the leader on local party members. Labor has not had a preselection in Eden Monaro since 2004, so no chance of branch stacking there as we have seen with Labor in Victoria. 

Our primary vote is significantly ahead of Labor’s by over 1000 votes, Labor and the Greens went backwards by a combined total of about 6%, the Nats received a little less than they did in the last general election, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, supposedly a conservative party in name, sold out to Labor and the Greens, something that every real shooter, fisher and farmer in Eden-Monaro should remember. 

Those who whipped up a storm about the importance of ideological climate change to Eden Monaro voters (ie Labor and the Greens) as distinct from effective steps to counter climate change as is the Coalition’s policy, and those who claimed the performance of the Coalition Government during the fires (again Labor and the Greens) need to explain why the Green and Labor vote went backwards, why more people voted informally than voted for the Greens, and why Fiona won Cobargo, where supposedly there was antipathy towards us. Cobaro’s results were Libs 247 (+6.65%), Lab 218 (-9.05%), SFF 23, Greens 62, Nats 4. 

It’s time to dump Labor, not toxic soil!

by Beverley McArthur MP
Member for Western Victoria

There is no better example of the Labor Government’s utter contempt for anything, anyone and anywhere beyond the tram tracks of Melbourne, than their consideration to dump toxic soil from the West Gate Tunnel project in Bacchus Marsh. 

Like much of my electorate of Western Victoria, Bacchus Marsh and the surrounding area is prime agricultural land and a vital food bowl of the state. The farmland between Bacchus Marsh and Werribee grows 83 per cent of the state’s cauliflower, 53 per cent of the state’s broccoli and 34 per cent of the state’s lettuce. 

Now, the Andrews Government is considering dumping soil contaminated with PFAS chemicals from the West Gate Tunnel project in Maddingley Brown Coal, a landfill site in Bacchus Marsh. The Parwan Creek flows through Maddingley Brown Coal and into the Werribee River, which is a source of irrigation water, raising genuine concerns regarding chemicals leeching into waterways and contaminating food production. There are also large residential areas, two schools, recreational centres and nursing homes, all in close proximity. 

The Bacchus Marsh community is totally opposed to this scandalous proposal – not that it matters to the Labor Government who likely see the electorates of Melton and Buninyong as ‘safe’ seats and thus pay no attention to their concerns. This has been made very evident to the community by the complete failure to consult and respond to the community since day one. 

In late February, I spoke against the proposal at a public town hall meeting in front of hundreds of Bacchus Marsh locals, where Melton and Buninyong MPs Steve McGhie and Michaela Settle refused to pledge their opposition to the dumping. A few weeks later, I spoke at a rally in Bacchus Marsh attended by over 1500 people, where all other MPs, including four ALP & 2 cross benchers, refused to turn up. 

On March 18, the Legislative Council passed an Opposition motion condemning the plan, which was supported by all 11 cross bench MPs. This has rarely happened before, in a motion condemning the government. 

The most recent development was on June 30, when Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio introduced a statutory regulation which has the effect of disapplying important sections of the EPA Act, which took effect the following day. The consequences were a significant watering down of environmental protections surrounding the storage of potentially contaminated soil, including the removal of the currently required licence process, and a reduction from 500m to 200m of the buffer zone required between sensitive land use and houses, health services and schools. Like most decisions by this Government, it was made on a whim, with no notice, community consultation or regard for democracy. The Legislative Council has the unique power of disallowing statutory regulations with a majority vote, but of course that is impossible when the Premier isn’t interested in holding Parliament, referring to it as just a “political game”. 

The Government sees the toxic soil as the one obstacle to fulfilling their political promise of the West Gate Tunnel – which is already overtime and overbudget – and will stop at nothing to ram it through, even if it means sacrificing the future of the Bacchus Marsh community. 

As Liberals, we must continue to fight this atrocious plan at every turn, against the centralised Government for Melbourne and its bureaucrats, who seek to override the interests of individuals and communities. 

We must convince Victorians on the urban fringe to the west of Melbourne, that it’s time to dump Labor, not toxic soil.

