From the Editor
Welcome back to Grassroots!
Grassroots has been in recess temporarily due to other demands upon the Grassroots team; including, but not limited to, the recent local government elections. More about that later.
Given the current state of malaise besetting the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party, the Grassroots team believes that our newsletter is needed more than ever. The Grassroots team hope that readers find edition four of our newsletter informative, challenging and stimulating.
If ever there was justification for a publication like Grassroots, we only need to look to the manner in which the Victorian Division is being led and administered today. The Victorian Division is beset with a state president and his allies on the administrative committee who believe that they can stay on indefinitely, and long after their elected term expired on 23 May 2020, under the cover of COVID-19 government restrictions on public gatherings, and a particular interpretation of the Constitution.
The removal of democratic decision making and all opportunities for discussion and debate by the Administrative Committee, particularly through disallowing State Assembly and State Council, has placed the Victorian Division in a weakened, intolerable and unsustainable position.
Disturbingly the Victorian Division is now racked by division and dysfunction on a level never seen before. The only solution for the Victorian Division is an immediate return to democratic processes and particularly a State Council and an Annual General Meeting. The volunteer members have a right to be heard and be heard they must.
The attention of readers of Grassroots is drawn to Past Country Vice President Norma Wells’ piece on volunteer engagement in the Liberal Party. Norma’s piece highlighting the key expectations of Party volunteers (e.g. being valued and respected) is particularly relevant at this time.
Grassroots is pleased to introduce a new column “Grassroots Intel” – Readers of Grassroots are invited to contribute items for publishing in our new column.
As always, Grassroots seeks and appreciates feedback and contributions from readers. Please submit feedback, ideas, articles and letters as a plain text email or as a WORD document to: [email protected]
Thanks are extended to readers who have contributed to this edition of Grassroots.
Please feel free to email Grassroots 4 on to interested Party members.
The BRI and Victoria
by The Hon. Kevin Andrews MP
Member for Menzies
Father of the House
Former Minister for Defence
In a book published recently, a former Australian Ambassador to China observed that “China’s grand strategy derives from a position of weakness, not strength. China is constrained by its geography, its history and, most of all, its resource endowments.”
For years, many in the West assumed that China would liberalise politically as international trade increased. China would emerge as a benign influence at worst, a dynamic new democracy at best. Missing from this analysis was an understanding of President Xi Jinping’s unequivocal determination to maintain a Marxist-Leninist one-party state. “Our Party is a Marxist party, the organisation of which relies on revolutionary ideals and strict discipline,” he proclaimed. Xi’s totalitarianism is naked.
The realisation that China will not democratise, and has become more aggressive – economically, politically and strategically – has led others to now believe that nations like Australia must surrender to its rise. This is equally misplaced.
Under Xi, China has become increasingly repressive internally, aggressive externally and bellicose nationally. But China has many weaknesses. It is reliant on resource imports for its continued development; its economy is still driven by State-owned enterprises; and its population is ageing rapidly. It disregards international norms and exploits perceived weakness.
Nations like Australia must be firm. Yes, we encourage ongoing trade and support the peaceful resolution of regional and other tensions. But we must also assert our sovereignty and national interests. Which is why the decision by Dan Andrews to enter into a secret Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with China is misplaced, especially when the Commonwealth is strengthening its scrutiny of overseas investment.
Victoria’s unilateral action, contrary to the wishes of the Commonwealth, is a propaganda tool for the Chinese Communist regime. It undermines our national sovereignty. It compromises the preparedness of the Victorian government to criticise China, especially about its gross human rights abuses and disregard for international norms. The Victorian Opposition is right to oppose it.
The Budget That Delivers Debt For Generations
by Bev McArthur MP
Member for Western Victoria
- The controlling block on the 2019 Administrative Committee believe that they can stay on until at least December 2021, possibly even December 2022, under the cover of government restrictions on public gatherings (i.e. no State Council and no AGM) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party held a State Council in a virtual format (Zoom or similar) on Saturday 29 – Sunday 29 November 2020.
- Numerous organisations, corporations and clubs, including the Essendon Football Club, are conducting their AGMs electronically, including voting for board positions, using CORPVOTE Independent Voting Services.
