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John Stuart Mill Forum to hold its first meeting in October

ELLEN FANNING: Some moderates in the Coalition have set up a new grouping - the John Stuart Mill Forum - but they're strenuously denying it represents the formation of a faction within the Federal Liberal Party. Now, several weeks ago on A.M. Victorian Liberal MP, Kevin Andrews, the man behind the anti-euthanasia Private Members Bill, denied that his pro-family group known as the Lyons Forum was operating as a faction. Now the Liberal Member for Hindmarsh in South Australia, Chris Gallus - a prominent moderate -has set up the John Stuart Mill Forum which emphasises that individual rights should be at the core of policy making. Chris Gallus spoke to Suzanne Smith.

SUZANNE SMITH: Chris Gallus, is this a faction, a new faction of the Liberal Party?

CHRIS GALLUS: It is definitely not a faction, far from it. Actually, exactly the opposite.

SUZANNE SMITH: Faction, forum - I mean, there's semantics there.

CHRIS GALLUS: No, it's not, because this is a discussion group for everybody in the party. Anybody who has a point of view, who wants to say anything, who believes they have the answer to a particular problem can come along to this discussion group, give their opinion and have all the other members tell them why they're wrong.

SUZANNE SMITH: Well, let's look at your term discussion group. You've based it on John Stuart Mill. That's an ideological perspective, isn't it? He was a small 'l' liberal.

CHRIS GALLUS: He was the father of liberalism. He was the one who set liberalism on the course which said: Look, the States should not be the oppressor, that individuals have rights and we must ensure that individuals keep those rights. He was one of the really great men of the last century.

SUZANNE SMITH: So, given that you've based this group on ideological lines and we've got the Lyons Forum on ideological lines, doesn't that necessarily mean you're going to be sort of factions with opposing views?

CHRIS GALLUS: But surely this is the basis of liberalism, that we look after the individual and we don't let the state become oppressive. And I don't think you'd find anybody in the Liberal Party who disagreed with that.

SUZANNE SMITH: So you've sent out a letter to all Senators and people in the party. Are you hoping that a lot of members that aren't members of the Lyons Forum might come along?

CHRIS GALLUS: I'm hoping members of the Lyons Forum will come along. It's an open discussion group. It really is. There is no other motive for it at all than to give a forum so that members can have an informal way of discussing the sort of things that they're interested in, and if they have views to come along and put them over and have other members come up and say: Yes, I agree with you; or stand up and say why they think they're wrong.

And I think that's a very healthy thing for politicians to be able to do. We all have our ideas and it's a good idea for us to get out there in a sort of comfortable atmosphere over a dinner and discuss them.

SUZANNE SMITH: But why have you formed this group at this time? Privately people in the party are saying they're worried about the Lyons Forum, they're worried that there's so many members and so many high-profile members, and that they are actually presenting Cabinet submissions to Cabinet Ministers as from the Lyons Forum. I mean, why have you started this group at this time?

CHRIS GALLUS: Anybody can present submissions to Cabinet Ministers. No, I think a lot of us have been talking about this for a long time, that we'd like together ... and have a proper philosophical discussion group where people can put their views. And certainly so Susan Jeanes and Joe Hockey and I thought this was the time to do it and we've sort of said: Let's have a dinner in October, come along and we'll discuss some issues and let everybody have their chance to have their say.

ELLEN FANNING: The Liberal Member for Hindmarsh in South Australia, Chris Gallus.