Flinders FEC COVID-19 Webinar with Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for Health

by Peter Rawlings
Chair of Flinders FEC

WEBINAR REPORT

Over 500 Party members joined the Minister for Health the Hon Greg Hunt MP Member for Flinders, for a webinar on COVID-19 on Thursday evening 16 July. The webinar, hosted by Flinders FEC and anchored by Chairman Peter Rawlings, was hugely successful, there being over 500 Party members on line. The largest webinar conducted in the Victorian Division. 

Minister Hunt commenced his address by noting that the COVID-19 epidemic is the most difficult time in Australia since World War 2. 

The Minister outlined the key elements of the Australian response to COVID-19 in some detail under the following headings: 

1. Containment 

2. Testing 

3. Tracing 

Minister Hunt discussed the recent deteriorating situation in Victoria and particularly the Federal Government’s ADF contribution in response, including a 1 Star General, a Colonel and 1,000 military personnel. The Minister made particular note of the federal government’s commitment to supporting Melbourne and all of Victoria in its hour of need. 

The Minister highlighted the rapid take-up of Tele-health and noted that it has been the largest change in the health system in Australia since Medicare. There have been 19 million consultations by Tele-health to date. 

Minister Hunt highlighted the need for and delivery of high-level care and support for persons in aged care settings. He noted the enormous increase in hospital capacity in response to COVID-19, and particularly the rapid increase in the number of ventilators from 2,200 to 7,500. 

Minister Hunt responded in detail to a raft of questions and concluded by stating that Prime Minister Scott Morrison set out to keep Australia together through the introduction of the National Cabinet, the work of which has been highly successful in saving thousands of Australian lives. He further noted the critical role of the Treasurer the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Member for Kooyong, particularly in relation to the economic response. 

The webinar concluded with the following message from the Flinders FEC Chairman. 

Statement by the Chairman of Flinders FEC – Peter Rawlings 

“In late March, the Prime Minister and Minister Hunt, made the right, the strategic and timely decision to bring Australia into a period of lockdown. 

It would be a further two months after that – that the Victorian Division was to have held its mid-year State Council, the most important weekend on our Division’s calendar. 

Sadly, a further two months on, we are still in a period of hiatus. 

With the Administrative arm of our Party unable to find a solution to our problem, how do we find a way to allow our 1,000 plus delegates to receive reports and to have a ballot? 

When World Leaders, National and Federal Cabinets can meet in a virtual manner. 

When a Federal By-election and our upcoming Victorian Local Council Elections can proceed. 

When major companies around the Nation can hold their shareholder meetings and AGMs electronically. 

Our Constitution was written to help our great Party function, not to dis-function. 

Please find a way to bring on a State Council as is required by the Constitution and then let’s all move forward with the confidence of all Party Members. 

Can I suggest that tonight we have seen the model of how we can hold a meeting with potentially over a 1,000 people – this should inspire as to the possibility of returning our internal Party democracy. 

We have a duty to help with the recovery and our leadership can be an exemplar for Australia. 

If our Parliament can run an election as well as meet, then I truly believe that our Party can run an election in concert with our most sacred values and to honour our membership.”

Labor is slaughtering our history!

by Edward Bourke

Since Premier Andrews was elected in 2014, the war on Victorian heritage and culture has intensified, as new targets are sought and more icons are destroyed. 

The latest target for Premier Andrews’ toxic destruction is Victoria’s precious Brumby population. 

The heritage horses that joined us in pioneering and in war, have been deemed by the Premier’s scientific henchmen to be incompatible with Victoria’s national parks. This conclusion has been reached with little scientific evidence, no independent scrutiny, and no community consultation. 

However, Premier Andrews has never been one to worry about the concerns of Victorians. Indeed, this issue has allowed the Andrews government to explore another of its agendas – attacking country Victorians and rural communities. 

