...It has been stated more than once that while the Liberal Party Organisation is the authority on platform and principle (by which I mean the broad political beliefs and intentions of the Party), the Parliamentary Party particularly the Government when we are in office has the final - not the exclusive, but the final - say in determining policy, (by which I mean the application of the party platform and principles to particular situations). This has never seriously been challenged. But perhaps we should look carefully at some of the consequences.
One of these consequences, particularly noticeable in an epoch of rapid change like the 1960's and 1970's, is the risk of a belief at the grass-roots of the Organis- ation that the political opinions and the considered resolutions of branch members are disregarded. This does happen - and every one of you knows it. Motions debated and agreed to on the branch levels of the Party are carried progressively higher by the devices (and from a communications, if not from a communication, viewpoint they are effective devices) designed to channel the voice of the rank-and-file to the ministerial level. The complaint is that these motions too often vanish into thin air. All of us are familiar with this complaint. I am not discussing how often the complaint is a real one. This varies with circumstances. What I do say is that we have lost members because they believed they had no voice, and we have a good number of frustrated members, for the same reason.
...Therefore if I say nothing else today to hold your attention, I pray you to remember this - that to continue to serve the people of Australia the Liberal Party must learn to listen better, and to be more sensitive to what it hears. I do not mean that we are to bend with every wind, or that our Liberal principles are to be compromised. But I believe that our principles find an echo in the hearts of the great majority of good Australians, and that, this being the case, we would be wise to listen; and above all not to look on ourselves or our Party as the repository of all true wisdom. In particular I think we can learn from the young of this country, for they are not only better educated, on the average, than their seniors, but also more idealistic. ... In the early years of the Liberal Party, between 1945 and 1950, its founders could not sensibly have been described as conservative. They were articulate and energetic performers in an era that seemed to be in danger of accepting a socialist way of life portrayed and advanced by the Labor Party which sought almost absolute power to control our individual lives. In those days the Liberals were strongly anti-establishment.
The challenges today are different but of no less significance. It is for this reason that we reject the label of conservative. The political fact is that the Labor Party is the country's conservative party, conservative to the point of reaction. As an Opposition it naturally heads the stampede for the nearest band-wagon, but in its outlook and in its platform it is reactionary, still putting forward in 1971 the same socialistic principles and solutions which looked shabby a generation ago, still acknowledging in 1971 a leadership and power structure which in some States, and especially Victoria, can only be described as Palaeolithic.
Federal Presidents address to Federal Council: Canberra 31 May 1971 (A Liberal Party publication)