This book tells some of the story of the NSW Division of the Liberal Party, beginning with its prehistory and concluding with the constitutional changes in 2000.
It looks at the role of leading figures such as John Carrick, Nick Greiner and John Howard, at the electoral record – mostly good at the Federal level and mostly poor in State politics – at the Division’s recurring financial difficulties and occasional crises, at its habit of decapitating parliamentary leaders, and at the attempts to move beyond its Protestant, Anglo-Scottish and “North Shore” support base and male culture.
The book also focuses on the tensions between the different components of the Party’s structure: between the State and Federal Parliamentary Parties, between the Parliamentary Parties and the Organisation, and between the “grass roots” and the Party headquarters. It shows how, in attempting to resolve these tensions, the Party engaged in periodic bouts of introspection and kept repeating its own history – and usually in ignorance of doing so – without appreciating that many of the problems are inherently insoluble.
Finally, the book examines the increasing level of factional warfare which has led to a decline of civility, promoted and protected mediocrity, and questioned the existence of a “broad church”.
A NSW Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government publication.
Meticulously researched and with a lucid style, The Liberals is a valuable contribution to the history of the Liberal Party, to the standard of that of Gerard Henderson’s Menzies Child (1994), and the late Allan Martin’s magisterial two-volume biography of Robert Menzies. It is well-documented and is based on written and oral sources, including numerous interviews with major players, such as John Howard and Nick Greiner.
The book focuses on the State parliamentary party, rather than the Federal, given that the latter has received ample treatment in other works. It is usefully organized around a number of themes or, more accurately, tensions: the Federal party v the State party, the organisation v the parliamentary party, and the branches v the executive. The reader of The Liberals begins to appreciate that reviews of the party’s platform and constitution that take place following the (increasingly) frequent election losses, are predictable. George Santayana’s old adage that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them is brought to mind.
...Ian Hancock’s The Liberals is the leading work on the NSW Liberal Party and, as such, is an invaluable work for those researching or interested in NSW politics or the history of the Liberal Party of Australia. - Ethos, ACT Law Society Journal, June 2009
This is a meticulously reasearched and crisply written book. Those wishing to understand or participate in the ongoing debates about the future of the Liberal Party should consult it. As Hancock points out, those debates are often conducted as though the party has no history at all. - Policy, Vol 24 No 1, Autumn 2008
... an impressive work, reflecting mastery of a vast mass of material. It is concisely expressed and engagingly written. It also appears to be as dispassionate as its topic permits. - Law Society Journal (New South Wales), December 2007
...The contents are a delight to read. Its arrangement is masterly. Here we have a history not just of a parliamentary party with its thrills and spills, not just of the party organisation, nor a story of their interaction. Though we have plenty of all that and it is beguiling. These pages contain the story of local branches and electorate conferences, the men and women who did not seek public office. Ian will highlight a wider concern about policy deviations or an election outcome by quoting letters from branches and individuals. Ian enjoyed the cooperation of the Liberal Party organisation and earned the trust of those he interviewed. The result does not read like an official history. This history is the work of a friendly critic, a friend not blind to shortcomings, a critic not afraid to attribute blame and give credit. Ian Hancock is not shy about expressing his own opinion on what happened... - From the Foreword by Rodney Cavalier, Committee Chairman, Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government in NSW 1856-2006, August 2007
Table of Contents
“Party warfare required party organisation”
“An essentially new political organisation”?
The Wilderness Years
A “Liberal State”?
“A long period of division, instability and uncertainty”
The “Uglies” and the “Trendies” at War: 1978-81
“In the midst of a significant revival”: 1982-86
The Premier and the Organisation: 1987-91
“Renewal and Rejuvenation”
“A fraction too much faction”