- The controlling block on the Administrative Committee has resolved that the cost of the KordaMentha forensic audit of the Party’s membership be hidden from the Administrative Committee. Conservative estimates put the cost of the audit at about $70,000
- The controlling block on the Administrative Committee has signed the Party up for ten years at about $500,000 per year for the spacious and palatial new Party headquarters at 257 Collins Street, Melbourne, much of which may never be occupied due to the likelihood that office workers will continue to work mostly from home into the future.
- It has been alleged that a former Party vice president, of the Mantach era, initiated, scripted and coordinated the recent The Age / 60 Minutes expose’.
- The star witness who featured in the 60 Minutes expose’ only received a mild castigatory letter from the State Director, while a former Member for Warrnambool was suspended instantly from the Party by the Administrative Committee for sending a relatively inoffensive meme to a small number of Party members. The meme consisted of a hamster on a treadmill captioned Local Member going nowhere. The State President subsequently failed to convince State Assembly that the Member had transgressed sufficiently to warrant suspension and the suspension lapsed.
- The star witness of 60 minutes fame was recently elected as a Mornington Shire councillor. On having being elected he was heard to say that he believed the 60 Minutes expose’ was central to his success.
- Following allegations of branch stacking in the Victorian Liberal Party by Michael Sukkar MP, Member for Deakin and Kevin Andrews MP, Member for Menzies (60 Minutes / The Age) and the subsequent investigation by the Federal Department of Finance at the MP’s own request, which in turn officially cleared the MPs of any wrongdoing, factionally aligned Victorian Liberal Party members, including one or more members of the Administrative Committee, not satisfied with this outcome continue to pursue Michael Sukkar by briefing the media and other investigative bodies.
- A former Party Victorian vice president and federal vice president recently exposed by The Australian as having compiled a hit list of sitting state Liberal members she wanted replaced, including one by herself, continues to be a Party member and to commentate and engage in Party activities with gay abandon and without consequence. See: The Good Sauce Weekly Wrap Up of 28 August 2020. https://goodsauce.news/the-weekly-wrap-up-with-karina-okotel-28-august-2020/
- Meanwhile a long-term sitting Liberal MLC weighed in on Facebook saying the individual concerned should just apologise and all can be forgiven.
- The much-hyped KordaMentha professional forensic audit of the Party membership has failed to discover much at all. Indeed, most of the membership issues unearthed appear to relate to internal Party processes as opposed to alleged/imagined recalcitrant members.
- In the event that the KordaMentha forensic audit produces any names of members that the Administrative Committee would like to suspend or expel, the Administrative Committee plans to conduct a meeting of State Assembly members, as opposed to a State Assembly meeting, by Zoom, to expedite the process.
- The much appreciated and celebrated recent donation of $600,000 from the Cormack Foundation for the new membership database should be viewed as a one-off additional contribution, and separate from the annual contributions from the Cormack Foundation some of which remain outstanding.
- Stuart McArthur AM, former Member for Corangamite and former Party State President was recently summarily dismissed from the State Finance Committee by the State President for no apparent reason.
- Large numbers of new members have joined the Party in recent times, particularly in the North and the West, many of whom are electing to join SECs and FECs other than those in which they live. Many of the above new members are also joining as pensioner / retired / unemployed or student and are therefore paying substantially reduced membership fees.
- A Party operative and emerging self-styled powerbroker in the South East recently signed and submitted a bulk job of applications for transfer of membership from one electorate conference to another. (Did someone mention “Warehousing” of members?) When alerted, the Administrative Committee chose to overlook the matter.
- A firebrand Western Metropolitan Region Liberal MP continues to enjoy more protection from the Party leadership (parliamentary and organisational) than any other MP in living memory. Even his latest deeply offensive ableist meme depicting Premier Daniel Andrews as disabled has failed to draw the wrath of the leadership, although it has garnered almost 5,000 on-line signatures so far calling for his immediate removal.
- Senator Scott Ryan recently moved out of the long-standing and prominent Senator’s Office at Moonee Ponds Junction, in favour of more salubrious office accommodation at Number 4 Treasury Place, East Melbourne. As a consequence, the Liberal Party no longer has a physical presence federally in metropolitan Melbourne West of the Yarra.
- The Administrative Committee is currently planning to conduct the Menzies preselection as an Administrative Committee preselection.
