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Abbott Announces Panel To Examine Democratisation Of NSW Liberals

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced the formation of an Expert Panel to consider reform of the NSW Liberal Party.

The announcement came during Abbott’s address to the NSW Liberal Party State Council in Sydney today.

“I love this party,” Abbott told the gathering. He said the Expert Panel would examine preselection reform and democratisation of the party.

The reform process will be led by former prime minister John Howard. He will be assisted by one of his former ministers, David Kemp, the former president of the NSW division, Chris McDiven, and the longtime member for Berowra, Philip Ruddock.

Concern over the preselection process and factionalism within the NSW division has grown in recent years. The party’s failure to win more seats in NSW cost it government in 2010. The candidacy of Jaymes Diaz cost the party the seat of Greenway at this year’s election.

Transcript of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Address to the NSW Liberal Party State Council in Sydney.

Well, what a fantastic day to be together as part of our extended Liberal family. It is an extraordinary honour to be with you this morning. It is an extraordinary honour to be with you this morning as your Prime Minister.

I am under no illusions, I know that the only reason that we have a new Government in Canberra, the only reason that I am Prime Minister is because I am the product of this great Party.

It is a political party, it is a political movement that produces politicians and produces governments and I just want to thank you for your hard work, for your commitment, for your sustained dedication to the values that have made this Party great and which has made this country great. I just want to thank you for everything you have done.

I am so thrilled to be with my friend and colleague Premier Barry O’Farrell, and I was told President Chris, last night that it was the first time since the era of Sir Robert Askin and Billy McMahon that we had a Liberal Prime Minister and a Liberal Premier in New South Wales.

I did a bit of research and that’s not actually correct. It’s the first time since Malcolm Fraser and Sir Eric Willis but it is still quite a long time. It is nice to think that once more our country and our state are in the best possible hands.

Ladies and gentlemen, I really do want this to be an occasion to say thank you to you, the Party which is responsible for the new Government in Canberra and which is responsible for the opportunity that I have and my senior colleagues have to give our country the better government that it deserves and to build the best kind of Australia that we all know we are capable of.

Chris, thank you so much for your hard work as President. Mark Neeham, thank you so much for your hard work, as State Director and Barry thank you for your extraordinary work as a friend, as a colleague and as someone who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Federal Party throughout the campaign.

We had a lot of good days during the campaign. We had a lot of good days during the campaign but one of the very best days was the day when there was an encounter between the NSW Premier and the then prime minister not far from Garden Island, and then of course there was a moment in the State Parliament when the Premier held up one of these and he said, ‘Prime Minister these are for calling Premiers, not for taking selfies’.

Because of the way our Party worked together, because of the way we all pulled together as a Liberal family at every level, our Party did better in the Federal election just past than we ever have before.

There is a roll call of new Liberal Members in seats that we never ever thought we would win. Craig Laundy, the first ever Liberal Member for Reid. David Coleman, the first ever Liberal Member for Banks. It is a long time since we have held Barton but Nick Varvaris, is the Liberal Member for Barton.

Wasn’t it so nice to see Eden Monaro return to our fold with Peter Hendy. After the disappointments of 2007 and 2010 wasn’t it great to have Fiona Scott come as the Member for Lindsay. It was terrific to have Lucy Wicks emerge as the Member for Robertson, and wasn’t it nice to see the back of the former member of Dobell, Mr Thomson, and to have Karen Mcnamara there in that seat.

It is also fantastic to have two outstanding new members, Ann Sudmalis down there on the South Coast and of course Angus Taylor replacing Alby Schultz.

Great to have so many new Members in our Parliamentary Party and because we have so many new Members in our Parliamentary Party, the New South Wales Liberal Party has never had a stronger position in the Government of this country.

We have Joe Hockey as the Treasurer of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull Minister for Communications, Scott Morrison the man who has one of the hardest jobs in the country as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Arthur Sinodinos the Assistant Treasurer, Maurice Payne the Minister for Human Services, Sussan Ley the Assistant Minister for Education, Parliamentary Secretaries Connie Fierravanti Wells, Bob Baldwin, Paul Fletcher and of course isn’t it magnificent to have the Parliament in such good hands, to have the Chamber presided over so graciously by our very own Bronwyn Bishop.