The High Country Brumbies are a deeply valued part of rural Victoria’s identity, and ignite a generations-old passion in the local communities. These communities have spoken proudly in defence of these majestic animals. Those that live and breathe the land tell decisively of the damage that feral pigs and deer cause to the alpine environment, but dismiss outright the idea that the limited populations of Brumbies cause any issue whatsoever. 

The sad fact, that Premier Andrews and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio so intensely hide, is that Victoria is in the grips of a feral deer epidemic. There are now an estimated one million feral deer roaming Victoria’s landscapes, dwarfing the Brumby population which is believed to be as low as six thousand state-wide. 

The Andrews government is not fighting to save the environment. Rather, it’s fiercely working to break the spirits of our rural communities, to degrade our shared history, and break our joint identity as Victorians. 

The Brumbies represent everything that Victoria was built on; mateship, determination, sacrifice, and survival. That is what Premier Andrews and his ministerial lackeys seek to destroy. 

The great MP and Brumby warrior Bev McArthur, summed up the Andrews government agenda perfectly when she slammed the planned slaughter. 

“This plan is emblematic of this government’s preoccupation with matters inside the tram tracks of Melbourne, [and] their disdain for country life outside the tram tracks,” she said. 

It’s vital that, as Liberals, we stand tall and defend our grassroots. Victoria wasn’t built from the skyscrapers of Collins Street. It was built from those country communities that Premier Andrews now seeks to erode. That is something that we must never allow to happen.

Rust Bucket State

by James Mathias
Chief of Staff, Menzies Research Centre

It was the early 90’s under the Kirner Labor Government that Victoria was labelled the ‘rust bucket state’. 

The term represented the Victorian plight; significant budget deficits, billions in debt, a bloated public service and a hollowed-out manufacturing sector. It was December of 1992 when new Premier Jeff Kennett inherited a 12 per cent unemployment rate well above the national rate especially compared with NSW. 

Each day, under this current Premier, the undeniable truth is that Victoria moves closer to once again being labelled the ‘rust bucket state’ a position reminiscent of the early 90’s. 

The second round of Victorian lockdowns caused by the avoidable mismanagement of COVID-19 outbreaks all but confirm that any economic recovery Australia sees in the next two quarters will be without any input from Victoria. 

Unemployment in Victoria has been increasing since November last year. Victoria had already broken through an unemployment figure higher than 5 per cent in January whereas in NSW the figures only went past 5 per cent in April. 

The precarious nature of the state’s budget further imbeds a position of weakness to deal with any future shocks. The significance of the current $800 million budget deficit is exacerbated by the weak revenue base upon which it stands. 

The Andrews Government in 2018-19 made 7 times more revenue from fines than royalties. By 2022-23 fine revenue is expected to grow by almost $200 million to $960 million whereas growth in royalties will increase by just $17 million. 

Given the mining and exploration sectors are the beacons of hope within the national economy as they continue to maintain record production and employment, Victoria all but misses out on any income or reward from its continued strength. 

One of the only areas of employment growth in Victoria has been to the Public Service which over the last 4 years has added some 46,000 additional workers to its payroll. The bill for all these additional workers has grown from $19 to 26.6 billion per year. An increase of 40 per cent. The public service wage bill is the largest expense of the Andrews Government. 

In 1992, Kennett was faced with a $2.2 billion budget deficit and Government debt of $33 billion. The Andrews Government budget papers confirm that debt is expected to reach $49.3 billion this year which was forecast before a further $24.5 billion was borrowed by the Government in April for COVD-19 measures. 

With the further lock-down in Victoria costing the state economy an extra $1 to $2.5 billion a week according to IFM Investors chief economist Alex Joiner, questions about the intensity of the Victorian government’s response must be asked. 

The mortality rate has been far lower than the forecasted, even despite this recent outbreak in Victoria. For example, the death toll in Victoria from COVID-19 stands at 38. Each death is tragic, however if the death rate from COVID-19 in the UK had applied in Victoria, more than 4,200 would have lost their lives. 

Daniel Andrews needs to be more definitive about the intended goal of further lockdowns relative to the associated costs given that total eradication is unrealistic. The harsh reality is that the cost of pursuing such an absolute protection-first strategy is at the loss of more jobs, the collapse of more businesses and the further curtailment of liberties and lifestyles. 

