November 28, 2005 | Jeff Wall

The real message from the people of Pittwater

The good people of the Sydney northern beaches electorate of Pittwater have sent the Liberal Party – and not just its NSW Division – a resounding message.
And it is message those it is meant for seem to have difficulty hearing.
The rampant right-wing, extreme factionalism now overwhelmingly evident in the Liberal Party does not sit easily with an electorate that does not trust politicians, let alone political parties. And it is even less trusting of extreme ideologues…such as those who “masterminded” one of the worst results ever “achieved” by a major party in Australian political history.
But, in the case of NSW at least, it is blame that must be shared by the extremists on the left as well as on the right.
Today the NSW Liberal Party is controlled (perhaps garrotted?) by the far right…but it used to be run with the same ruthless, winner-take-all obsession by the left.
And on this occasion they got the result they richly deserved…an absolute hammering.
The electorate of Pittwater is a bit like the seat of Cunningham in the Queensland Parliament. It has never been held by other than a Liberal (in the case of Cunningham, national) candidate.
The predecessor to Pittwater was Collaroy…held for a generation by the only genuinely successful Liberal Premier of NSW, Sir Robert (Robin) Askin.
Apart from the fact it has never been other than a strong Liberal seat, Pittwater should never have been lost by an opposition party in an environment in which the government of the day is facing serious political problems. The mess inherited by the Iemma Government makes the loss to an Independent clearly identified with the Government inexcusable.
The message for the Liberal Party of today is that the Party Robert Gordon Menzies established, and nurtured, was a “Liberal Party”, not a “Conservative Party”, and a “broad church” and not a “closed shop”.
The candidate for Pittwater was imposed on the electorate, over the top of well credentialed locals, and he was an outsider in a parochial area, but a favoured son of the ruling, right wing faction that seems to be headed by very dark people. He is now a discredited appendage to the history of NSW politics.
And the people of Pittwater – including thousands of voters who have voted “Liberal” all their lives – have rejected their brand of political hate and obsession.
And they will do it in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria next year, and if the Queensland Liberals don’t mend their ways (fat chance of that) in this State late next year or early in 2007.
But the most miserable and pathetic aspect of this humiliating defeat is the attempt by the far right to blame John Brogden for it. How mean spirited can people possibly get?
Having driven Brodgen from public office by rumour and smear they now blame him for losing the unlosable.
The same far right, winner-take-all obsessive style the David Clarke, MLC, led NSW Liberals are being garrotted by is rapidly entrenching itself in the Liberal Party in Queensland.
The “tolerance” Menzies deliberately and carefully crafted into the fabric of the Liberal Party is all but gone. And the electorate does not like it one iota.
The “broad church” he was so proud of is all but gone.
And the basic right to dissent, exercised without the threat of recrimination, was exercised by a host of Members and Senators – Jim Killen, Bill Wentworth, Reg Wright (more than 150 times), Ian Wood (the same), Clive Hannaford and Wilfred Kent Hughes – who crossed the floor to vote against their own Government. And in the Queensland Parliament John Murray, Geoff Chinchen, Bill Lickess and Charles Porter
I can remember as a schoolboy corresponding with Clive Hannaford who, along with Reg Wright, defeated the Menzies Government in the Senate over the two airline policy. In our extensive exchange of correspondence he stressed constantly that “the Prime Minister” had not sought to extract retribution in any way, shape or form.
That is the Liberal Party of the past. It was a remarkably successful Party – the most electorally successful in history…at state as well as federal levels.
And it was the kind of Party that attracted to its ranks outstandingly successful young businessmen such as Jim Longley, the Member for Pittwater from 1986-1996.
Jim was in the moderate, or “wet” faction…but he held strong social values on key issues. And when he left politics in 1996 unquestionably frustrated at the way the Liberal Party was going he became a Senior Executive in the Aged Care Division of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Hardly a “radical” entity?
Today he is a senior executive in the Commonwealth Bank.
It is difficult enough as it is to attract good men and women to public office today.
A party run by intolerant extremists – of the left or right – will not only find it difficult to do so…it will become increasingly politically irrelevant to an electorate that is more discerning, and more demanding of reason and tolerance than ever.
That is the real message from Pittwater.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 8:20 am | Comments Off on The real message from the people of Pittwater |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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