RebuildTheLibs.com: Crafting a Way Forward for the Liberal Party

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the Liberal Party is in trouble.Our poll numbers are abysmal, and we are in Opposition Federally, as well as in every State & Territory bar one.

Despite the gleeful cries of the mainstream media and by disgruntled, failed former Liberal Party members who should have been in the Greens in the first place that conservatism is dead, the problem is not in our value. Indeed, traditional Liberal values are as strong as ever. Rather, the problem is in our messaging. We can no longer afford to simply lament how lucky Rudd is. It is imperative we address our own failings.

To put it simply – we suck. When it comes to campaigning, fund raising,  community outreach, new media, promoting talent and articulating our vision – Labor walks all over us. We continue to use the same grassroots campaigning techniques used in the time of Menzies. We believe in decentralisation, yet run the most centralised campaigns imaginable. We fail to  utilise the intellectual capital of our members, particularly our younger generation. We protect dead-wood parliamentary incumbents, and we have a media policy that belongs in the age of the dinosaurs. The list goes on, and anyone who fails to recognise this is living in denial. Our values and beliefs are great. Our salesmanship? Terrible.

One of the direct causes of this malaise  is the culture of meekness when it comes to publicly recognising the party’s failings. We tend to shy away from criticising anything the party does, other than in hushed whispers to fellow members. Compare this to the US, where following the 2008 election lost, a host of Republican blogs and websites were formed in a spontaneous grassroots effort to help rebuild the party: to use one example, rebuildtheparty.com prepared a plan which was ultimately endorsed by 6/7 RNC Chair candidates – including Michael Steele, the current RNC chair.

Our culture of secrecy, and top down decision making must change. We can not continue to rely on elected party officials to decide what is good – rather we must engage our membership directly, and indeed, our supporters in the community. At present, vested interests have personal stakes in the current system, and are threatened by change. As such genuine internal debate is stifled. This must change. We need take down the ‘Members Only’ sign and replace it with a welcome mat.

As such, I am excited to unveil a new project – http://www.rebuildthelibs.com, which I have just registered and hope to launch in about a months time.

When this site is officially launched, it will be an opportunity for not only party members, but our supporters to have a direct say in the future direction of the Liberal Party. No cow will be too sacred, no idea to radical to consider.

Essentially what I propose to do is start by releasing a series of articles by a number of experienced young people on how to move forward. Some will be controversial, some will be mutually exclusive. All will be stimulating, innovating and thought provoking.

I think they will probably be divided into a number of categories – policy, community outreach, technology, internal party structure, fundraising and so forth. Each will be divided into sub points, with an article on each of these, available for public comment (also some of these will have to be anonymous/under a pseudonym). I am also toying with the idea of using google moderator or something of that nature to allow people to submit their ideas, and have them voted upon. We must move debate as to the future of the party away from stale old voices, and out into the open. Only then will we truly succeed.

This idea only came to me yesterday (and I must thank Brian Johnson from the Alliance for Worker Freedom for the inspiration), so it’s still in rudimentary stages, and I appreciate feedback and suggestions. I strongly feel such public discussion is vital for us to rebuild the party and move forward in a strong, positive direction.

We are lucky to be members of a great party – the party of freedom and prosperity. The sooner we address our weaknesses, the sooner we shall triumph. Let us all work together and REBUILD THE PARTY!

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26 Responses to “RebuildTheLibs.com: Crafting a Way Forward for the Liberal Party”

  1. jameswp Says:

    Looks excellent, Tim, looking forward to seeing it up and running.

  2. Pete Says:

    Tim,

    “Our values and beliefs are great. Our salesmanship? Terrible.”

    Well done mate, not only for your honest analysis, but your initiative to rebuild the libs. I am also of the opinion we are too kind to many “dead wood” members of parliament who will not be ministers again, we need to be far more ruthless. I look forward to the website being started up!

  3. Sasha Says:

    Wonderful idea Tim!

    I think non-party members definitely need a forum where they can suggest improvements we should be making.

    Hopefully people will use the website constructively!

  4. Bee Says:

    Tim, wonderful idea, but given we had a very very long chat last night about this and we’re on the same page, you already knew that.

  5. AB Says:

    I was speaking to someone about this exact thing the other night, and to a different person last night, and another person this morning.

    It seems that there are a lot of Liberals that want to re-brand the party, and go back to our core small government beliefs, but for some reason all of the people who want change in the party don’t know that each other exist.

