Guest Notes

Democratic notes

8 July 2017

9:00 AM

8 July 2017

9:00 AM

Young Liberals let us all rejoice, for we are young (and free?)

Well, when I found out I was speaking right after Major General Jim Molan AO, DSC (R’td), I thought to myself – gee you really threw me into the deep end with this one, Walter.

I’m not a distinguished military leader, or a former Prime Minister. I’m just a Young Liberal. But we’ve been a bit quiet lately, so I concluded that it might do some good to tell you what’s been happening and what the journey as a Young Lib looks like today.

Without fundamental change to our Party constitution and our pre-selection processes, the NSW Liberal Party will lose the next election. The problems are easy to pinpoint.

Greater interference by the parliamentary wing into the organisational wing. The escalating tensions between Liberal and Conservative groupings. And above all, a power imbalance which was created by the introduction of such measures as ‘Special Powers’ – and sustained by the ambitions of sycophants.

And let me tell you, we have no shortage of sycophants within the Young Liberals themselves. The narrative is simple.

A Young Liberal latches onto a powerful person within the party. That person will protect them, employ them and ensure they move onto bigger and better things when they are ready. What’s not to like about the prospect of easy money throughout your university days, with the prospect of a prestigious career at the end of the road?

All you have to do is stack some branches, vote as you are told and backstab scores of other young people – you may even be friends with some of them! But it’s all worth it at the end, right?

I wouldn’t blame you if you have thought Young Liberals haven’t been a part of the Democratic Reform Movement. The truth is, we have helped shape it.

We’ve spent countless hours reworking the NSW Liberal Party constitution, enshrining the reform measures that former Prime Minister John Howard proposed in 2014. We have worked on the documents and ideas that form the backbone of the Warringah motion. Meetings, phone calls, dinners – we were there.

Do not be placated by the other distracting motions proposed for the Party Futures Convention. They contain only half measures, which will not provide the meaningful change needed to turn-around the party’s rapidly declining membership.

There is only one viable option – the Warringah Motion. Only the Warringah motion advocates that all financial members, who have been members for 2 or more years, should have the right to participate and vote in the pre-selection process for lower house candidates.

Only the Warringah motion will provide the means to weaken factional influence and allows a more talented and diverse pool of Liberal Party members to stand for parliamentary office.

Only the Warringah motion allows for the reform of ‘Special Powers’, used by the State Executive to maintain a favourable status quo, and never for their original emergency purpose.

Only the Warringah motion clearly delineates between the parliamentary and organisational wing of the party. The parliamentary wing will no longer interfere with the activities of the organisational wing and the conflicts of interests that so often arise will cease. Crucially, no employee of a serving Senator, MP, or MLC will be eligible to sit on the State Executive.

Are young people supportive of democratic reform? Yes. Are we also scared of democratic reform? Absolutely. There is nothing more volatile than a Young Liberal branch – there’s a reason why you can only renew one year at a time as a Young Liberal.

Young Liberal branches have the exact same voting rights as senior party branches. This is a supremely powerful advantage to anyone who can effectively control these crucial votes.

Our main concern is that we will lose control of our branches to the very sycophants we oppose. It could compromise our allies in the senior party, and ultimately make some Young Liberals redundant. We are worried that the power imbalance will grow so big that many of us will be forgotten.

It’s hard to let go. We love the factions and we hate the factions – factions are all most Young Liberals have known since being stacked in. Truthfully, I was a stack myself. I was stacked into and elected onto the executive of the University of Sydney Conservative Club when I didn’t even know the meaning of the word! And since then, people have been going from right to left, to kind of right to… who knows? Such is the stagnation the factions create and sustain.

But we must look at the bigger picture. For young people, our disengagement has never been higher. We should be actively involved, using our energy to plan events, fundraise and volunteer. But, in the name of the factions, the sycophants have shut many of us out. And so, we retreat to our private Facebook forums, too afraid to speak out for fear of having our names splashed across the Sydney Morning Herald in revenge.

Something has to change. We must put the interests of the NSW Liberal Party first, not the interests of powerbrokers and lobbyists. We need to show NSW we are ready, willing and able to change. And for that, the electorate will reward us.

This is our best chance to make it count. If you haven’t been involved up until this point, make it count at the Party Futures Convention. If you have been involved, even in a small way, thank you.

While young people may be the future, we rely on the senior party for wisdom and guidance. We all need to work together to make a meaningful change and save the Liberal party from itself.

Gabrielle Hendry gave this speech to the Democratic Reform Movement

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