Magazine article Review - Institute of Public Affairs

Budget Holidays Matter, of Course

Magazine article Review - Institute of Public Affairs

Budget Holidays Matter, of Course

Article excerpt

Canberra local politics barely registers outside the ACT, but Liberals around the country may be taught some rude realpolitik by a group of local party dissidents.

While Western Australia could go to the polls from late June, the next scheduled election is in the ACT, on October 18. It should be livened up by a sudden schism that appeared in the Territory Liberals late in February.

The party governed the ACT between 1995 and 2001. They had the political smarts to hang onto office at a time when their federal colleagues shed 7,000 public sector positions. Their policy settings weren't bad, either. They presided over the creation of nearly 13,000 jobs and gave a significant boost to Canberra's private sector employment.

Opposition, though, has been hard. Like their counterparts elsewhere, the ACT Liberals have been characterised by infighting and mediocrity. Like their counterparts elsewhere they have been churning through the leaders. They are on their third in two years-and no one can pronounce the name of the current bloke, Zed Seselja.

Earlier this year a group of party powerbrokers declared that they had had enough. The Liberal fundraising group, the 250 Club, relaunched itself as the Canberra Business Club and announced it would bankroll independent candidates in this year's election.

There are some subtexts here. Little parties have big feuds. Off the record, some CBC heavies admit that they are hoping to take advantage of the Territory's multi-member electorates to get their people up and guarantee a business-friendly government.

But there are also some ominous signs for the Liberal Party, in the ACT and elsewhere.

"The Liberals can't rely on business support,' one CBC board member told me. 'People give money to the party they think will win.'

In other words, ACT business people believe the Liberal brand is weak-and tainted. The same is probably true in all the states. The federal party's brand has taken a walloping, too.

Robert Menzies' great success involved bringing a disparate group of parties together and melding them into one. The myriad of organisations that attended the Canberra and Albury conferences became the Liberal Party. And the Liberal Party became Australia's most successful political brand.

Menzies' Liberal Party, and the groups it bought together, had two defining characteristics. …

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