    What we need to do is get all the people who want to rebuild the party connected with each other. We all exist but we aren’t connected with each other and we aren’t all sitting down together, setting out a long term plan and organising ourselves in a coordinated way to put that plan into action.

    http://www.rebuildthelibs.com is exactly the way to go. Connect changemakers with each other so that we know that we’re not the only ones, and start organising ourselves and planning out what we’re going to do.

    In the whole thing, the important bit to remember is that changing the party doesn’t mean a shift to the Left – it means remembering what small government is, re-focussing our policy, advertising and branding to emphasise the small government policies we have that are appealling to a broad electoral base.

    We also need to get rid of the stuffy old image of being a bunch of balding old white men sitting around drinking port and smoking cigars in leather armchairs. As far as the image bit is going I think that the UK Tories and Malcolm Turnbull are doing a bit of that, but they’re moving the parties to the Left at the same time and you can have a change in branding without shifting to the Left.

    I think a lot of young voters are fundamentally small government thinkers, who want government out of the way. We just need to tap into that by emphasising out small government credentials as a defining difference between us and other parties (including the Nats). We should get away from the social issues that the Left have successfully used to brand us as big scary consevratives with their big government coming into your bedroom and telling you what you can morally do and not do.

    The winds of change are blowing, lets put up the sails!

  6. Giovanni Says:

    I think this is a great idea, and I know a lot of young Liberal voters (but non-members) who’d be happy to put in their 2 cents’ worth.

  7. CS Says:

    This is another example of how simply saying what we’re all thinking can be such a powerful thing.

    Being in opposition is painful, but we all know it’s the best time to make those difficult changes that the party needs.

    Young people in general are ambitious and crave the freedom to meet their potential. Two things at the very core of the Liberal party’s philosophy. If the Libs are to come out of this stronger, they need to embrace the enthusiasm and fresh perspective of young Australians and actively re-engineer the way they position themselves on the political landscape.

    Let’s get stuck into it.

  8. Ralph Buttigieg Says:

    G’day.

    May I suggest a ning social group would be very useful. See what the Americans did: http://rebuildtheparty.ning.com/

    ta

    Ralph

  9. Oz Hun Says:

    Tim,

    as you know, i agree and would be happy to contribute.

    The overarching problem with the Liberal Party is that the brand sux. It’s not like one person commented that the Party is seen as full of balding old men smoking cigars, rather I believe the brand image is that it is full of failures and careerists who would achieve nothing better in life if not for their seat in Parliament.

    Sadly, nothing i have ever seen has convinced me that this is not an accurate description of 90% of the MPs and general members of the Party.

    The really sad thing is that the Party appears to be heading in a direction that is only going to make this problem worse. Moving away from democratic processes will only REDUCE the quality of MPs, and this in turn browns off quality people from joining. It also of course makes the Party more unelectable, thus compounding the problem.

    In my opinion, it is the lack of democracy that creates the pervasive problem of powerful factions, not the other way around. And it is these factions that do the most damage to the Party’s brand – rewarding loyalists rather than meritorious candidates.

    To break the factions, the Party needs to restore democracy first. Open plebiscites of members, such as those recently introduced in Victoria and the NSW Nats, is a good start, but really only goes half way.

    The only way to re-establish full democracy is to allow any member of the public to ‘register’ as a Liberal and abolish the need for membership. This of course requires the Party to raise funds via other methods (which is no bad thing) but it importantly empowers any enrolled voter in an area to have a say on who is the Liberal candidate in their area.

    ‘Stacking’ is of course still possible under such a scenario, but it would be 100 times harder to successfully coordinate. It importantly means that any old ‘Joe’ has a chance to obtain preselection or have a say on who the candidate should be.

    It has been claimed that Churchill once said of democracy: “It may not be perfect, but it’s still the best system on offer.” Who can argue with that?

    Only those who benefit from the current dictatorship in the Liberal Party have anything to fear from democracy… and i think this says more about them than they would be willing to admit.

    One particular recent YL President said to me that he opposed democratic reform in the Party because he honestly believed that 80% of the Party disagreed vehemently with his political views. This says it all really.

  10. RobC Says:

    A very good idea Tim. If you need some help building the site or wouldn’t mind me contributing some commentary, fire off an email to me.

