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The insurgency within the Liberal Party

What does a Liberal vote mean if the ultraconservatives take over the party’s mechanisms?

The Liberal Party is in deep trouble. As our main “conservative” party, the fact that it is besieged by far-right figures is reason for vigilance by the rest of us. No party holds government forever, and a “conservative” or anti-incumbent vote must not be an accidental vote for theocratic politics.

Figures like Moira Deeming in Victoria and Alex Antic in South Australia are at the heart of the effort to drive the Liberal Party towards ultraconservative policy.

Australia is, by a strong margin, a country content to let people make decisions about our own lives. Pew reports that 75% of Australians favour same-sex marriage. Abortion is supported by roughly 76% of us. Only 8% of Australians think all abortion should be totally banned. Australians support euthanasia by at least 73%.

While we have social and religious conservatives in our midst, we are content for them to avoid life choices that they find troubling or sinful. We baulk, however, at letting them impose their views on the substantial majority who don’t share their beliefs.

The moderate majority has believed that our western societies are trending towards acceptance, leaving behind the unfounded fears, prejudices and dogma that controlled key life decisions. Resistance to bodies like the Voice can come from a misguided belief that no act needs to be taken to reverse longstanding practices and policies that harm groups, that time itself is the cure.

The more motivated “conservatives” around us have, however, been strategic in making sure that our complacency works to their benefit. Many of them have not accepted the changes we embrace. Some of them continue to work to reverse these majority-supported positions.

Note that the American public holds “progressive” social views in similar percentages to Australia, but the majority is coming to be restricted by the theocratic rules of the few.

Moira Deeming was considered too extreme a prospective candidate by Scott Morrison. She is now best known for her activism ostensibly for women but practically against trans people. Her entry into Victorian state politics came as part of her work with Liberal Bernie Finn in his anti-abortion project. That movement “prays” for abortion to be banned outright. She has written in a Christian publication that abortion is “a terrible evil.”

In fact that sermon in the Christian publication sounds like something Italian PM Giorgia Meloni would write. Rhetorical flourish abounds in her exhortation to prayer, and for “the restoration of FAMILY, FATHERHOOD and MOTHERHOOD in our nation.” (Meloni was not fulfilling the fears that she would rapidly bring extremist rule to Italy. Now in her first concrete act against LGBTQIA+ Italians, lesbian mothers are being stripped from their children’s birth certificates. If the birth mother in the couple dies, the children can be taken to the birth mother’s relatives or into state care.)

While Deeming has been expelled from the Liberal Party for the moment, there are a number of Liberals who want her back in the fold. She headlined at a Victorian Liberal Party branch fundraiser in Caroline Springs at the end of July. The event was chaired by Peta Credlin who later said that politicians were there to “connect with West Melbourne” but also, she asserted to “show their public support for Moira.”

Federal Senator Alex Antic came to Melbourne’s west from South Australia to support Deeming with high praise of her as the “prototype for a modern MP” in a follow-up interview with Peta Credlin on Sky. Antic promotes a series of troubling views.

Federal Liberal MPs Sarah Henderson and Claire Chandler attended the pro-Deeming event.

Victorian MP Bev McArthur was there in full support of Deeming’s ostensibly pro-woman position. She told people at the event that she would have been at the anti-trans rally that attracted Nazi support if she had not been out of state. McArthur has recently been reprimanded by Liberal leader John Pesutto for saying that Indigenous people should be grateful for the “wonderful things” brought by colonialism and that the word “thank-you” is missing from the debate.

This dismissive attitude to the debate underpinning the Voice referendum was an integral part of the Deeming event. Federal Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was present, as was Warren Mundine, former Labor president and politician, then Liberal Party candidate. Anthony Dillon is another Indigenous activist who attended. He is connected to Australian Catholic University, the IPA and other culture warrior “think tanks. He writes for the “pro Trump propaganda machine,” Epoch Times. Dillon has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour towards other Indigenous Australians on social media. The use of the Voice as a facet of the culture wars is firmly embedded in this political sphere.

Also present amongst the supportive politicians was Liberal state MP, Chris Crewther who represents Mornington, Pentecostal church-connected MP Renee Heath who represents the Eastern Victorian Region and Joe McCracken MP, who represents the Western Victorian Region.

