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  • Writer's pictureLeonardo Puglisi

Liberal Party at 78: Governing in their own right in 1 state, 2 upcoming elections & a new leader

Updated: Oct 16, 2022

ANALYSIS: Does the party need to move to the centre or go to the right - and should they wait for the Vic election before making a decision?

"New party's name to be Liberal?" was the headline from The Daily Examiner - a newspaper serving Grafton, NSW - on October 16, 1944.

Just 3 days earlier, on October 13, then-United Australia Party leader Robert Menzies & Leader of the Opposition had called a conference of conservative parties and groups who were opposed to Labor.

The UAP was itself largely born out of the Nationalist Party, which was itself born out of a merger of the Commonwealth Liberal Party & National Labor Party, the former itself born out of a merger with the Protectionist Party & Free Trade Party.

While the party's official formation is generally considered to be August 31, 1945, the Liberal Party itself generally marks October 16 as their formation date - as seen here, here & here.

Since then, they've held government in a coalition agreement with The Nationals (originally Country Party, later National Country Party) from 1949 until 1972, 1975 until 1983, 1996 until 2007 and then 2013 until May 2022. 9 Liberal Prime Ministers have been in office during that time.

At the age of 78, the party now only governs in their own right in a single state - Tasmania. They're also in Coalition government in NSW, while they remain in opposition in all other states & territories (LNP in Queensland, CLP in the NT & as part of an alliance with the Nationals opposition in WA).

There's 2 elections coming up - Victoria next month & NSW in March. Multiple polls have so far indicated that Matthew Guy will take the Liberals to a third-straight loss (and their second with him leading), while Dominic Perrottet & the NSW government are under threat from teal independents in a number of key seats.

Labor has held power for every year bar 4 in Victoria since the year 2000 - that's 18 years, and will become 22 if the Andrews Government is re-elected.

Across the border, the Coalition has had a bit more success: out of the 8 Premiers the state has had since 1996, half of them have been Liberals & they've held government since 2011.

That's not to say it's all been smooth sailing, with Gladys Berejiklian resigning a year ago & Dominic Perrottet coming to power. 4 by-elections were held in February, with the Liberals losing one seat & suffering a swing against them of more than 13% in Berejiklian's old seat of Willoughby.

Federally, Peter Dutton is their (reasonably) new leader. Considered to be a member of the party's "National Right" grouping, the party has faced calls from different people to go in different directions: move towards the centre & try to regain seats lost to 'teal independents,' or go to the right where some "freedom parties" have been picking up some ex-Liberal voters.

If the Liberals do end up losing the Victorian election, it's fair to imagine questions would be raised ever further about the direction to take. There's even been reports that Scott Morrison suggested setting up a new progressive Liberal movement as the Coalition partner.

So what direction should the Liberals take? Its federal election review has been "(held) off...a move designed to avoid any potentially damaging public revelations before the (Victorian election)."

While it's expected they will pick up several seats next month, they could very well lose some to independents as well - and even if Labor loses outer-suburban seats, there's no guarantee that the Coalition will win them.

So right now, on the Liberal Party's 78th birthday, we wait and see what will happen in Victoria & NSW.

Victoria Decides: Live election night coverage from 6pm AEDT on Saturday, 26 November - tune in via our YouTube Channel.

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