Flat White

A tough week to be a Victorian Liberal

29 May 2022

12:00 PM

29 May 2022

12:00 PM

No doubt, it has been a tough week to be a Liberal in Victoria.

You do not find many politicians like Bernie Finn. Conviction is not a trait politicians are typically known to possess. In addition to honesty and loyalty – they are the characteristics Bernie Finn has been most admired for. But in the brutal game of power and control that is politics, someone who cannot be controlled by the powers that be must be cleared out.

During almost 41 years serving as a Liberal Party member (23 of those as a Liberal MP), he was preselected by the party faithful, and elected by his community time and time again as the Liberal Party’s most effective advocate for Melbourne’s west. Now, Bernie Finn has been expelled from the Liberal parliamentary party after posting on social media: ‘So excited the US is on the verge of a major breakthrough to civilisation. Praying it will come here soon. Killing babies is criminal.’

Then, in a comment under the post in response to one of his Facebook followers saying: ‘I’m in 2 minds over this. I don’t support abortion, but I feel in extreme cases ie sexual assault there should be an option’, Finn wrote: ‘Babies should not be killed for the crime of his or her parent.’

It is understandable why many party faithful have thrown up their hands in dismay that the party of free speech would seek to muzzle one of its most effective advocates and ultimately turf him out after decades of unwavering loyalty and service.

Indeed, Bernie Finn has always been a vocal opponent of abortion. Whether it be on Facebook or Sky News Australia, he has never shied away from controversial issues and telling it like it is, often in his uniquely irreverent way.

He has proudly broadcast his views on abortion, literally over a megaphone, at the March for the Babies rallies he has led annually since Victoria passed the most extreme abortion laws in the world in 2008, allowing late-term abortion up to birth. Never before did Bernie Finn face expulsion for his deeply held convictions which are shared by many.

Bernie Finn’s popularity amongst rank and file members in Victoria’s west is well known and, no doubt, he would once again have been re-endorsed by the Liberal membership at a preselection. Strategically expelling Bernie Finn three days before opening Victorian Upper House nominations for preselection has meant that there is no way he can effectively run for preselection for the Liberals again.

The expulsion of Bernie Finn without any opportunity for party members to celebrate his faithful service and achievements is a kick in the teeth for party members.

Members’ fury at perceived factional manoeuvrings to expel Bernie Finn the week of a federal election (that also became an unwelcome distraction from Morrison’s campaign message), is entirely understandable.

But the core tenants of the Liberal Party are immutable. The party may sometimes stray and lose its way, but when it returns to its core values and focuses on the community rather than itself, it is rewarded by the electorate.

Unlike the Labor Party, in its very DNA, the Liberal Party is a democratic institution. Anyone who shares the values of the Liberal Party can join, no matter that person’s religion, race, or sexuality. It is not a cabal of faceless men, but in ordinary circumstances, every rank and file member is given a say over who their candidates are and where the party is headed.

Like a car, a political party takes on the direction of the one behind the wheel. Unless people who are committed to the values of Australia’s only major conservative party join up, the car could well crash.

Liberal Party voters will be reeling from the federal election loss for some time, and in Victoria, Bernie Finn’s expulsion may seem like the last straw. But now is the time for supporters to dust themselves off and sign up. Only then can the values of Menzies be re-lived, and the strongest team possible assembled to finally relegate the Andrews Government to the bin where they belong.

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

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