Already, pre-COVID-19, Victoria was well on its way towards being once again the ‘rust bucket state’. The unstable economy built on public sector growth and unsustainable budget revenue was always going to come off second best to the shock of COVID-19 and the first round of lockdowns. The second round could prove to be devastating for years to come.

Local Government Elections

by Cr Cynthia Watson
President, Local Government Council

In business the concept of ‘vertical integration’ is well understood. This concept also applies to politics and is a strategy that is actively pursued by Labor and the Greens. Traditionally, the Liberal Party has turned its back on Local Government and we are paying the price in Victoria. There are currently only 62 Liberal Councillors of a total of 637 or 9% of a tier of government which spends $10.5 billion dollars every year on services and infrastructure. Victorian local government politics is dominated by ideological virtue signalling by the loony left of politics who promote everything from banning Australia Day, to Nuclear Weapon Disarmament and declaring Climate Change emergencies. We need more Liberal councillors with Liberal values serving in local government, making policies, setting budgets and supporting local economies to deliver good government for all Victorians. 

What are we up against in 2020? Labor, the Greens and several minor parties such as Animal Justice and Reason are endorsing candidates. They are well organised and support candidates financially. Labor use local government budgets and grants funding to pork barrel in Labor electorates. The Greens use local government to spruik their ideology and virtue signal to raise the profile of Greens policies in the community. Labor and the Greens also use the local knowledge and resources Councillors have available to them to great effect in supporting candidates at state and federal elections. It is no accident that Sarah Henderson lost Corangamite to the Labor Surf Coast Shire Councillor Libby Coker, or that we just lost the Eden-Monaro by-election to a local Labor Mayor. 

The Liberal Party Local Government Council set a goal to see 120 (20%) Liberals elected to local councils in October 2020. We have trained 150 candidates in the Future Councillors program thus far and are on track to see 104 liberals elected across Victoria. Our goal is in sight and we continue to train and empower candidates through the Future Councillors community, and are being supported by the amazing Letterboxing Army which continues to grow. This grassroots local government initiative is being run by volunteers on a zero budget and the goodwill of many Party members. We have every reason to be hopeful for a good election result at the 2020 elections. Increasing the number of Councillors with Liberal values will change local government in Victoria, and refocus the Liberal Party in Victoria on the value and fundamental necessity of having strong representation in local government.
 

What have we done so far?

1. Set up 8 Regional Campaign Team Leaders
2. Trained 110 Future Councillors
3. Created Support Networks for Future Councillors (eg. Future Councillors Facebook Page)
4. Developing and delivering additional training forums for Future Councillors
5. Created a Campaign Toolbox for candidates
6. Creates a Letterbox Army to help candidates deliver campaign material 

Democracy is under attack!

by Edward Bourke

COVID-19 is currently the driving force behind the Victorian news cycle. However, while COVID-19 most certainly poses a serious danger to our citizens, there is a far more pervasive and insidious agenda being ignored – the destruction of democracy. 

The disintegration of democracy globally and locally is in full swing, and the Coronavirus crisis has emboldened big-government advocates to implement their destructive plans to alienate and disenfranchise grassroots voters. 

Indeed, we are no doubt all aware of some global examples of this tyranny. The recent Hong Kong security laws have seen Beijing clampdown on basic freedoms and pandemic lockdowns across the world are decimating economies and lives. However, it’s vital to remember that the erosion of rights begins in your own backyard. 

Victoria is in the grips of a spiralling big-government insurrection into the lives of Victorians. Premier Andrews has taken it upon himself to demolish the free agency of Victorians across the State. It is no longer the decision of Victorians if they send their children to school, open their cafe, or even go to their own office. Premier Andrews has restricted those basic rights, which all have manageable risks. 

