November 24, 2003 | Graham

Web journalist and former State Presidential candidate to face Liberal Disciplinary Committee

The Queensland Liberal Party State Council yesterday referred me and Marion Feros to the Liberal Party’s disciplinary committee under Clause 21D of the party’s constitution.
As Chief Editor of On Line Opinion, I have been a pioneer in internet journalism. Marion Feros, a partner in Victor Feros Townplanning, was a candidate for Liberal Party State President at this year’s convention. Although she lost Mrs Feros still scored 40% of the vote.
I have yet to receive official notification of the decision but on the face of it there appears to be no case to answer.
It is a pity that the Liberal Party would choose this moment to launch this action given that all of its resources should be devoted to fighting the three elections due next year. Queensland voters could be forgiven for believing that the Liberals are only interested in internal matters. They might also ask what the Liberal Party’s commitment is to free speech.
Clause 21D provides that a member may be subject to disciplinary action for “gross disloyalty to the Liberal Party”, “breach of confidentiality”, or “conduct bringing the Liberal Party into disrepute”.
Marion Feros is to be referred for public comments that she made on the 13th September, 2003 to Channels 7, 9 and 10. These comments were made in response to journalists’ questions to her after she lost the election for State President.
I am to be referred for articles that I have written for the Courier Mail and On Line Opinion. They include an article written on the 16th September, 2003, and republished in On Line Opinion which can be read by clicking here Qld Liberals must stop the internal battles and focus on winning seats.
Other articles in the Courier Mail are referred to but they are not available on my site.
The charge also refers to articles published on On Line Opinion on “many occasions in 2002”. I only published one article on the Queensland Liberals during that year – Liberal tussle for control cements Beattie in place.Read the articles for yourself and see whether they fit the charges.
Under the party’s constitution the matter will now be referred to the Disciplinary Committee for “investigation and report”, which it must do in accordance with the principles of natural justice. The committee then reports its findings to State Council which may then take disciplinary action by a two-thirds vote. That action can be to expel, suspend or censure the member.
As a party member for 26 years I will vigorously defend myself against these charges. I believe in the principles of the Liberal Party and the duty of all Australians to involve themselves in the political process. In a democracy it ought to be possible to work as a political commentator and journalist at the same time as holding party membership.
My Liberal Party Involvement
· Joined 1977
· State Vice President and Campaign Chairman 1994 to 1997 (During this time Liberal Party had best campaign success in its entire Queensland history)
· State Candidate Greenslopes 1989 and 1992
· FEC Chairman Griffith 1992
· Eastern Metropolitan Zone Chairman 1988 to 1989
· Federal Young Liberal Vice-President 1982
· Federal Candidate for Griffith 1983
· State Vice-President Young Liberal Movement 1979 to 1982
· Young Liberal Magazine Editor 1978 to 1979

Posted by Graham at 12:08 pm | Comments (16) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. It’s just absurd Graham. As a member of the Griffith FEC I wish you and Marion all the best. These procedings will bring the Liberal party in to far more disrepute than your articles ever could.

    Comment by Griffith Member — November 24, 2003 @ 1:59 pm

  2. I know, with things I have said within the ALP, were the same criteria applied, I would be in the same situation as you. It begins to make the ALP look more liberal than the Liberal Party.. And – maybe that is part of the problem. I would very much like to see a Liberal Party that is liberal, not Conservative. In this context, and on principle, Graham, I wish you the very best of luck. The ALP and the Liberal Party are the main vehciles ordinary Australians have open to them to attempt to directly influence the political sphere. I say ‘attempt’, here, because we know that in both the ALP and the Liberal Party, rank and file members are well to the margin in decision-making processes – marginalised by Party machines who feel their own members need to be ‘contained’ in order to ‘stay in step with the electorate’. Graham: if, as a rank and file Liberal member you are not allowed to speak your mind honestly, it is not only a blow to democracy in the Liberal Party, but to democracy in this country as a whole.

    Comment by Tristan Ewins — November 24, 2003 @ 3:30 pm

  3. Graham Young’s plight demonstrates exactly what I am getting at in my recently published book, Whats wrong with the Liberal Party? (Cambridge UP, 2003).
    The Party no longer tolerates dissent or even public discourse – this is cancerous and if it is not arrested, the Liberals will eventually implode.
    Greg Barns

    Comment by Greg Barns — November 24, 2003 @ 5:23 pm

  4. Your views are certainly more liberal than the Liberal Party, which is probably why you unfortunately no longer ‘fit in’; which mind you, is a travesty to your party especially when it comes to Queensland and it’s chances in the next state election.

    Comment by matt — November 24, 2003 @ 8:39 pm

  5. Good Luck Graham,
    It seems as though the conflict between being a journalist/commentator and a member of the party, is a conflict of Interest. Wouldn’t a Journalist have some responsibility to protect “The Source”?
    A bit late now of course, but perhaps you should have used a “nom de plume”. Much as small ‘l’ liberal ideology would aim for transparency and honesty; the reality of big ‘L’ Liberal (or Labor for that matter) is that it is a Political Party whose sole aim is to achieve Government. Honesty is hardly an issue with broken promises in abundance whichever way one looks; “look left, look right, then look left again unless you’re a Millionaire or an American, and drive on the wrong side of the political spectrum.”
    I’m still not convinced that OLO isn’t part of The Neo-Con Think Tank tho’……
    Cheers! and I wish you everything that you really want for yourself, despite all our differences of on line opinion.