- The Victorian Division of the Liberal Party is experiencing difficulty in reaching the required 500 minimum member signatures in respect to the Division’s re-registration with the Victorian Electoral Commission as a registered political party in Victoria.
Lib Branch in Revolt
2020 Local Government Elections
by The Editor
Congratulations are extended to the 201 Liberal candidates who contested the 2020 local government elections! Special congratulations are extended to the 65 Liberals who were elected! This represents a highly commendable success rate of 32%
Congratulations are extended to the Liberal Local Government Council, led by President Cynthia Watson, and to the recently formed Liberal Local Government Committee, led by Chairman Phillip Healey, on their outstanding work in training the candidates and supporting them throughout their campaigns.
The work of Cynthia’s and Phillip’s teams including: Andrew Bond, Denise Massoud, and Asher Judah in particular, is to be acknowledged and celebrated. Asher’s Letterboxing Army was resoundingly successful and is a model worthy of replication for future state and federal campaigns.
Cynthia Watson’s vision, initiative, drive and hard work in establishing and leading the inaugural Liberal Local Government Council has been seminal. While the Victorian Division had previously undertaken some work in identifying and supporting Liberal candidates for election to local councils, this work had been piecemeal. Cynthia has achieved more in the area of Liberal representation in local government in one year than any other Party member in all the years previous combined, and is to be commended for her outstanding work. Well done Cynthia!
The Liberal Party had been missing in action in the area of local government for far too long and this had been reflected in decision making at the local council level, and a critical factor in the Party’s electoral underperformance at state and federal elections. It now remains for the Liberal Party to continue to support the Members who have been elected to local councils in 2020 to help ensure their success, and for the Party to build on the achievements of 2020 at the 2024 local government elections.
Best wishes to the cohort of Liberal member councillors as they commence their four-year term of office!
by Norma Wells
Volunteers are the “Life blood” of our Liberal Party.
We hear much about our volunteers:
- Why do people join a political organization?
- How do we get members and supporters involved?
First, we need to understand why people join a political party!
It is not like joining a football club or even a hobby club!
These are people:
- who are highly interested in politics
- who would like to have a say:
- e.g. who feel strongly about “Freedom of Speech”
- who would like to have a say in the “red tape’ governing their lives etc.
The Liberal Party needs active members who will “volunteer and fly the flag” for the Liberal Party.
Members will participate when:
- they are satisfied with the performance of the Party
- the leadership is strong
- the Party is well managed
- the Party is open and honest with members
- they feel ‘valued’ and ‘respected’ e.g. their views and thoughts are listened to
- member complaints are well handled by the Party administration
The expectations of volunteers:
- ensure the Liberal Party is in Government (State and Federally)
- the bond between like-minded people
- they need to be listened to when they ‘have something to say’
- they want to contribute to their country
- they want to support the administration of the Party
- they want to have access to Members of Parliament
One of the most important ways for the Liberal Party to build its volunteer relationships is through a clear brand entity. The brand should appeal both to the head and heart, bringing together “need” (reason or think) with “desire” (emotion or feel).
To encourage more volunteers to join our Liberal Party, we need to build a strong brand equity, ensuring that the Party administration is strong, and we constantly engage with grassroots members.
Much of this article was first published in “VOLUNTEER ENGAGEMENT” which is available on the Liberal Party website.
The Report also lists the many “tried and true’ activities collected from electorates across the state. Go to: https://members.vic.liberal.org.au/member-resources/177?skipconfirm
- Member Resources
- Volunteer Engagement
Norma Wells is a Past Country Vice President 2011-2017
Letters to the Editor
Victorian Division in “Perilous” Situation
I write to give voice to what I and many, even most, volunteer members of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party believe to be the most important issue facing the Division today; our preparation for, and capacity to, face a federal election and a state election in a relatively short period of time, and with little time between them.
As widely reported in the daily media, the Victorian Division has never been more divided and less fit to mount a federal campaign and a state campaign inside two years.
It is widely recognised internally and externally that the return of the Morrison Federal Government is dependent upon a net gain of several federal seats in Victoria, due in part to a likely loss of some federal seats in Queensland, and possibly in New South Wales.
