Flat White

Victoria: the flawed jewel in the Liberal crown

25 October 2019

1:19 PM

25 October 2019

1:19 PM

Sadly, Victoria has become the under-performing state for the Liberal Party and unless the ship is turned around, Victoria could well cost us government at the federal level and allow Daniel Andrews’ state government to continue to wreak havoc unchecked.

Victoria, the birthplace of the Liberal Party’s founder and Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, is now dominated by Labor, with the Liberal Party left with just 27 out of 88 lower house seats in the Victorian state parliament, and 12 out of 38 federal electorates. Essentially, at both state and federal level, the Liberal Party holds less than a third of all lower house electorates in Victoria.    

There are many theories as to why this is, but at its core the unfortunate reality is that we cannibalise ourselves. When a small but active group within our party believe that it is better to lose in order to clean out Liberal seats so their faction can come in and take control, we are in trouble. When the same group run lines and brief the media against fellow Liberals who do not submit to the faction, it is devastating. And when they focus purely on internal party leadership skirmishes and not fighting election wars, the people of Victoria are ultimately deprived of Liberal representation.

It is a surreal feeling getting my kids ready for school, jumping in the car to head to work and hearing on ABC radio that I am apparently anti-gay and pro-conversion therapy just nine days out from the federal election, robbing the government of media air space to talk about their positive agenda that day instead of lil ole me and some peculiar labels they sought to attach.

I advocated for the retention of the traditional definition of marriage during the postal survey, a position 38.4 per cent of Australians agreed with. The first person to ask me to speak out on this issue was himself gay, and a number of people who encouraged me to advocate for traditional marriage were also gay. Does this mean they, myself and 38.4 per cent of Australia are anti-gay? Of course not.

Conversion therapy is commonly considered to be physical or psychological pain inflicted on someone to try to change their sexual orientation. I do not know anyone who thinks that this is appropriate or should be legal. I certainly do not, and having practised in mental health law, have consistently argued against the use of controversial treatments including electroconvulsive therapy.

In schools today, children are taught that sexuality is fluid which I do not disagree with. But if this is true, then we must acknowledge that people can experience confusion around their own sexuality and, if we are a compassionate society, we should allow people to access any help or support that they self-determine they need. In a free society like Australia, if adults want to see a counsellor for support to explore their sexual orientation, and access counselling out of, or in fact into for that matter, same-sex attraction, why should the government outlaw them from doing so? Who is the government to tell someone if they can or cannot be gay? It is inconsistent, on one hand, to teach that sexuality is fluid, and on the other to say that it is fixed if you try to seek counselling to help you attempt to shift your orientation on the spectrum if you so desire. Does anyone seriously want us to turn into such a dictatorial state? Well, I guess Labor does.

These are my actual views if anyone at the ABC ever cared to ask instead of taking the attack lines of a small element in our party who seek to undermine fellow Liberals if they are not into factionalism. It is such a shame that our tax-payer funded broadcaster, the custodians of fact-checking, do not practice what they preach. Has the ABC actually ever asked me what my views are on these subjects? No. Is it any wonder that many in our community believe the ABC to be infiltrated by left-wing bias?

It is these types of unhealthy attacks from within our party that continually destroy our electoral chances like a lethal virus. The reality is that we will remain in the wilderness of opposition, unless destructive elements in our party start supporting instead of sabotaging it from within.

Labor kept it hidden until less than 48 hours before the Victorian election last year that not just us, but our kids would be the ones paying for their big spending, big borrowing policies which will see state debt reach an unfathomable $55 billion within four years. And yet, despite all of this borrowed money, homelessness is ever increasing, the lack of drug rehabilitation services is ignored and at-risk children unacceptably remain on the child protection waiting list.

What Victoria needs is economic management that will not send us broke and will fund services that are urgently required, particularly for those who are the most vulnerable in our state – those who Labor say they care about but their actions do not match their words.

When Michael O’Brien was Victoria’s Treasurer in 2014, he achieved a budget surplus in stark contrast to the level of debt we live with today. Not unlike another Treasurer come Leader in Scott Morrison, Michael O’Brien has the capacity to turn Victoria around. Yet, if internal party factionalism is allowed to go unchecked, crushing the focus on winning elections, not just us but our children will continue to pay for the incompetence of Labor.

Sadly, there is more effort put into trying to attack Michael O’Brien than the Labor Party by those in our party who tried to draw a long bow that our Opposition Leader’s encouragement of me running for a leadership position in our party’s organisation meant that he supported someone pro-conversion therapy. Michael O’Brien consistently supports people who work hard for the party, whether they sit in the conservative or moderate pews of the broad church. But to those for whom factionalism is everything, if allowed, they will continue to attack and divide our own in the meaningless pursuit of personal power.   

Karina Okotel is a former Federal Vice-President of the Liberal Party.

Illustration: National Library of Australia.

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