It’s not surprising, of course, that the Labor Party are so intent on destroying our democratic rights. Indeed, they refuse to uphold democratic principles even within their own party. Plagued by rampant branch stacking, ALP members have recently been informed that they have been stripped of their voting rights until 2023 as the Federal Party Administration takes complete control of the future of Labor in Victoria. 

Victorians must ask the question: if Labor is willing to strip the rights of their own branch members, what are they willing to do to ordinary voters? 

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy. Elections give citizens a voice in their government in the most fundamental way: by deciding who governs. 

The highly revered Australian leader and former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, once lamented that “we have become so accustomed to democracy in Australia that we take it for granted”. 

Now is the time to realise the importance of our democratic values, freedoms and rights, whether it be internationally, locally, or in a political organisation. The very essence of what we have built as a nation is at risk. 

The destabilisation of our society and the destruction of our freedoms has begun. We must never allow it to succeed. It’s not just our future that is at risk – it’s everything we have ever fought for. 

Sir Robert Menzies fought to create an Australia where we could all rely on our freedoms. Now it’s time for us to step up and keep that ideal alive. 

Fraser FEC Meeting with the Senators 

by Pastor Seyi Oluwasola
Chairman of Fraser FEC

WEBINAR REPORT

With restrictions imposed on physical gathering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fraser FEC recently hosted a Zoom meeting, attended by two Federal Senators; namely Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson and Senator the Hon Jane Hume. 

A lot of issues were addressed at the meeting. Senator Henderson started by commending the Scott Morrison government on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She mentioned that it was no doubt a crisis on two fronts, on the economic and on the health front. She attributed the incredible early results to the quick shutting of our borders particularly through the closing of off flights between China and Australia. She highlighted the enormous amount of planning, projection and coordination which has gone into the government response, especially with the JobKeeper, JobSeeker, Homebuilder programs and the ability for people to make early withdrawals from superannuation. 

After this initial contribution by Sarah, Senator Jane Hume came up to affirm that Australia has done extremely well during these unusual times. At the beginning of the year, the IMF was even forecasting the Australian economy to grow faster than Japan, the US, Germany, France, Singapore, and the UK. She further gave the following highlights: 

  • We’ve had a higher level of female participation in the workforce than we’ve ever had before. 
     
  • We’ve had one of the lowest levels of welfare dependency than we’ve seen in over 30 years and we had our first balanced budget in 11 years. 
     
  • Australia’s COVID-19 deaths equate to 0.03% of the worlds’ global casualties, so we have done really well. We’ve had an effective response to the health crisis, but it has come at an economic cost because in order to deal with the health crisis we’ve had to impose all sorts of restrictions on the economy, on peoples’ movements and activities.
     
  • When we were putting together these packages, it was a matter of putting together three budgets in a period of 5 weeks, and everybody really pitched in and worked together, the ATO, ASIC, DHS, and it’s incredible to see what can be achieved when you have all your agencies, businesses, banks, all rowing in the same direction. 
     
  • In answer to a question asked regarding the fact that Australia is officially in recession, Sarah mentioned that we have had negative growth of 0.3% but compared to other developed countries we are doing incredibly well with the US -1.3%, China -9.8%, and the UK -2%. 
     
  • In another question on early access to superannuation ending in September, Senator Jane replied that efforts are ongoing to clearly define the circumstances by which people can access their own savings and that the program was a temporary measure to relieve financial pain. 
     
  • Finally, Councillor Cynthia Watson reminded the house on the upcoming Local government elections taking place in October and that we need greater Liberal involvement because of the strategic role local government plays in the general scheme of things. 

The meeting was well attended and very successful. It ended on a very good note with people expressing happiness at the way things have gone thus far.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Grassroots Letters to the Editor column will provide a unique and much-needed forum for member voice. 

Letters to the Editor must include the author’s name and contact details. Authors may request anonymity in which case their name will not be published. 

The views of the editor and contributors as expressed in Grassroots are exclusively those of the individual contributor. 

Please feel free to send Grassroots on to others. 

Thanks are extended to all contributors to this first edition of Grassroots! 

Grassroots is sponsored by the Essendon Branch of the Liberal Party.