Currently there is little evidence of the Victorian Division placing any priority, let alone directing any effort toward, a strong and successful federal campaign. Indeed, it has been speculated that the Victorian Division under the leadership of the current State President and key members of the Administrative Committee has decided to focus almost entirely on the 2022 Victorian state campaign at the expense of the earlier federal campaign.
Of great concern to Party members, is that the State President and his supporters on Administrative Committee appear to have spent their year and a half in office embroiled in meaningless bureaucratic processes, committees and administrivia, along with internal unrest, factional activities, witch-hunts and retribution. The net result is that the Victorian Division has wasted vital preparation time for the pending federal and state elections.
As a consequence of the State President and his supporters on the Administrative Committee staying on well past their elected term by refusing to hold a state council and AGM, their mandate has expired and their authority is questionable. Ruling without a mandate is undemocratic (and un-Liberal) and when combined with ineffectiveness equals disaster for the Victorian Division in the form of repeated electoral defeat.
At this juncture, many believe that there are only two means of remedying the perilous situation the Victorian Division finds itself in: a return to democracy through holding a state council and AGM urgently, or federal intervention whereby the Federal Party takes over the administration of the Victorian Division for a period. Either action would enable the Division to reset, regroup and refocus on the task at hand: returning the Morrison Federal Government in 2022 and electing an O’Brien State Government in 2022.
A continuance on the current trajectory spells disaster for the Victorian Division.
Concerned Liberal Member
(Name withheld by request)
Coup on the Victorian Division
To the Editor,
I have felt increasingly compelled to voice my concern, and that of many Party members, that a coup appears to have been performed on the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party under the cover of COVID-19 pandemic darkness with the Admin Committee acting like cat burglars stealing our rights as members.
Relying upon a very convenient inhouse ruling from the Party Constitutional Committee, that only a face-to-face state council and AGM are permissible, democracy has been entirely and indefinitely abandoned by the Administrative Committee.
Making matters even worse, these same people arrogantly believe that they are within their right to lord it over and castigate ordinary Party members who dare to challenge their authority and their right to rule indefinitely. In this manner, the State President and his controlling block on the Administrative Committee have dismissed all reasonable approaches from, and suggestions by, members, electorate chairmen, Party elders and senior Liberal MPs to conduct a COVID-safe state council and AGM.
In dismissing the efforts of ordinary Party members seeking a return to internal democracy, the State President and his block on the Administrative Committee have taken to referring to such members “desperates”. Pot kettle black!
It should not come as a surprise to the State President and his ruling block on the Administrative Committee that ordinary members will not be dismissed, sat on, shut out or shut down in their quest for the reinstatement of cordial, civil and respectful relations, and most importantly, democracy within the Victorian Division.
It is most unfortunate, and un-Liberal, that the State President has taken to chastising Party members who question the direction of the Victorian Division under his autocratic leadership by referring to their actions as being “the destructive behaviours of a few”. Indeed, the tone of the State President’s circulars and addresses to members by Zoom have been described as like that of an old-fashioned schoolmaster; superior, intolerant, dictatorial and sermonising. Seldom is there a hint of anything positive, inspiring, motivational or appreciative. In summary, the polar opposite to servant leadership.
Little wonder then that publications such as “Concerned Liberals” and “Grassroots” have sprung up whereby ordinary members can have a voice, air their concerns, frustrations and grievances, and suggest remedies. That the State President so frequently takes issue with what he refers to as “unsolicited” communication by Party members, (not sure whether “Quick News” is included here or not) only serves to demonstrate that he and his block on the Administrative Committee are not confident in their leadership, decisions and the course that they have set for the Victorian Division. Their on-going intransigence regarding a return to democracy via a state council and AGM is unbelievable and an absolute disgrace.
It is of great concern that the State President when writing to members recently, stated that due to government restrictions on meetings upcoming federal preselections may need to be conducted by the Administrative Committee. The denial of plebiscite preselections would be the ultimate breach of internal Party democracy within the Victorian Division, and would add enormously to built-up disenchantment, frustration and even anger among members. Members will recall that the State President and members of his ruling block on the Administrative committee, when campaigning for election, guaranteed plebiscite preselections. It would be unconscionable for the State President and his block on the Administrative Committee to now conduct federal preselections by the Administrative Committee.
(Name withheld by request)