The Libs and the Nats appear to be placing their trust in… organisational change and intra-party bickering. This appears to be a reflex move when parties lose elections, but the inquirists might like to contemplate how successful Simon Crean was with a year and a half of navel gazing and factional fighting over party rules. That’s not to say that the Libs don’t need to address their weakness as an organisation and do something about branch stacking and the power of extremists in their midst, but Nick Minchin’s reference to the Valder Inquiry in 1983 is to the point.
Minchin should know, because he was then a junior apparatchik at Liberal HQ. Minchin’s argument is that the necessary organisational reforms are well known and what the Valder Inquiry achieved was actually to map out a philosophical and policy direction for the party. Of course, it was the time of the drys v. wets wars, and Minchin was and is happy about it because it was the first marker that Fraserism had been discarded and neoliberalism was the party’s future. I’m tempted to say it took them until 1996 to realise that the hard electorally unpopular edges had to be smoothed off (abolishing Medicare didn’t exactly go down a treat in 1987, and then there was Fightback), but maybe that ought to read 2007.
One thing is certain, though. There’s only so long that they’ll be able to get away with solemn pronouncements that the Parliament will examine Labor’s bills, and that Nelson will be consulting his colleagues widely. They need to articulate what they stand for – their record in opposition in the States suggests that just criticising governments for maladministration gets them nowhere.