A LOCAL academic has warned of “dangerous” political apathy, as the NSW Liberal Party shrugged off claims the Wagga branch had reached record low membership.
Councillor Andrew Negline said on Tuesday the local Liberal branch membership had dwindled from 300 members in the 1980s to “just 41 registered members”, which he claimed was reflective of the “general apathy out there”.
In a speech Cr Negline delivered to the party faithful when challenging sitting member Daryl Maguire in 2013, he sensationally claimed card carrying members were “reluctant to voice their opinions or even to ask questions due to retribution”.
The councillor also blasted the “stagnation of Liberal representation for the seat of Wagga”.
A NSW Liberal Party spokeswoman dismissed claims of threatening behaviour, but would not be drawn on current membership levels.
“The published claims were made in a speech two and a half years ago,” she said.
“This is the first time the claims have been brought to the State Director’s attention.”
Charles Sturt University politics and history lecturer Troy Whitford was alarmed by the decline in political participation.
“People feel disenfranchised by the political process, which has brought out apathy,” Dr Whitford said.
“The number of financial members who are involved in preselecting the candidate has also fallen, which means the contest is not as robust as it used to be or should be.
“People just don't have much respect for their vote these days, which is most likely because they haven't had to fight for it.”
Dr Whitford blamed a combination of poor political education and social media for an increasingly disengaged constituency.
“People are only undecided because they're not informed, there’s no way on earth to say i'm informed and undecided.
“Ultimately being undecided comes from ignorance.
“The guy who jumps out of his car at 5.50pm to rush to make the poll without already knowing who he will vote for is actually engaging in dangerous behaviour, because he just doesn’t know who he’s getting as his representative.”
Mr Maguire, who was travelling overseas, declined to refute Cr Negline’s comments as Liberal Party policy prevented him from commenting on branch matters.