Progress for Liberal Democrats in UK and Australia

by on 30 April, 2010

Peter-Whelan Peter Whelan writes on the flow-on effect the success of the UK Liberal Democrats might have in Australia.

The phone calls and emails started coming in about a month ago. “Hey, I’ve just had a call from the Australian Electoral Commission wanting to confirm my membership of the Liberal Democrats!” one said. Another proudly boasted, “The man from the AEC asked if I was a member of the Liberal Democrats and I replied 'Yes, everyone should be!'”.

These calls resulted from the “Test” applied by AEC as to whether a Political party has the minimum 500 members and can be re-registered, or if it is to be de-registered. For many minor parties this can be a nightmare; too many refusals and de-registration automatically follows. That means no party candidates in the upcoming federal election, no further exposure and a lost opportunity of receiving valuable electoral funding. Members have to be committed enough to actually remember that they had joined a political party. In Australia even the major parties have relatively low membership numbers; most people just aren’t that interested, or believe that simple membership is not enough to influence policy or direction.  Also, many people feel the phone contact at their homes from the AEC is an unwanted intrusion into their private lives, especially when membership of a minor party may be seen as a fringe or somewhat abnormal activity.

In the past the Liberal Democrats’ Executives have had complaints along the lines of “Why did you give my private number to them?” Some, who had clearly signed up as members, denied such when questioned by “someone calling from Canberra”. Maybe they thought the call was from ASIO and they were under suspicion of being a member of a terrorist’s cell!

But this time it was all very different!

Not only did the excellent positive response to the AEC’s phone calls result in the Liberal Democratic Party being re-registered, but we even had some members offer themselves as a candidate in the upcoming federal election, whenever it is called!

So, that got me wondering…

Maybe with the Labor Party being in so much trouble with their economic stimulus programs, the average voter is looking for an alternative? The media has exposed the failures of the home insulation program, the rorts involved in the Julia Gillard Memorial School Halls building program and the chopping and changing in handling and processing of illegal immigrants.

Perhaps the average voter has looked at the contradictory statements coming from the Coalition side and found them wanting. No sooner has Barnaby Joyce made a pronouncement about the economy, than Tony Abbott contradicts him. Abbott proposes that the unemployed should be forced into labour camps at the iron ore, oil and gas regions of Western Australia, but then others in the Coalition distance themselves from the plan.

Neither the Liberals nor Nationals can really explain whether they are in favour of population growth for Australia, or for maintaining a stable population, which would mean cutting immigration.

The Conservatives don’t really seem to be landing any blows against the Rudd P.R. machine. The media still refer to Tony Abbott as “the mad monk” and depict his cycling and swimming efforts as those of a latter day Solo Man.

Could it be that with both sides of politics being out of favour, the Liberal Democrats may at last be gaining some traction?

With the Liberal Democratic Party polling so well in the lead up to the UK General Election, could this be the signal for a surge in the vote for the Liberal Democratic Party in Australia? The latest polling indicates more than 35% of voters support the UK Liberal Democrats, with the first past the post system putting them in a strong position to take government, or at least give the established parties a fright.

The Liberal Democrats in Australia are a more libertarian, or classical liberal party, compared to the UK party of the same name, who have policies more akin to those of soft-left, social democrat-style parties. Additionally, the Australian preferential system of voting means that comparisons are not so simple.

However, the spin off for the Australian Liberal Democrats has meant  more exposure for the name in Australian media; the identification factor and increasing awareness of the “Liberal Democratic” brand cannot be ignored.

In the short term that recognition has at least help the (Australian) Liberal Democrats get over the hurdle of re-registration, so when the federal election is called, we say “bring it on”.

Peter has been the National President of the Liberal Democratic Party since 2008. He also the President of the Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters Inc (CLASS Action) and author of the publication Gun Prohibition in Australia: an expensive mistake.  

Leave a Reply