Secret Libs review to lay bare reasons for election failures

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after he addressed the Coalition national campaign rally in Homebush, Sydney on Sunday 26 June 2016. Election 2016. Pool Photo: Andrew Meares / Fairfax Media … turnbullgallery Photo: Andrew MearesRecriminations over the Liberal Party’s disappointing result at last year’s election have flared ahead of the presentation of a much-anticipated internal review to party powerbrokers.


The tightly-held review, led by former cabinet minister and Liberal Party director Andrew Robb, will be presented to members of the Liberal Party executive in Sydney on Friday.

State presidents and directors of the party will attend the briefing as will members of the federal leadership group, including Julie Bishop, George Brandis and Mathias Cormann.

Those present will be able to read the review but will have to return their copies, underlying the sensitivity of its findings.

MPs only expect to receive a highly redacted version of the report, if they are allowed access to it at a later date.

The presentation of the review comes just two days after the man who oversaw the campaign, party director Tony Nutt, announced his resignation.

Sources familiar with the review said it would be critical of the Coalition’s flat-footed approach to rebutting Labor’s “Mediscare” campaign and the “jobs and growth” mantra that failed to cut through with voters.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday said the Liberal Party had failed to combat scare campaigns by Labor and activist group GetUp! in the lead-up to polling day.

Liberal MPs said they were particularly interested in the review’s findings on the quality of the party’s internal polling.

“There is broad agreement that the polling that was done was not very good,” a Liberal MP said.

Another Liberal source, pointing to swings against the party in Tasmania and western Sydney, said: “There was a lot of false confidence about seats we ended up losing.”

The review – which included interviews with Liberal MPs who lost their seats – is expected to canvass how research was shared between the federal party machine and state divisions.

One marginal seat MP said it was hard to get Mr Nutt on the phone during the campaign and that campaign operations were highly centralised.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott on Thursday warned against Mr Nutt being blamed for the party’s poor showing.

“Obviously the government lost 14 seats and that was very unfortunate,” he told the Nine Network.

“We are now left with just a one seat majority, to try to sheet home the responsibility for that to one person, particularly to try to sheet home the responsibly to the federal director would be a big mistake.”

Mr Abbott said the report should be “frank and fearless, not mealy mouthed”.

“There is no point in doing these reports unless they tell the truth, the plain, unvarnished truth and I hope that’s what we get,” he said. “It will be tough to win the next election, whenever that is, and it’s important we learn the lessons of the last one going into the next one.”

Former Howard government minister Chris Ellison and former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell also contributed to the review.

One MP questioned why it had taken nine months after the election to complete the review, noting the federal election was followed by a drubbing for the Liberal Party in Western Australia.

Mr Dutton acknowledged the party needed to lift its performance in the polls given Malcolm Turnbull cited poor polling as a justification for rolling Mr Abbott in 2015.

“That’s a fair point and Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t step back from that point,” Mr Dutton told radio 2GB.

“What we need to do is turn the polls around, if that’s the measure.”

Mr Dutton said Mr Nutt was a “wonderful bloke” who had been a loyal servant of the Liberal Party for 35 years.

Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger told Sky News it would be “completely illegitimate” to make Mr Nutt “the fall guy” for the campaign’s shortcomings, but said such internal reports “don’t go nearly as far as they need to” in apportioning blame.

“Obviously you can’t lasso every person that you think failed because a lot of them are still in office,” he said.

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