Libs put secession back on the table
The Liberal Party faces an internal push to examine if WA should secede from the Commonwealth, with a motion for a special “WAxit” committee to be debated at the party’s annual conference in Perth this weekend.
The move comes amid growing tensions between powerful conservatives and moderates over giving grassroots members a greater say in the selection of candidates, an issue that threatens to expose a deep factional rift in the party when members meet on Saturday.
A motion from the party’s Brand division calls on the Liberal Party to establish a committee of up to six “esteemed” party members, including three former MPs and three members of the State council, to look at whether WA should pursue independence from Canberra.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Federal Liberal president Nick Greiner are addressing the meeting. The proposal for a “WAxit committee” is to examine “the option of Western Australia becoming an independent State within the Commonwealth and answer the question “Should we try?”
Rick Palmer, a financial planner and former candidate for the seat of Brand who has drafted the motion, said he believed the committee needed to examine whether the Federation was working for WA amid deep discontent over the national distribution of GST payments.
“The gist of it is to create a committee to have a conversation, make some recommendations to the party and to make the rest of Australia aware that WA has had enough,” Mr Palmer said.
Senior party sources said they expected the motion to win enough support from the estimated 500 party members due to attend the conference. “It would be a brave person to speak against it,” one senior WA Liberal said.
A motion from the Curtin division advocates a floor on GST payments, while the State Opposition is being urged to call for a study into the merits of WA’s membership of the Federation.
Other motions include pushes from young Liberals to abolish the minimum wage and preserve the national anthem, and abolishing Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Commission an election pledge.
But the policy debate could be overshadowed by a factional stoush over party “democratisation”, which is gaining momentum within the moderate wing, but which is also being backed by conservatives in the Eastern States. Last week Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for more democracy in the State party, potentially placing her at odds with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann — a right wing powerbroker.
In an email to WA Liberals, Eastern States Liberals advocating for greater democratisation of the party criticised Senator Cormann over a speech he gave on the evils of socialism, saying the absence of democracy had allowed people to be “enslaved” under socialism.
The email from Tony Abbott ally Jim Molan and NSW powerbroker Walter Villatora complained WA and NSW were the last two States yet to introduce democratic reforms.
“The labels ‘left’ and ‘right’ are unhelpful in this debate. Those who run factions have little philosophical depth . . . they are transactionally driven,” the email said.
The gist is to have a conversation.