I just stumbled across this eerily prescient YouTube of a 1993 Four Corners panel discussion conducted in the wake of the 1993 Federal Election–the Coalition’s fifth successive defeat. On the panel are John Howard, Peter Reith, Robert Hill and Amanda Vanstone, and the audience is made up of “grassroots Liberals,” including a very vocal Sophie Mirabella.
I would love to get access to a copy of the entire discussion, which is quite lively. Howard and Vanstone attempt to put a shiny gloss on the five successive defeats, and emphasise the Liberal Party’s success at state level (basically the reverse of the situation after the 2004 election). Howard–signature hand gestures on full display–talks about “the future” and the need to distinguish the “modern Liberal Party” from its traditions.
At the end, presenter Andrew Olle mentions in passing that four Liberal Party members who were invited by the ABC to participate in the programme pulled out at the last minute because they were “told to.” This prompts loud protests from the panelists, who accuse Olle of innuendo and taking a “cheap shot,” without giving the panelists a chance to respond. Olle will have none of it: “It’s not an implication; it’s the truth.” Truly a sign of things to come regarding the rocky relationship between the 1996-2007 Howard Government and the ABC. Also a sign of things to come is the indignation and denialism displayed by Howard and co. in response to Olle’s remarks, given the control-freakery that would mark Howard’s tenure as PM. (You can hear Mirabella in the background yelling that the Liberal Party doesn’t “kneecap” people. This is the woman who twelve years later would label as “political terrorists” four members of her own who went public with their objections to the Howard Government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.)
UPDATE: I can’t find an independent source for the information, but at Larvatus Prodeo Mark Bahnsich, discussing the Libs’ infantile behaviour in Parliament on Friday, writes:
It’s worth taking a step back to return to some of the little noticed coverage of this innovation in December. At the time, Liberal sources were quoted as worrying that a whole day for backbenchers would lead to their own MPs putting their feet in their mouth or prosecuting internal party disputes in the public eye. That says something about the state of the Coalition.
It certainly does, given Olle’s last-minute revelation on the 1993 Four Corners programme about Liberal Party members being ordered not to participate.