Silence Of The Liberal Lambs: A Scathing Critique Of the NSW Liberals

unnamed-1-150x150-150x150 When the media policy becomes the story, perhaps it’s time to change the media policy, writes Alex Butterworth…

A motion at the upcoming New South Wales Young Liberal Council has drawn broad criticism from grass roots members of the Liberal Party across the nation. The motion is not about a controversial issue of policy; it is a censure motion, targeting a member of the Young Liberals for daring to have an opinion on policy, and for challenging Liberal members of parliament on policy, principles and values. It is symptomatic of a culture that seeks to silence robust policy debate. It is a culture that seemingly only exists in the New South Wales Liberal Party, while other states and territories actively encourage rigorous policy debate both inside and outside party forums.

While the party’s media policy is intended to limit negative media attention over internal party matters, it actually generates more negative media attention and stifles policy debate.

In this latest situation, Kerrod Gream, the Australia and New Zealand Chairman of Students for Liberty (ANZSFL), is accused of criticising the NSW Liberal Party’s brand and contravening the NSW Liberal Party’s media policy. Mr Gream leads the regional body of an impressive global organisation, with values and objectives that fit neatly into Sir Robert Menzies’ We Believe statement. As President of ANZSFL, he advocates small government, individualism, and free markets. ANZSFL is strictly non-partisan and welcomes members of all parties that believe in these values. In Mr Gream’s case, he is a member of the Liberal Party, because he sees it as the appropriate fit for his beliefs and values. Like many, he raises concerns when the party’s policy platform, or individual members of parliament, stray from the Menzies principles. However, some would rather that the NSW Liberal Party escape accountability for its failure to stick to the ideological principles which have served the party so well.

It is policy of the NSW Liberal Party that members “consider carefully any comments or statements they make on websites, social networking sites or blogs” so their comments “do not result in damage or cause embarrassment” to the party. While the party’s rules provide for ‘procedural fairness’ in the enforcement of this policy, the NSW Liberal Party Constitution overrides these procedural fairness provisions, and allows the State Director of the party to unilaterally suspend members of the party for a breach of the policy as determined by the State Director. No rights of appeal, no rights of reply, or right to representation: just suspension.

I have personally been targeted by these provisions over an article written for Menzies House earlier this year. In August this year, I called for the Liberal Party to retain its existing leader, Tony Abbott. This was in response to suggestions by other Liberal Party members on social media that we should make Julie Bishop Prime Minister. My article argued that Julie Bishop is an outstanding Foreign Minister and an excellent Deputy Liberal Leader, but that the traits that make her a great performer in these roles are the same traits that would stop her from being a great Prime Minister. My article did not rule out a Julie Bishop Prime Ministership, but simply set out the things that, in my opinion, would need to change for her to become Prime Minister and lead successfully.

Following publication of this article, I received a telephone call from the NSW Liberal Party State Director, Tony Nutt. One might have thought that the State Director of the NSW Liberal Party would have better things to do than monitor Facebook status updates of ordinary branch members, but apparently not. The consequence of that telephone conversation was my resignation from the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party the next day. After 10 years as a member of the Liberal Party, with a Youth Meritorious Service Award medal on my shelf and a history of services across two states, I had to choose between saying what I really think, and being a member of the New South Wales Division. Contrary to the media policy’s intention, I am now free to say whatever I wish publicly. The threat of penalty for ‘overstepping the line’ is gone altogether, because it was used too liberally (pun intended) for a minor issue. Where I might have previously thought twice about writing an article such as this, I am now free to speak openly about matters, whether external or internal.

While other state and territory divisions of the party relish the challenge of policy debate, there is a chilling effect that occurs in New South Wales because of the media policy. The “tall poppies” who express a view are torn down. Others don’t dare to say anything for fear of a similar fate. Those who fight the culture are sidelined and pushed out, no matter how distinguished their past service to the party has been.

If the New South Wales Liberal Party wants to be a political force to be reckoned with, with policies to match, it can’t be an organisation of silent lambs. The party’s media policy must be reformed, if not abolished entirely.

