Given that the Federal Election is in May next year I had until today thought it appropriate to remain as President of the Victorian Division to ensure a sense of stability in the Division until the State Council at the end of March next year.
However, upon reading various newspaper articles today I think that when your own supporters are basically telling you it is time to go, then it is probably time to go. At the very least it will allow an interim President roughly 6 months to continue preparations for the forthcoming Federal Election. Accordingly, I have advised the meeting of State Assembly tonight that I am standing down as President at the end of the meeting hence this email notification to you.
Pursuant to clause 13.2 of the Constitution, State Assembly elects a replacement President where a casual vacancy occurs. Seven days notice must be given for a meeting of State Assembly and so I am recommending to the Steering Committee that a special meeting be held on or about Tuesday 11 December to elect a replacement.
Accordingly, the Party will now elect a new President to serve until State Council and subject to State Council’s wishes, thereafter. That person will have my full support and I hope yours too. Please remember the President is a volunteer. The President cannot control everything in the Party even if they wish to. Many things have happened during my Presidency about which I am unhappy but this is the nature of politics. Ultimately, however, the buck stops at the top.
These are difficult times for the Liberal Party. The future of our country is at stake as the threat looms of a Shorten Government which would be Australia's worst nightmare.
The Victorian Division needs unity, strength and a renewed sense of purpose and given the public bloodletting since last Saturday I think it is better that the Party move forward now rather than wait until the end of March.
It has been a very difficult three and a half years for us all in the Victorian Party. Uncovering Damien Mantach's activities as soon as I became President in 2015 was a traumatising event for all of our volunteers. But the Party got through it all despite the scars it left on many people.
The 2016 Federal Election was a disappointment nationally but a triumph for the Victorian Division. Not only did we hold all of our seats but we won a Senate spot back and started a campfire between Labor and the Greens which turned into a bushfire in the months leading up to the State Election.
The battle with the Cormack Foundation was very difficult but I am entirely at peace with what we did and extremely satisfied with the outcome. Occasionally in life the Party has to stand up for itself no matter how difficult the journey.
Arising out of the settlement of the dispute with Cormack, members are aware that we will be receiving around 90% of the income of the Cormack Foundation in perpetuity. The Victorian Party also has two nominees on the Board who as you know are John Howard and Richard Alston.
After the settlement of the building sale the Party will have no net debt, around $35m in the bank plus the annual income from Cormack forever. I am delighted to be leaving the Party in the strongest financial position it has ever been in. Very importantly given strong surplus’ going forward we should be able to fund some field officers as we did when I first joined the Party.
The State Election result was profoundly disappointing and we have lost a very good person in Matthew Guy. Elections are won and lost arising out of the work done by MPs during the whole parliamentary term not just during the few weeks of a campaign. For 100 years Victorian voters at a State level have voted for stability. Rightly or wrongly, when governments at a State level are seen to “do things” they are always harder to beat. This is especially the case when the Party at a Federal level is exhibiting signs of instability. I want to pay a special tribute to all our volunteer candidates, their campaign mangers and supporters. It was a honour to campaign with each and every one of you.
I first handed out how to vote cards for the Liberal Party in 1969 at a polling booth in Glenferrie Road, Malvern in support of John Gorton. I joined the Party in 1973 as a 16 year old. All my life I have been a child of the Victorian Liberal Party. In 1975 I had the honour of meeting John Howard for the first time. In his later years John would say he owed the Liberal Party everything. The Liberal Party owed him nothing. Everything he achieved was because of the Liberal Party, he said. I can do no better than echo the words of this very great Australian. I owe you all and the Victorian Liberal Party everything. You owe me nothing.
In closing, I want to thank all of those Party members who have held office at all levels during my term as President and all of those volunteer Party members who have worked so hard for the Party and who love the Party as much as I do. I also want to thank all of the Federal and State MPs who have worked so tirelessly for the Party.
I especially thank those who have served on the Administrative Committee, the Executive of the Liberal Womens’ Council and the Young Liberal Movement. I would like to thank the two State Directors who served the Party whilst I was President, Simon Frost and Nick Demiris and our Parliamentary Leaders especially Matthew Guy and Josh Frydenberg. I especially thank all of our Head Office staff and those at Enterprise Victoria led by Natalie Stirling for their tireless dedication. I also want to thank my Executive Assistant Carlie Boal for her extraordinary service to the Liberal Party over the last three and a half years.
It is now time for all Liberals to put aside their differences at every level of the Party and work towards the Party’s most urgent and major goal which is the re-election of Scott Morrison as Prime Minister of Australia.