  11. Tim Andrews Says:

    Ralph – what are the advantages of ning? Rather unaware of it…

  12. Michael Says:

    I hope that you can somehow draft a site that firmly believes in the dictum of “practicality on principle”: policy that doesn’t go backwards, but forwards. Here in SA we have policy that is taking us towards socialism, not liberalism, by way of populism.

  13. Tim Andrews Says:

    Michael – I certainly agree.
    My goal though is not to just address this shift to socialism our party is witnessing, but also look at how we can address the core reasons that have led to this being the case.
    Suggestions welcome!

  14. Alex Says:

    I applaud you for thinking about a mechanism for open discussion – the Liberal Party is not good at this. I have no doubt you will encounter opposition from the Party hierarchy.

    While I agree with the comments about the party’s poor marketing, campaigning and lack of understanding about communicaiton in the Google age, we must not fall into the trap of believing the problem is about how we wrap the product.

    You say “traditional Liberal values are as strong as ever”. What does this mean? There is no conversation happening in the Party and with the wider community of Liberal supporters about what are the so called Liberal values.

    You will not however get a good conversation about values if you fall into the very bad habits you decry by dismissing those who criticse by saying they should be in the Greens because they are not conservative enough. That characterisation is shallow.

    I do not support much of what the Greens say and do however on a range of issues they are ahead of the Liberal Party. So we need to critically examine what the dissidents may be saying and then think whether we are being just as dogmatic and blind as some of those on the so called “left”. The Liberal Party has not understood nor embraced sustainability because to do so means having a serious look at our social, political, and economic structures. If we are too conserative to do this then the world will change before we do.

    The Party needs to look at the social contract that gives our society cohesion and stability. You might get a surprise when you find out what the citizen wants. If you think the citizen is misguided then you might try to persuasion however we may launch the Party on the road to oblivion if we ignore this.

    If you are not afraid of change, then a few less slogans and epithets towards those who may not seem conservative enough for you will encourage a better conversation to achieve the aim of rebuilding the Libs.

    As always Tim, I support your passion for open discussion. The Party has been far too risk averse for too long.

    I will join the discussion. I have no problem with the tut-tut that will emanate from those who want nothing to change.

    Well done Tim.

  15. Leo Perkins Says:

    Tim,
    I couldn’t agree more on many points. Now is the best time to have massive blood-let of our own internal dogmas, and get back to the roots of Liberalism.

    Remind people both internally in the party and the general population, being a Liberal is not just a party member it’s a way of life. It’s a true reflection of checks and balances that occur in nature. We should be applying our own principals on the internal party process. Things based on merit not association. Hand up not hand outs.

    Tim I am happy to help/head a team of people to work on the development, if you would like to do a separate website.

    I have further ideas on how we can improve the party, but that’s best for the forthcoming website.

    Tim you ever remain a Liberal Spiritual Leader.

  16. MichaelR Says:

    Hmmm… the Libs coerced the Aust citizens into surrendering their firearms and this is the party of Freedom? They uphold the taxing of effort (income tax) and this is the party of Freedom? They tried to Censor the internet and this is the party of freedom? Aust citizens are coerced into voting under threat of fine and this is freedom? The harder a person works the more they are punished by being highly taxed while lazy bones people get rewarded with welfare and this is freedom? They instigated GST knowing full well it would fill the coffers like it has done in Every country that instigated it, and this is the party of freedom?

    No current major political party earns the right to call itself a freedom party when they instigate new civil liberty infringements and uphold existing ones. Otherwise it is just doublethink and newspeak.

    Now. To save the Lib party reqs the pollies to grow a set. To stop cow toeing to the do-gooder media and call it for what it is. Geeze, look how Turnbill was almost apologetic for being accused of being wealthy by the ALP. He needs to call it what it is, “pure and utter hypocrisy to question my wealth while your own party leader has a family wealth exceeding $60 million dollars” And go on from there. To SLAM once and for all Bob Brown – a lone voice who receives extraordinary amounts of media air time. The Libs need to call these things out. To expose them. To stand up. In a Bulworth-esq fashion.

    When the ALP runs ads saying how little the Libs spend on Education, the libs need to counter telling the people that Education is funded by the state, so blame the state ALP for the state of education. Same with the Health/Hospital attacks.

    This is what people liked about Thatcher. It is what they liked about Bronwyn Bishop before she suddenly fell silent (party orders?) and was given a Ministry.

    But, we know that won’t happen. Look what both parties (and the media) did to Pauline Hanson when she tried to tell it how it was.

