Modia Minotaur

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Comings and Goings

Liberal MP Patricia Forsythe has announced her retirement from State politics in order to take up a new position as CEO of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.

The moment Forsythe blew the lid on the truth behind the ousting of John Brogden from the leadership of the NSW Liberal Party, her political career was effectively over. It is a great shame that those who tell the truth apparently do so at their own peril. Forsythe accurately predicted the attempted takeover of the party by the far Right, bringing media attention to this deeply concerning issue. I'm glad to say I have anecdotal evidence that the Right is starting to come up against obstacles to its domination. This is refreshing news for Australian democracy, but not for the Liberal Party, which faces increasing division as this whole nasty business plays itself out. It may sound like hyperbole to suggest that the party may someday see a split as acrimonious and damaging as the ALP's in the 1950s - especially with a powerful leader in the Federal sphere - but this is to neglect how deeply riven the Coalition is on a state level.

Speaking of which, Lawrence Springborg has announced he plans to resign as leader of the Queensland National Party. To be fair (or perhaps I'm just in a mood to play devil's advocate), I doubt even the strongest leader could have withstood the onslaught of the Beattie juggernaut, and Springborg certainly did a better job on the campaign trail than the hapless Bruce Flegg.

Also today, the ALP Head Office has confirmed its plans to oust the Member for Newcastle, Bryce Gaudry as endorsed candidate for the next election, in favour of local newsreader Jodi Mackay. I feel pretty privileged to have voted in a rank and file pre-selection this week, especially when plenty of other people weren't so lucky. The move against Gaudry is particularly nasty, given that he has retained a safe seat for over a decade. I'm not sure how he must feel about the several other sitting members who have been protected from undergoing preselection by N40s.

I also know that working on an election campaign is a pretty thankless task. Fortunately, all the campaigns I have worked on have been for people I passionately hoped would win their elections. I'm not sure how I would have felt had I not believed in them - or even firmly believed they were the wrong person for the job. There are reports that Newcastle rank-and-filers are planning to boycott the election campaign. This is a pretty good way of demonstrating exactlly what political life would be like without the hardy souls who get up at the crack of dawn to stand outside train stations and give up their weekends and spare time. A party is, ultimately, only as strong as its members, so it's not a great idea to alienate them.

There is an argument - not without some merit - that rank and file preselection is no longer the most democratic method of selection, given preselectors in any given electorate usually number no more than about 150 people. I can certainly attest that better methods need to be found to select a properly representative cross section of preselectors - and also that it can be without endangering safeguards against branch stacking. The answer is not to place the decision in the hands of two or three people in Head Office, either. Local members maintain the support of local branches by being good and attentive local members. There are few good arguments for retaining people who aren't both of these things. It's a shame but a reality that genuine rank and file preselection by active, genuine party members - in fact anything other than token internal democracy, is something that needs to be constantly fought for.

This is true of both sides of the political fence, something I'm sure Pru Goward is all too keenly aware of as she faces this weekend's preselection vote against Deputy DPP and Right-endorsed candidate Greg Smith.

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