While climate science was predictably on the agenda, the listing of “parents’ rights” too is a concerning development. This is an American campaign wherein usually white and “conservative” parents demand the right to control what is done in schools. This is a factor in driving teachers out of the profession in the US, having turned schools into battlegrounds. The parents’ rights activist groups in the US are drawing in conservative members of minority groups to assist in their attack on contemporary schooling. In that light, it was interesting to note the emphasis on Muslim, Croatian, Macedonian and Greek representatives at the Deeming event.

The anti-trans campaign that is associated with Deeming was represented by the presence of the LGB Alliance, an Australian offshoot of a noted UK biological-determinist group.

The variety of causes and identities united in support of Deeming, and determined to shape the Liberal Party, are indicative of the movement’s ability to ignore differences to unite against a society they describe as “woke.” We can’t ignore the energy that Credlin celebrated in her account of the night, motivated to take us back to an old Australia the majority doesn’t want.

The ultra conservative figures threatening to drag the Liberal Party and the country back to a monotone place are not wizened old men. Alex Antic is younger and driven. Moira Deeming is both a “conservative” martyr and an inspiration in demand at a variety of events.

As well as headlining the Liberal fundraiser in Caroline Springs, she has recently appeared at the Frankston State Electorate Conference as well as being invited to speak to the South Australian Liberal Women’s Council.

Deeming is also speaking at Australia’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Sydney later this month. This is Australia’s offshoot of the main Trumpist political gathering. She will be appearing on a panel alongside Rachel Wong who recently achieved notoriety for leading an attack on a parenting book at Big W. Wong represents Women’s Forum Australia, a group with ultra conservative religious and culture warrior connections. Also appearing are Tony Abbott – from the Orban network, Pauline Hanson and the Co-founders of the Christian Nationalist funding platform GiveSendGo. That platform has been fundraising for Australia’s Neo Nazis.

Alex Antic is also set to feature at an event importing MAGA-Republican and Brexit-Brit culture war battles in September. The delayed Trump Live tour is operated by another Australian offshoot of a Trump-Republican organisation: Turning Point USA. Crikey revealed that Turning Point Australia is spreading misinformation on the Voice that is also being shared by Warren Mundine.

Antic is not new to the Trump circuit. He “ranted” about the outrage of being subject to public health measures during a pandemic to one of the dirtiest strategists behind Trump, Steve Bannon, on his War Room show.

In his recent interview with Peta Credlin, Antic also spoke about how he was looking forward to appearing at the forthcoming event with Nigel Farage to discuss culture war battles over banks. More concerning, he also expressed his excitement over hearing from Donald Trump Jr about the “persecution” of Donald Trump. This characterisation of legal repercussions for the attempt to overthrow the results of America’s most secure election in history illustrates worrying attitudes towards the democratic project.

Antic, on his social media and in his podcast, continues to spread covid “vaccine injury” misinformation. He spreads discredited climate information. He depicts people who support reproductive justice, ludicrously, as arguing for “termination at 39 weeks.” He describes a fact-based and modern education as one where “kids are going to school and getting indoctrinated by woke teachers.”

One key connection between Deeming and Antic is his politicisation of the healthcare of young people in his attack on gender dysphoria diagnosis, a key battle in the theocratic takeover in Republican states in the US. The focus on a mythical threat to children helps radicalise manufactured parent panics into hate groups.

Antic has, together with Nationals Senator Matt Canavan, recently imported another Trumpist culture war battle in the Babies Born Alive Bill. He appeared to discuss it on the Lyle Shelton Show on the Alex Jones-backed ADH TV network. Lyle Shelton is now the National Director of the Family First political party. ADH TV has been described as “Australia’s Newsmax” and an “outrage network.”

Antic’s adjournment speech to the South Australian Senate in June 2021 railed against the “systematic persecution of Christians in the political arena.” Bills allowing abortion and euthanasia, and banning the toxic and discredited “conversion” therapy were listed as something akin to “organised Roman persecution.”