    No. The parties like things just how they are – remember the BS “Republican” thing we all got to vote on, which would essentially leave us with the same system we have now?

    Democracy is, in truth, nothing more than Mob Rules. It is like ten wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner – regardless of what Property Rights are infringed upon.

    You want the right to call a party the freedom party? Then that party needs to uphold property rights, pure and simple. But, that will also not happen because govt (in all its forms) is the major infringer of property rights. That’s just the truth of the matter.

    Now. The Libs know that with such a large swing against them last election that the ALP is in for two terms. Because it never swings so much back the other way after only one term. And this is why a lot of Rudd’s promises are being ignored – like his IR Laws Stuff – until After next election. Because both sides know, while the media says nothing, that the ALP is in for 2 terms certain. And Rudd will use his 2nd term to try to buy votes for his 3rd term.

    The Libs need to work on that pretext. That they Will lose the next election unless something unexpected happens to make people suddenly loath Rudd. So whomever is the head of the party needs to be preened for this. Preened to be around for this coming election – and lose – and stay the course for the election after. That person also needs to be able to be related to by the people. Hockey would be a better candidate than Turnbill as people can more readily relate to the man (remember, it was Hockey and Rudd who used to do the morning TV show appearances).

    Anyway. In summation… they need to work on a 2 election timeline with a leader people can relate to, while growing a set and telling it how it is instead of coming across as a me-too lefty party. Just for starters.

    There is more. Much more. But it all hinges on these two elements.

  17. Michael Says:

    People like everything about liberalism: leave me alone, let me be free, live my life as I please. Young people absolutely love this message (ala Ron Paul) and if the party shifts policy to realise that these kids are growing up and will soon be the bulk of the population, then we’re set.

    So, just think: freedom, freedom, freedom. Health care reform: a base government tax credit of some low-reasonable amount for whatever provider you so choose. Privatise Medicare, reduce costs, reduce government spending, while allowing more people to choose and at the same time still have (regrettably, but progress had been made) government health care.

    Encourage part-time university study by removing youth allowance and (again) introduce a tax credit of some sort for part-time and full-time students who are paying their way, phasing out in a similar way to the low income tax offset to avoid high income rorts.

    Introduce a lower, flat-tax on interest earnings, shares and other investments. Make it only apply after a generous tax-free amount so ordinary people get the greatest benefit.

    Make it again seem like the Liberal Party is the party that lets YOU prosper, not the party that gives you everything, making young people realise that YOU matter, you did it, its on your work, we’re just getting out the way.

  18. Tim Andrews Says:

    Michael R: I agree completely with your criticisms of the Liberal Party, and am ashamed by them.

    Michael G: I agree – I think that the “Leave Us Alone” coalition as Grover Norquist puts it really is the way forward – young people who just want to be left alone and don’t want a nanny state. Certainly agree that that’s the way forward.

    The question I think we need to consider though is why as a party we are in the situation where effectively we’re quibbling with labor on how best to administer taxpayer dollars, as opposed to promoting freedom. Unless we look at these root cases I don’t think we’ll succeed.

    Alex – I actually agree to some extent; I think that there are free market solutions to sustainability that we could be presenting. Being Liberal and being anti-environment are not mutually exclusive, I just think our approach is different to the of the left – one based on empowerment, not control. In anyevent, certainly want your input (not just on this issue, ubt also want to take advantage of your knowledge of party internal structures etc!)

  19. Tim Andrews Says:

    Btw – I do think the GST was a good move, income taxes punish incentive and hard work, so moves to consumption taxes I like.
    Of course, income taxes should hna ve been cut more

  20. Michael Says:

    I think Goldwater said something along the lines of “I don’t want to make government more efficient, I want to cut it”. So priority one, shrinking government and expanding freedom; priority two, figuring where the cuts will be. Once the party is committed to priority one, priority two comes next.

  21. Tim Andrews Says:

    “I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake the to promote welfare for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them”

  22. Ralph Buttigieg Says:

    G’day,

    Ning is a DIY facebook. It comes with user pages, groups, blogs, discussion forums etc. It accepts widgets and people can write applications for it. Ning has been used successfully by the American conservative right. The Team Sarah have http://www.teamsarah.org/ which has over 60,000 users.

    It would allow you to quickly build an online community to promote the cause. have a look at http://www.ning.com and better still send me your e-mail address and I send you an invite to the Team Sarah site for you to explore.

    ta

    Ralph

  23. Tim Andrews Says:

    My gut feeling would be that we lack the critical mass to make something like that work, and as such it would be best to stick with facebook (which everyone has already), but I’m more than happy to be proven wrong!