Alex Butterworth is a technology lawyer and former president of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation, the Western Australian Young Liberals, the Western Australian Liberal Students and the Pearce Division of the WA Liberal Party. 

Demolishing the four pillars

Alex-ButterworthDeregulation, not government intervention, will lead to a stronger banking sector, writes Alex Butterworth.

Australia survived the Global Financial Crisis because of our profitable banking sector. Now, politicians on both sides want to stop banks from making a profit. This is the strange contradiction present in the current debate about banking reform.

Australia’s near miss during the global financial crisis is a testament to the freedom of the Australian economy; it is not an excuse to introduce more regulation. In the US, the Community Reinvestment Acts attempted to outlaw ‘redlining’. Yet the effect of this regulation, compounded over many years, led to a credit crisis that extended beyond US borders. Indeed, if it had not been for the strong hand of the law, and the deep pockets of the US taxpayer, US banks would probably be stronger than Australian banks are today. If Australians should be taking any action, it should be to remove the regulation that holds Australian finance back, not make it worse.

Labor’s proposed banking reforms are deeply flawed. Wayne Swan’s plans to ban both exit fees and price signalling will inevitably be subject to the law of unintended consequences. As Henry Ergas has outlined, banks have a legitimate interest in informing their customers of future price trends. There are also legitimate costs associated with losing a customer, and remaining customers will suffer if banks cannot recover costs through exit fees.

The most concerning part of the plan is the creation of a ‘fifth pillar’ in the banking system. The proposed fifth pillar is the biggest government intrusion into the economy since the national broadband network.  The four pillars policy already prevents Australian banks from competing properly at a global level. We are foolish to think that preventing the ‘big four’ banks from merging, achieves a better deal for Australian consumers. By allowing these banks to merge, we would be strengthening Australia’s banking system against a future credit crunch. On the other hand, creating a fifth pillar reeks of nationalisation by stealth. It uncovers the ideological leanings of Labor and Wayne Swan, who have returned to their ‘big government’ beliefs under pressure.

While he is unlikely to call for the end of the four pillars policy, Joe Hockey now has an opportunity to step back from the bank-bashing, and advocate for deregulation.

At the centre of the debate around banking reform is the unfortunate erosion of personal responsibility. Individuals who amass more debt than they can handle, scream for the government to save them from themselves when it all falls apart. Allowing inefficient businesses to fail is an essential part of a free market. Taking individual responsibility for individual action is an equally important principle for Conservatives.

The way forward on banking reform is not further regulation and scape-goating of the banks; truly effective reform means setting our financial sector free from the burdensome regulation that still holds it back. Indeed, it was the relative freedom of our banking system that allowed us to survive the financial crisis, and it is the further deregulation of the banking system that will protect us in the future. As always, the answer is less government, not more.

Alex Butterworth is a Law Graduate at Minter Ellison, Secretary of the Pearce Division of the Liberal Party, and former Australian Liberal Students' Federation President.

Apology fever

Ben-Peter-Terpstra Alex Butterworth is right on 'apologies', writes Ben-Peter Terpstra.

Was Canberra’s media-approved apology to the “Stolen Generations” an expensive morality play?

Before Rudd rose to power, the representative aboriginals in my aboriginal-majority town were more interested in football games, hunting activities and big hair bands, to make a point about Canberra’s bubble classes.  And, if you don’t think the reconciliation police were wasting your money, then you should have joined me on my walk to one clinic with a shoeless and malnourished aboriginal boy.  We were turned away. Millions were wasted on media-approved “reconciliation” walks, however.

Australia’s apology fever should frighten us for many reasons. As is so often the case, campaigning journalists have promoted a culture of false guilt.

What’s more, apology fever is contagious. An example: Yesterday, I was rereading an excellent piece by the dapper Alex Butterworth on why an apology to homosexuals is, in a word, Orwellian. “Demanding an apology is divisive misplaced altruism that will do more harm than good to the people he is trying to help. Kirby’s demand encapsulates the victim mentality of the Left,” he argues.

