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Monday, June 24, 2024

Opinion / Politics The Liberal Party is beyond reform. That’s why this former Liberal minister says you should vote independent

Malcolm Fraser and other like-minded MPs wanted to create the Reform Australia Party. The 'teal' independent movement may be its rebirth, a former Fraser minister writes.

writes in Crikey

Independent candidate for Goldstein Zoe Daniel (Image: Voices of Goldstein/Facebook)

Ian Macphee served as the Liberal member for Goldstein for 16 years between 1974 and 1990, and was a minister during the Fraser government.


I once intended this article

to be about how the Liberal Party could reform itself — away from unrepresented power-hungry types, who to further their own vested interests have inserted supporters into Liberal branches, and back towards the party of Menzies and Fraser, the party I served as a minister, a party which put the electorate first, not its powerful mates.

But I realise the Liberal Party can’t reform itself. I simply can’t write that article. The rot is set in too deep; the need for a total restart too great.

As my former colleague Fred Chaney recently wrote, the focus of the Liberal Party is now on daily cheap political arguments, not on long-term vision for Australia. I also agree with Fred that we need a federal commission with total authority that investigates political corruption and the funding of all political parties and their candidates, and independents.

If there could be an independent investigation into the financial aspects of the party, I believe that it would reveal serious corruption. The fossil fuel industry has been funding the Liberal Party for many years. Hence the failure to adopt progressive policies on climate change — and Scott Morrison’s refusal to give any real power to an independent commission into corruption.

The party ignores the fact that the majority of voters are aware of the need for action on climate change and are opposed to the shocking treatment of refugees.

Labor has demonstrated failures too, and some of my friends who have always supported Labor have fears that it might also receive funding from fossil fuel companies. In fact, many have no doubt about that.

For these reasons I strongly support the election of independent candidates in electorates held by the Liberal Party.

All who have been chosen seem to be progressive independents who give priority to vital issues, whereas current Liberal members are beholden to the dictates of head office. Even more important is that the independent candidates are women. For far too long we have had parliaments dominated by men lacking insight into problems that women face at work and at home.

The independent candidate in Goldstein, my old electorate, is Zoe Daniel, a former distinguished ABC reporter, especially on foreign affairs. I have long admired her objectivity and insights.

A sincere listener, Daniel never talks over people nor anticipates what they will say. I believe that she will enrich the quality of federal Parliament because she will consult widely in the electorate and represent its views on important issues in Canberra. This is crucial to the functioning of our democracy.

Throughout the campaign Daniel has had constant contact with Goldstein constituents at many grassroots meetings. These have mostly been small so that as many people as possible can express their views on important issues and not merely sit in a large audience. In doing so Daniel has won the open support of thousands of constituents.

I witnessed this especially at her campaign launch in a sporting oval. Daniel spoke eloquently and succinctly about many important community concerns and was applauded enthusiastically by a crowd of more than 2000 supporters.

This contrasts greatly with the decades of control of candidates by head offices in states and at the federal level. As a result there has been little discussion in electorates — a problem that has been greatly accentuated by the demise of local media.

Daniel understands the evolving world, which is influenced greatly by the astonishing rate of advancement in communication technology. She will work with constituents to adjust to it and take full advantage of it. Moreover, with her overseas postings with the ABC she has a deep understanding of issues important to Australia and the need for policies to be formed here and not imposed from overseas, especially the US.

If at the imminent election no party wins a majority, let’s hope progressive independents will be able to help form a government of which we can be proud.

I am sure that Daniel will work with other progressive independents to help frame policies that the major parties will no longer pursue because of vested interests, especially due to funding from fossil fuel companies.

Malcolm Fraser left the Liberal Party when it treated asylum seekers inhumanely. I was one of dozens of prominent people who joined him in trying to establish a genuinely liberal party. One of the other activists was a national treasure, a former Labor minister, Barry Jones. Sadly, Malcolm died when the formation of the Reform Australia Party had just begun.

I hope now that the emergence of progressive liberals in the imminent election will lay the foundation for the emergence of a reform party of the kind that Malcolm and his colleagues sought to establish. Much depends upon the outcome of the election on May 21.

About the Author

Ian Macphee

Crikey Contributor

Ian Macphee served as the member for Goldstein for 16 years between 1974 and 1990, and was a minister during the Fraser government. He has also served on the board of CARE Australia and the ABC.

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