THERE WERE NEVER IN THE WORLD TWO OPINIONS ALIKE

We Are a Liberal Club, Not a ‘Wolf Pack’
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We Are a Liberal Club, Not a ‘Wolf Pack’

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We Are a Liberal Club, Not a ‘Wolf Pack’

It has been reported in Fairfax recently that there is a battle of ‘seismic consequences’ occurring in the Sydney University Liberal Club.

The report is wrong on one important point – claiming that this is an ideological battle between right and left within the Liberal movement.

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John Howard was a member of the Club and a passionate debater.

This Club takes its cue from its patron, John Howard. He has always said that the Liberal Party is home to both the classical liberal and conservative traditions. This Club has, at least until recently, represented that broad Church.

Inevitably though, faced with the insanity of the left on campus, Club members seem to develop into unapologetic, right of centre activists. It is an anti-socialist, Liberal Club to mirror the anti-socialist party of the same name.

No, the reported battle is unfortunately not a battle of ideas within the Club, it is a battle between a culture which facilitates opportunity and growth on the one hand and a pack mentality with a culture of bullying and exploitation on the other.

The latter, toxic culture was felt when non-students (political staffers and failed candidates) closer to thirty years old than twenty signed up to a society for undergraduates at O day at the beginning of this semester.

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Some members of the self-described “wolf pack”.

It is exhibited in posts on social media alluding to the stacking of the Sydney University Liberal Club, quoting Rudyard Kipling’s children’s classic The Jungle Book, with “the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf”.

It was felt when the self-described “wolf pack” fraudulently lifted names and details from the Economics Society, Arts Society and Conservative Club – adding them to the membership list of SULC without consent, in the hope they could hoodwink these unwitting members into voting their way with sufficient free alcohol.

The culture is felt when the same “wolf pack” unashamedly declare to their ‘stacks’ that they “do not care about SULC” and only care about its ability to turn odds in their favour in the Young Liberals.

This toxic culture was behind defamatory slurs against myself and candidate Dom Bondar posted to the SULC Wikipedia page from a University of Sydney computer. It was felt again when the same candidate for the Presidency was bitterly labelled “autistic” on an online platform frequented by his fellow students. A particularly hurtful remark for those with similar, real difficulties who I personally know are passionate and considered members of the Club.

The culture is felt when talented young women are intimidated out of nominating for executive positions, lest they suffer social exclusion at the hands of the “wolf pack”.

All of this behaviour is prejudicial in the extreme but it is all excused by the exclusively male “wolf pack” as “banter” or “just politics”.

Faced with this, it is understandable why so many bright young minds are tempted to turn away from politics before they’ve even begun due to embarrassment at being associated with these antics.

Again, the Club has not been divided along ideological lines, but it is divided between those who accept the “wolf pack” culture and those who don’t.

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Bronwyn Bishop, Club alumna, was the first to turn the Liberal Party’s gaze to Western Sydney.

During this battle, most genuine Club members have been working hard, campaigning and debating the ideas that will benefit our Party now and our country in the future. Most with any experience in the Party will know that not everyone has this as their focus. A lot of people like getting dressed up for self-congratulatory events and/or playing internal games.

That’s not been the Sydney University Liberal Club. We have fought the censorious and thuggish, socialist left in print and on the ground, in the academy and on the hustings.

To all those tempted to drop politics and the Liberal movement altogether, please know I had the honour of seeking the advice of  former Prime Minister John Howard, in his capacity as Patron of the club. When advised about our struggle he told me to stick to the path the Club is on and to make sure the right people, the hard workers and thinkers, are growing the Club.

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The first round of the John Howard Debating Cup 2016, which persevered despite being crashed by violent socialists.

We must persevere and say no to this toxic culture obsessed with internal politicking and games. The Sydney University Liberal Club has been doing great things – fighting for free speech on campus, campaigning for Liberal candidates in student, State and Federal elections, producing future leaders, commentators and ideas – and I am sure that after this meeting we will be doing so again under the right leadership and with the help of every member.

Howard also made clear that there’s never been a time where the Party is more at risk of becoming “detached from the people who want to vote Liberal”.

I think we all understand what he means by this. Ours is not a Party of “wolf packs”, nor is it one of elite, dynastic politics. Ours needs to be a representative Party of merit, ideas and engagement.

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The annual First Year Dinner attended by many of our parliamentary alumni and a record number of new members in March this year.

 

If the “wolf pack” win the Club, this is a big step in a process detaching the Party from those people who want to vote Liberal.

So far the genuine Club membership and all sensible people at Sydney University who care about a positive campus culture have understood that the Party which bears our Club’s name is a broad and inclusive right of centre party, and that’s what this Club needs to be to do justice to those people who “want to vote Liberal”, as Howard puts it. I think Menzies would have called them the forgotten people.

With the collective wisdom of these sensible people and those of us who understand them, I am confident that the hard working, genuine members committed to liberal and conservative values will win SULC.

I am confident we will win the cultural war first in our movement, and then in our society.

William Dawes

President

Sydney University Liberal Club

Delivered at the Sydney University Liberal Club Annual General Meeting 24 August 2016.

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