Isn’t it nice to know that if any new Members of Parliament are feeling low, are feeling lonely, are feeling confused well they have Philip Ruddock as Counsellor in Chief, as the Chief Whip of our Parliamentary Party.

My friends the new Government, from day one has made a difference. On day one of the new Government we freed the car industry from Labor’s $1.8 billion fringe benefit tax hit. From day one we freed the nurses and the teachers and the sales people from Labor’s hit on self-education costs. We have made a difference from day one. We have the Commission of Audit ensuring that government is efficient and effective. We have already abolished some twenty one unnecessary non-statutory committees and organisations. We have memorandums of understanding with New South Wales and with Queensland for one stop shops for environmental approvals and Greg Hunt, our Environment Minister, has given the environmental approvals in just eight weeks for $160 billion worth of new projects right around our country.

The free trade agreements that had been stalled for up to eight years have been accelerated under Andrew Robb. The National Broadband Network is being put on a sound financial footing and while I can’t tell you that the boats have stopped, they are stopping and notwithstanding the fact that we will have good days and not so good days in that particular campaign know this – boat arrivals, illegal arrivals by boat are 80 per cent down in the first two months of this Government compared to the last two months of the former Labor government.

My friends this week the House of Representatives began the process of tax reform in our country by passing the Mining Tax repeal legislation. We began the process of tax reform in this country by passing the Carbon Tax repeal legislation.

Every time the families of Australia get an electricity bill they will know that it is $200 higher than it needs to be because of ‘Electricity Bill’ Shorten.

The costs faced by the families of this country will be $550 a year more than they need to be until the Labor Party finally listens to the people and not to the Greens and supports the Carbon Tax repeal legislation.

I don’t think the Labor Party quite understands the position that it has put itself into by its continued alignment of the Greens and its continued opposition to the repeal of the Carbon Tax.

Not once will the Labor Party be able to accuse the new Government of breaking a promise when they are standing in the way of our keeping the most fundamental promise of all, the promise to repeal the Carbon Tax.

Not once will the Labor Party be able to accuse the new Government of hurting the families of Australia when they are standing in the way of delivering the greatest benefit of all to the families of Australia – the repeal of the Carbon Tax.

They have put themselves in a diabolical position and eventually, I think, they will wake up to themselves, but until such time as they do they stand condemned for their continued failure to accept that there was an election. The people did speak and the government has changed and that is the basic problem with the Labor Party right now. They are still in denial that there was an election. The people have spoken and they are on the wrong side of the Parliament.

Ladies and gentlemen, my friends, while we have done extremely well, while in so many ways this is the high water mark for our Party in New South Wales, while we can be rightly proud of all we have achieved, to have won the greatest political victory we have ever seen in our country, the extraordinary landslide that delivered government to Barry O’Farrell. While we can be rightly proud of the contribution that all of us made to the extraordinary success of the Liberal Party winning another seven seats here in New South Wales, we cannot rest on our laurels. We can never rest on our laurels.

The urge to improve is at the heart of our culture. It is the genius that has made our civilisation great and we can never think that even in this Party, even at the moment of our greatest success, we can never think that we can’t continue to improve and that is why I am so pleased that the state executive of our Party last night made a historic decision.

Last night the State Executive of our Party made a historic decision to accelerate the process of reform, to embrace the spirit of democratisation and to ensure that our Party belongs to its members and not to its factions in the months and years ahead.

We all know that there has been a lot of talk of reforming our Party over the last couple of years. Many of us were at a very important and quite emotional State Council meeting at the end of 2012.

Yes, after a lot of debate and after a lot of argument we decided that we would embrace a reform process, but a reform process has got to have some objectives and it has got to have some timeframes and what the State Executive of our Party decided to do last night was not just to talk about reform but to actually embrace reform.

So, what our State Executive decided to do last night was to put Party reform into the hands of people who actually believe in it and who actually want to make it happen.

