/Liberals’ election post-mortem blames COVID-19, scandals and faction warlords for loss – ABC News

Liberals’ election post-mortem blames COVID-19, scandals and faction warlords for loss – ABC News

An internal Liberal Party review of the Coalition’s devastating election defeat has found Scott Morrison was a decisive factor in the result and has recommended an overhaul of the party organisation to end factional infighting and improve candidate preselections.

Key points:

The reviews authors, Liberal senator Jane Hume and former federal Liberal director Brian Loughnane, described the result as “the most serious loss for the party in its history”. 

“The Liberal Party now holds only four of the 44 inner metropolitan seats,” the review notes.

“Of particular concern in the results is that in seats with high numbers of female professional voters, the Liberal Party only holds three of the top 30 seats where previously it held 15.”

The reviewers noted that the Liberal Party now had the lowest number of women in its parliamentary ranks since 1993, and said it should adopt a target of equal representation within three terms, or 10 years.

But they stopped short of saying this target should be mandated, instead saying state branches should be able to determine themselves how to reach that target.

A woman with brown hair mid-sentence

Senator Hume and Mr Loughnane said a number of factors contributed to the loss, but the demands of managing COVID-19, allegations of poor treatment towards women within the government and party, and “scandal, disunity and instability” in the government were key contributors to the Coalition’s defeat.

“Put simply, by the time of the election the Coalition had lost control of its brand, with the parties and their leaders being defined in the public’s mind by our opponents,” Senator Hume and Mr Loughnane said. 

“We were not in control of the politics, and we were unable to frame the electoral contest. Rather it was set by our opponents.”

The review also noted the way Mr Morrison handled many of those issues had a direct impact on the election outcome.

“As a consequence, the Prime Minister’s standing with voters deteriorated significantly through 2021 to become a significant negative,” it said.

“The Prime Minister and the Party were seen as ‘out of touch’.

“The leadership choice between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese became the most influential driver of voting intention during the campaign period.”

Earlier this month, Labor released its election review, which concluded Mr Morrison’s “unpopularity” was the single biggest factor in the party’s election victory.

But it also noted the loss of support for Labor in heartland areas was of “significant concern”.

Chinese voters turned away

The review also touched on the need to re-engage with voters of Chinese ancestry, given the swing against the Liberal Party in electorates with a higher concentration of those voters was higher than elsewhere.

The review found that in the top 15 seats by Chinese ancestry, the swing against the party on a two-party-preferred basis was 6.6 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent in other seats.

“There were a number of reasons for this, including a perception the previous government’s criticisms of the CCP government of China included the wider Chinese community more generally,” it said.

“This was obviously incorrect but the Party’s political opponents pushed this perception among voters of Chinese heritage in key seats in 2022.

“Rebuilding the Party’s relationship with the Chinese community must be a priority during this term of Parliament.”

Factional infighting also damaging

The Liberal reviewers found factional infighting also damaged the party as it geared up for the election, with delayed pre-selections hampering campaigning and discouraging “potentially attractive candidates” from running.

“In some cases the Party did not present the candidate with the strongest possibility of winning a seat. This matter was a particular problem in NSW,” Senator Hume and Mr Loughnane found.

They found the party’s current structure was unable to solve those factional disputes, which left several key seats without candidates just weeks before the election.

But Senator Hume and Mr Loughnane wrote that the party was also up against what they deemed a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign by “teal” independents, which they said left the Liberals campaigning on two fronts. 

The reviewers recommended that Liberal candidates be required to sign a code of conduct, noting that branch stacking and factional infighting were causing Liberal Party members to disengage or stop donating and volunteering.

“The Liberal Party … is a political party whose objective is to form government to advance Australia. To do this it must be an effective political operation and appeal to the broader Australian community,” they wrote. 

“Self-absorption by narrow sectional and factional interests are increasingly restricting the Party’s ability to meet this test, as are inflexible Party structures.

“It is a precondition for revival that this changes.”