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The Liberal Party is in utter disarray and a civil war is needed

By Scott Prasser - posted Monday, 3 April 2023

Given the Liberals' resounding defeat in NSW, and losses federally and across all mainland jurisdictions, the Liberal Party is in as much disarray as when their predecessor, the United Australia Party, was obliterated at the 1943 federal elections.

It is thus time for the long-simmering war between the conservatives and so called "progressives" to be out in the open, even if it leads to a split in non-Labor ranks and as in the 1940s, the formation of a new conservative party rather than the pale version the Liberal Party has now become led by insipient leaders, fractured by factions and pursuing policies indistinguishable from opponents.

Liberals today could do well to remember the lessons their founder, Robert Menzies, drew from the 1943 defeat. He quickly saw the UAP was beyond redemption and a new party was needed.


The UAP he observed, was just "a collection of competing captains and not a team" - just like the Liberals have today are dominated by factions and manipulated by backroom operatives.

Menzies also noted how "the non-Labor forces and supporters are vague about their essential political faith" and had "no comprehensive statement of our political objectives" - like the Liberals today pursuing policies marked by spending extravaganzas and policy appeasement that betray long held principles, practices and policies and provide few political successes.

Menzies saw the UAP had "no constant political organisation in the electorates", its membership numbers had fallen to insignificance.

Consequently, there was no conduit from the electorate to parliamentary members, poor campaigning capabilities and resources wasted on crude public advertising campaigns.

Isn't this the Liberals today that ignore its rank and file and seems to be dominated by pollsters, focus groups and too reactive to media views?

The Victorian Liberals this week, in suspending of one of their newly endorsed and elected members for defending women, is a further case in point.


Menzies succeeded in bringing the disparate, non-Labor groups together to form a new political party with a consistent. political philosophy and clear about what it was for.

At the same time, Menzies was unequivocal what the new Liberal Party was against.

Early on, only a year after the 1943 election debacle, he successfully opposed Labor's 1944 post-war reconstruction and democratic rights referendum that sought 14 additional federal powers and extension of wartime controls across a wide range of areas for a period of five years because it would give too much power to government.

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This article was first published in the Canberra Times.

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About the Author

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

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