    Comment by Peter G Cullen — November 24, 2003 @ 10:10 pm

  6. I was very disappointed to read of your subjection to this ‘trial’ for having exercised your freedom of political expression in what were very mild pieces of loyal dissent. Of course, it brings back memories of Greg Barns’ purge in Tasmania – and I can only add my voice of support to Greg’s.
    If the Westminster system from whence we came adhered to the same rules of party discipline as those in Australia, half of Tony Blair’s back bench would by now have been expelled from the Labour Party.
    What a shame it is that an increasing number in the Liberal Party regard themselves less as ‘trustees’ of the party, to paraphrase the new Tory leader, than as exercising the rights of feudal lords over the personal fiefdoms that so many branches have become.

    Comment by Geoffrey Hills — November 25, 2003 @ 1:44 am

  7. I had voted Liberal for decades without even thinking about it – mainly for international political reasons which I will not go in to here only due to lack of space in this commentary area. My Liberal asssociation began more than three decades ago when I was a young Lib member in the days when Andrew Peacock was the president of the Toorak young libs – that seems an eon ago.
    In the last decade or so, I have openly become a “swinger” (re voting) because none of the available parties have really presented and fully satisfied what I view to be satisfactory policy in their electoral promises. As for (not) delivering on electoral platforms, one has only to check history to view the abysmal performance of all parties on this point.
    Is it any wonder that there is a huge “swinging” voter group in this wonderful country of ours and that fractious in-fighting within and by all political parties is causing the voter to wish that voting was not compulsory and the whole sordid political mess would simply go away ?
    Are all politicians so stupid as to treat the latter day voting public as being at their own level of stupidity and not caring what we, whom the politicians ostensibly represent, have foisted upon us in the form of policy ? I am beginning to think that if we exported all of our politicians to another country (and institute governing policy by having the people themselves select/implement policy via regular on-line voting by-passing all houses of parliament), the average IQ level of both countries would immediately increase !
    Pauline Hanson’s popularity can be simply put down to an ever-growing public disenchantment of MOR or “expediency” politics and though often naiive in delivery, One Nation frequently put forward propositions which directly confronted “sensitive area” issues which is total anathema to MOR politics. Are our pollies that blind that they can’t see the voting public as currently feeling disenfranchised from the whole political process due to lack of platform follow-through ?
    If self-criticism for purposes of on-going self-appraisal is removed and “blind faith” allegiance is what the liberal party demands of its members and supporters (as it was in the 60s and 70s), then “the writing is on the wall”, “the end is nigh” and whatever other placard-suitable metaphor you can think of should apply.
    The pettiness of Graham’s and Marion’s supposed transgressions is so underwhelming to me that it brings forward Dickensian imagery where some eight year old is castigated by a whole panel of bony-finger-pointing elders for having the temerity of requesting improvement on the status quo.
    Any genuine attempt at self-review and constant policy re-appraisal is not only necessary but should be considered mandatory. As for this episode, I understate it when I say that I consider it farcical.
    Keep up the good work Graham and Marion. Today’s heresies are tomorrow’s orthodoxies and the sooner that “new blood” is force-fed into political party management, the better.
    Len Caune

    Comment by Len Caune — November 25, 2003 @ 4:22 am

  8. I am surprised you did not realise that the Liberal Party is today a complete dictatorship under the control of John Howard.I cannot understand how a self respecting person like yourself can still wish to be a member of such a ditatorship.Over the last few years all true liberals have resigned or been thrown out of the Party.I suspect it is now your turn to be thrown out and if I was in your place I would not be one bit upset.

    Comment by norman clingman — November 25, 2003 @ 8:51 am

  9. Graham
    I admire your courage. In facing down these ‘nameless functionaries’ and the tactics they employ, you with your forthrightness are far more liberal and decent than any of them. Good Luck.
    Keith Kennelly

    Comment by K.Kennelly — November 25, 2003 @ 8:52 am

  10. More strength to your arm Graham and may reason and enlightenment come through. The authoritarian approach adopted by the Liberal Party is deplorable and must be resisted. It is symptomatic of a trend that has been evident since at least the time of the ‘mean and tricky’ memo. I agree with other commentators that unless there are changes very soon, the Party will implode, even spectacularly.