I am so pleased and proud of the members of State Executive. I am so pleased and proud of the willingness of our President Chris Downy and other members of our Party to put this whole question of preselection reform and the democratisation of our Party into the hands of a group of eminent Liberals. To put this process into the hands, at least initially, of some of the finest people our Party has ever produced.

This process will be guided by eminent people led by John Howard, assisted by the Hon. David Kemp who has been so important in reforming our Party in Victoria, assisted by Chris McDiven a former president of this division and a former president of our party nationally, and assisted by someone who has done more for our Party in NSW than just about anyone else my friend and colleague Philip Ruddock.

I can’t think of a better group of people into whose hands we can entrust the future of our Party. I can’t think of a better group of people to guide all of us as we proceed to embrace a better future. I really can’t think of four wiser more balanced people to help us as we wrestle with these issues and come to the decisions that we must embrace before the end of next year.

I love this Party. I know everyone in this room loves this Party.

You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t love this Party and we want this Party to be the very best it can be. We want this Party to be as attractive as it humanely can be to the people of New South Wales and the people of Australia.

We want people to be selected to represent this Party on the basis of their ability not on the basis of their factional alignments.

We want people to be able to stand up in the forums of our Party and speak their mind not simply repeat some line or other that they have been given by someone else. That’s what we want.

Not for nothing are we called the Liberal Party because we think that freedom of speech not just in the community but inside our Party is just about the highest possible value.

So, my friends I think this is a great and historic day for our Party. Not only are you able to welcome a Prime Minister, as well as a Premier, to this meeting of State Council, but we are able to embrace a spirit of reform, a process of reform, which is going to make a difference.

Isn’t it marvellous that we have leading this process of reform the greatest statesman this Liberal Party has produced, this New South Wales Liberal Party has produced, in John Howard.

You have all heard John Howard time and time again at these State Councils.

You have heard him in good times; you have heard him in not so good times. But you know that he gives all the credit for his success, he gives all the credit for what he was able to achieve to the Liberal Party of New South Wales. The Liberal Party that preselected him. The Liberal Party that campaigned for him. The Liberal Party that sustained him through the good years and the difficult years of his prime ministership and his political career.

No one loves the Liberal Party more than John Howard, and no one is better suited to give something magnificent back to this Party – a structure, a democracy, that we can be proud of and that will make us even more successful in the future.

I can think of no better group of people to steer this great Party into a better future than John Howard, David Kemp, Chris McDiven and Phillip Ruddock.

I pledge myself to work constantly with them to bring about these important reforms.

Finally, I want to say thank you to my brother Barry O’Farrell, for his work in bringing this about and to your President Chris Downy, for his work in making this happen.

It takes a lot of guts, it takes a lot of guts to say that we have done well but we can do better and ladies and gentleman, you ought to know that in Barry O’Farrell and in Chris Downy you have two outstanding leaders and I know that in Barry O’Farrell and in Chris Downy, I have two outstanding colleagues and two great friends.

I feel so pleased and proud to be walking arm in arm together with them as this Party embraces an even better future.

Joint press release from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.


Strengthening our party is vital to the future of our organisation and the future ability of the party to provide good government for the state and for the nation.

We must ensure that the Liberal Party in NSW has an organisational structure that supports a greater say for members, improves connections to the community, and motivates a wider base of people to actively engage with the party in candidate selection and policy debate.

To continue the process of reform, the State Executive has agreed to immediately establish a Reform Blueprint Expert Panel of senior party leaders who will examine the party’s processes for preselection of candidates.

The Hon John Howard OM AC has been appointed as Chair of the Expert Panel.

The Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Mrs Chris McDiven AM and the Hon Dr David Kemp will be the other members of the Expert Panel.

The Expert Panel will deliver a blueprint for reform to State Executive and State Council in March/April 2014, after which the members of the Expert Panel will spend a period of months engaging with party members and conducting regional forums to discuss their reform proposals.

It is our hope that this process will culminate in a proposal for constitutional change being brought to State Council by the end of the third quarter of 2014.

There is no person better placed to lead this process of reform than the Hon John Howard OM AC, Australia’s greatest Prime Minister since Sir Robert Menzies.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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