“Rather than feeling proud of our peaceful and democratic history, the Left are ashamed of our past and our culture. The Left are trapped in a victim and oppressor perspective that holds back every minority group they claim to represent.” Apology fever is the enemy of progress. It is dangerous. “The concept of inter-generational guilt is entirely inconsistent with individual responsibility. An apology is something you offer to an individual that you have personally wronged.”

I couldn’t agree more with Butterworth because “victim” stories aren’t always clear-cut. A closer-to-home example: When one of my brothers approached Molly Meldrum and asked him “Are you gay?” he wasn’t inciting violence.  No. He was just having a brain fart.

“If anyone should be apologising, it should be Peter Garrett to the families that have lost their homes and loved-ones in house fires as a result of his insulation program,” states Butterworth. In a toxic-apology culture, though, some actors really enjoy their designated roles. Sometimes pretend victims want to feel a valuable part of something, and look to Canberra for salvation. Then there are Canberra’s pro-distraction persecutors who project their issues onto the rest of us.

As of this writing, there are also paid enablers committed to not rocking the Left’s boat.  Yet, one of the greatest things anyone can do to promote reconciliation is to treat people as individuals. So take Butterworth’s advice. If you’ve wronged an adult personally, then you should offer an apology in person (if possible). Or as Ari Gold said, “Let’s hug it out bitch.”

I’m just sorry Canberra’s heartless bureaucrats didn’t join me on my walk to the clinic.

Ben-Peter Terpstra is an Australian satirist and cartoon lover. His works are posted on numerous sites from American Thinker (California) to Quadrant Online (Sydney, Australia).He also blogs for News Real, the team blog of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Michael Kirby’s call for an apology to gay Australians must be rejected

Alex-Butterworth There's no need to make another symbolic apology, writes Alex Butterworth.

The Left of Australian politics have a self-righteous sense of political monopoly over gay Australians. This is destructive altruism and it must stop.

Demanding an apology is divisive misplaced altruism that will do more harm than good to the people he is trying to help. Kirby’s demand encapsulates the victim mentality of the Left. Rather than feeling proud of our peaceful and democratic history, the Left are ashamed of our past and our culture. The Left are trapped in a victim and oppressor perspective that holds back every minority group they claim to represent.

I am a bi-sexual, but before that, I am an Australian, a Liberal and an individual. Like most non-heterosexual men and women my age, I don’t want to be categorised into a minority group, or typecast as some sort of victim. My generation are not stuck in the anachronistic battles of the past, and don’t have the chip on our shoulder that Kirby thinks an apology will remove.

I have been through the emotionally taxing process of coming out of the closet, but far from being a victim, I believe am all the better for it. Every Australian has difficulties that they will face in their life. To feel victimised and demand an apology every time you face adversity is counter-productive.

While Kirby’s self-righteousness on sexuality issues is one concern, there is a deeper problem with what Kirby is proposing. The concept of inter-generational guilt is entirely inconsistent with individual responsibility. An apology is something you offer to an individual that you have personally wronged. An apology should come from Ministers who have made a personal error, or from the individuals who supported bad policy, not from a government using sexuality as a political football to establish some obscure moral high ground. If anyone should be apologising, it should be Peter Garrett to the families that have lost their homes and loved-ones in house fires as a result of his insulation program.

For this generation of Australians to apologise for the actions of past generations is a contrived attempt to swing a few votes. I know I won’t stand by and let it happen without speaking out, and I know that many other non-straight Liberals in Australia will share my view.

As a bi-sexual I am more offended by a government apology that I don’t require than by any “past wrongs” that I’ve never suffered. If Rudd really wants to do something for the gay community in Australia, he should lower taxes, cut red tape and call us Australians rather than trying to turn us into another victim group. The fact is, Rudd won’t do that, but Tony Abbott will.

Alex Butterworth is the Australian Liberal Students' Federation President and WA Young Liberals President.