    Comment by Frank Golding — November 25, 2003 @ 12:24 pm

  11. re: Peter’s comments –
    Peter – I don’t think there is necessarily a conflict of interest. Were one actively involved at the forefront of public life -ie: as an MP, Minister, Shadow Minister – perhaps that would be a different matter… But… as a rank and file member of the Labor Party, who has virtually no influence whatsoever, I don’t think I should have to ‘choose’ between writing or Party membership. I suppose, then, I would say that ‘the same goes’ for members of the Liberal Party. Already, in this country, we have terminally low levels of party-participation – and this is doing untold harm to our democracy… The fact, for instance, that in Australia we have a Labor Party with maybe 40,000 members at best – including the stacks – compared to a social democratic party in Sweden – with – I think – maybe 200,000 members, in a country half the size – shows how weak our civil society is…. And if you argue that rank and file activists should be excluded from public debate – because of some illusory conflict of interest, you’re only going to make the situation worse. Anyway – apologies for this slight deviation in debate…

    Comment by Tristan Ewins — November 25, 2003 @ 12:51 pm

    THE Liberal Party once claimed to have a “broad church” membership base, to be the party that accommodated differing views and that allow robust debate, and dissent, among its elected parliamentary representatives.
    The claims were always dubious. Today they are not even made by the party’s ruling faction which does not even pretend to encourage robust debate, or be accommodating of differing views.
    That is why the decision to begin expulsion proceedings against two high profile members of the party in Queensland has hardly created a ripple in the media.
    Ms Marion Ferros and Mr Graham Young are not facing expulsion for “damaging’ the Liberal Party. Their membership is on the line because they have dared to challenge the ruling Santoro-Caltabiano-Johnson faction.
    In the case of Ms Ferros the challenge was made through the party’s constitutional processes while Mr Young has done so as a media commentator.
    Over the last four years dozens of Liberal Party members in Queensland have communicated with me on ethnic and other branch stacking in the Ryan and other divisions, on the heavy-handed approach of the ruling faction to organisational issues, and on rorting of federal, state and local pre-selections.
    I am sure that most of them have never had anything to do with a Labor MP and have probably never met one. The fact that they have sent me minutes, letters, and other data is simply a reflection of their desperation, and the intolerance of the ruling faction.
    The amount of material I have received has been almost embarrassing, so much so that some Liberal MP’s ask me “what is happening in the Liberal Party in Queensland this week?” I am always happy to update them!
    The Liberal Party is suffering from the same crisis that afflicted my own party a couple of decades ago. The ruling “Breakfast Creek” faction was ruthless in its pursuit of organisational control, disinterested in any power sharing, and almost negligent of the real business of political parties – winning elections and forming government.
    The ruling faction in the Liberal Party in Queensland is today more interested in crushing its factional enemies, rorting pre selections and protecting the Michael Johnson cabal on which it depends for survival.
    Is it any wonder that the Santoro-Caltabiano clique wanted to buy a building on Breakfast Creek for the divisions state headquarters?
    The ruling faction in the Liberal Party is even more electorally unsuccessful than the Labor Party predecessor it obviously wants to model itself on?
    In just two state elections, the caucus has dropped from a respectable 15 to a lamentable 3, two third of whom are retiring at the coming election. Its performance in the Brisbane City Council has only been marginally better.
    But winning elections is secondary to organisational domination – just as it was in the Labor Party in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.
    The fact that the ruling faction has chosen to expel two high profile party members within months of state and civic elections only confirms my point. The electoral damage will be outweighed by the satisfaction derived from revenge.
    Those members of the Liberal Party – an ever diminishing number – who are appalled at branch stacking and rorting know their relevance is diminishing as well.
    I have probably done as much as I can, though I have decided to respond to the numerous requests for Liberal Party members for my speeches by publishing them in booklet form.
    I am confident they will be in heavy demand – and will make interesting holiday reading for Liberals right around Queensland.

    Comment by John Mickel — November 25, 2003 @ 9:21 pm

  13. WATNEY’S !!
    It’s a beer in England … and the slogan was “It’s wot yer righ’ arm’s for”
    So with that in mind …
    “Cheers. Here’s to impLosion”

    Comment by sally — November 26, 2003 @ 7:39 pm

  14. Graham,
    Twenty years at a state and local level the party you’ve clung too has gone nowhere. Strong federally with southern leadership and finance. Join a vibrant local based party in this state and stop wasting your time.

    Comment by unknown — November 27, 2003 @ 12:49 pm

  15. Graham,
    Best of luck in your fight. Increasingly I have found that Australian politics lacks the ability to deal with informed discussion on a range of social and political topics. Politicians on all sides and the media attempt to paint all issues either black or white with no shades of grey and damn anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I hope you succeed and are allowed to continue to put forward alternative views. These views should be welcomed rather than condemned.

    Comment by Nigel Wilson — November 28, 2003 @ 3:32 pm

  16. Hello Graham.
    If the Liberal Party didn’t have enough of its own examples, I would point you to the severe damage done to the Democrats through this process of vilification, and the use of official channels to quell dissent. The damage done is deep and very personal, in that some of us who have had to make such decisions are traumatised and, more to the point, not active, at a time when the party needs maxiumum cohesion and strength.
    It is my experience that political parties are made up of many individually decent human beings who, in a pack (read faction), are something else again.
    It is also my experience that episodes such as this take away the energy that should be directed elsewhere.
    Best wishes
    Kate Kunzelmann
    Immediate Past President, Australian Democrats,

    Comment by Kate Kunzel — December 2, 2003 @ 1:38 pm

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