The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has addressed the Liberal Party’s Federal Council meeting in Melbourne.
In its 70th anniversary year, Abbott described the Liberal Party as “the party of Menzies and Fraser and Howard”, a rare reference to Fraser, who no longer belongs to the party and is a persistent critic of its drift to the political right.
But Abbott’s real message was to the crossbench senators who assume office on Tuesday. The government will require 6 of the 8 crossbenchers to support its legislation, if the ALP and the Greens are opposed. Abbott said: “I say to the new senators — we won’t hector you and we won’t lecture you. We respect your election as we ask you to respect ours. We simply ask that you acknowledge the trust placed in us by the Australian people to be their government.”
The Council elected former Howard government minister Richard Alston as the party’s new Federal President, replacing Alan Stockdale, the former Treasurer in the Victorian Kennett government in the 1990s.
The second day of the Council meeting was notable for a dispute between two Abbott ministers. The Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, and the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, clashed on proposed changes to the party’s Constitution. Pyne argued that Brandis should not speak on the issue because of his role in framing the proposals. Critics argued that adequate notice of the proposals had not been given and that the changes gave the Federal party too much power over State divisions. [Read more...]