  24. Tim Humphries Says:

    rebuildthelibs.com is a solid long term investment to carry forward ideas and build strength within the organization. Kudos to your sir!

    Its an excellent contribution to what’s called institutional memory.

    Regardless of the short-medium results we dig up at elections in the next few cycles, this will provide an excellent grounding to build momentum, recruit new people and even retain people who may have been sidelined or discouraged by elements within their own branch of the party.

    This action is consistent with your view presented recently in your webcam rant, the long-term is important, this is a proposal that achieves that.

    I’m encouraged by this allot. Expect plenty of contributions from your truly.

  25. MichaelR Says:

    “we’re quibbling with labor on how best to administer taxpayer dollars, as opposed to promoting freedom.”

    You cannot control a free man. Tax him to borderline poverty and make him a criminal with so many laws you cannot help but break them, and you have control.

    Income tax was introduced in 1913 to Fund The War. I guess they just Forgot to remove it, hey?

    I cannot find full info on how the Aus reserve bank works. But if it’s like the US Fed it is a Private Bank and it works like this… Issues money to the Govt and charges the govt Interest on that money. Income tax is used to pay the interest – not to fund social progs.

    So when Rudd said he Promised to keep the res bank Independent, he was doing what the Power Brokers told him to do – let Them decide how things will be. It also offers Rudd a way not to be responsible. And instead of Blaming anything on the res bank, blame the economy or capitalism or whatever. But not those who supply the money and who also dictate how much interest will be paid on that money.

    Oz govt will Spend $100 billion on Upgrading military. Of course it will. All of it will be Borrowed from the res Bank – at interest no doubt. That interest will be paid by income tax.

    Biggest broadband rollout nationwide? Of course no private firm could do it alone. With Govt help – and conditions attached to that help and the Funds (borrowed from the res bank) internet control is one step closer to completion.

    Why quibble about how to spend tax dollars as opposed to promoting freedom?

    Because it’s not ever about Freedom. Ever. And quibbling about Tax Dollars keeps the plebs distracted from what it’s really about… about politicians doing what the power brokers tell them to do. The power brokers being the Big Banks private money people, the large insurance co’s, pharmaceutical co’s, oil co’s, etc. And Turnbill (merchant banker, partner with Goldman Sachs, partner with ALP’s Neville Wran and Nicholas Whitlam – son of old Goff and former CEO of the State Bank of NSW) is one of them. So you’ll get nothing but what’s good for them, coming from him.

    Fam Rudd has made Millions from the Employment Services privatization. So any anti-liberal stuff they offer is all for Show.

    I commend you on trying to do something to Change the party for the Better. Alas you are fighting… general public apathy – and – a lack of integrity which the overwhelming vast majority of people have as they sell themselves to the highest offer. You’re also fighting the established system which will fight to keep the status quo – a system made up of more than just politicians.

    For instance: Say you had freedom with property rights as the cornerstone of the system. That would mean I can drink and drive and be guilty of nothing – unless – I infringe upon another person’s property rights by crashing into their car. If I make it home without such infringement I have hurt no one or no property.

    The BIG insurance companies would go Nuts over this wouldn’t they? After all, there is a very real chance there would be more crashes – not necessarily life threatening, just more damage and more payouts. Cannot have that. So pressure comes tdown to instigate a blood alcohol limit.

    THAT, is the system you’d be trying to change.

    Look at how the Current leader is chosen… by backroom deals, right? If it was left to all Party members to vote, then maybe someone unexpected could become leader. Maybe Turnbill wouldn’t be the guy… see? Those vying for that position would Not want that possibility. As they make the rules, the rules stay as they are. Elitism continues.

    THAT is the system you’d be trying to change.

    Like I said, I commend you for trying. But you will not effect freedom through the political process. You’ll have to go find it yourself. Start with Harry Brown’s “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” and go from there – you’ll find it on Amazon and can find some summation of his stuff here http://www.buildfreedom.com/tl/ffp05.shtml

    But good luck, Tim. At the least, put some google ads on the site and maybe you can make a few bucks for your effort.

  26. william Darby Says:

    MichealR has nailed it. However I still hold out hope that the freedom message is powerful enough to infect the liberal party. When we(the liberal party)adopt the freedom message we must sell it unapolegeticaly.

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