Antic also listed the South Australian Liberal Party’s efforts to stall a fundamentalist Christian takeover of the party as another attack. Antic was described as spearheading a 2021 “Believe in Blue” recruitment drive to fill the South Australian Liberal Party with Pentecostal Christians. The plan was to drive the Liberal Party away from “anti-life legislation.” Now SA Liberal leader David Speirs in 2021 allegedly told a congregation: “This idea of the separation of church and state – forget it.” In Trumpian mode, it was declared these repressive values would “make the Liberal Party great again.” Antic celebrated that right faction’s victory in May 2023. That campaign bore fruit with distress in the party and a Pentecostal pastor and wife taking on the leadership of South Australia’s State Electoral Convention. This body not only helps preselect candidate but also shapes the party’s State Council.

Antic also speaks passionately about defending our traditional culture, in echo of Orbanist western chauvinism.

Antic recently published a manifesto in Australia’s radicalising wrap to Britain’s The Spectator. There he depicts the framing of him as “far right” to be lazy-left demonising. He frames himself instead as a true inheritor of the Liberal tradition established by Menzies. He elsewhere describes the Deeming event in Melbourne as a “new brand of center [sic] right politics.”

Instead he, like Deeming, seems to be keen to channel international culture war gambits intended to divide society and win a distracted but enraged base for an ultraconservative vote. The Tories are a destructive embarrassment. The Republican Party is a grim farce. The attempt to impose plutocrats’ neoliberalism combined with ultraconservative social policy is proving an existential threat.

These connections are made at ticketed events and behind paywalls. The ideas are fostered in church congregations and corners of the internet. They filter in from foreign movements through speaking tours, YouTube and podcasts. They are given authority by figures in positions of power and powered by a deep grievance. The Christian Nationalist and ultraconservative right believe this battle is existential: the authoritarian society they demand is the only model possible. We must all live within their rules.

We cannot dismiss this movement as fringe, or dismiss America’s growing Christian Nationalist “conservatism” as irrelevant in Australia. The copycat politicians and strategists here are working to make it your problem.


This was first published in Pearls and Irritations as Federal Liberals continue to back Victorian ultra-conservative Deeming despite expulsion

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  1. Lucy Hamilton

    It’s worth noting that the South Australian Liberal Party has roughly 5,000 members which makes it an easy target for determined Pentecostals.

  2. Stephengb

    Excellant article – thank you

  3. Baby Jewels

    Saw this recently: “Christianity is about helping others and controlling yourself. When it becomes about controlling others and helping yourself, it ain’t Christianity.”

  4. Harry Lime

    The West’s version of the Taliban with western attire, rather than funny hats and vests,but are as one with extremist views,both bastardised and twisted their original “Holy Scriptures”.Same old ,same old,been going on for centuries.All about control and a little wealth on the side.See: the previous attempt by the Rev.Morrison of the Secret Ministries and his unconscious acolytes.

  5. Canguro

    Why is it that alongside the slender majority of seemingly sane individuals, politics continues to attract lunatics, zealots, power-hungry crazies, imposters, and arch right-wing nut jobs whose mission in life is to prove everyone else wrong and argue for legislation that fits with their weird way of thinking? Antic seems a very nasty piece of work… but here he is, in parliament! Porleen has successfully gamed the system for years, despite contributing absolutely zero of anything positive to the electorate. 99% of the Liberal Party are ratbags of the first order. Many of the Nationals as well. What a mess Australian politics is.

  6. andyfiftysix

    the liberals have no idea what they stand for now that their economics ideology has been shown up. Its now a game of how to win power. As its middle of the road proponents keep getting weeded out, its rump of power hungry nuts has taken over. The guys being weeded out did believe in the party but they are slowly disappearing into the dreamy past. Dutton is desparately using all past levers to try to discredit Labor, but on the policy front, its just another Trump say anything ride. We the people, are tired of this ideology shit. We want answers and solutions that work.

  7. Max Gross

    There is nothing “conservative” about the LP, not since at least the advent of Monsignor Abbott and arguably well before that when the Lying Rodent got the gig by appropriating Appauline Hanson’s bigotry, racism and scaremongering. What was once “conservative” morphed into reactionary and there it has remained. By the time we got to Saint Scotty, the damage was so deep, the political calcification so entrenched, that it was Drover’s Dog time again. That’s right, folks, Labor didn’t win the last election, the LnP lost it. All Elmo needs to do now to remain in office is not rock the boat. And that is precisely what he IS doing.

  8. Andrew Smith

    Good article again, and follows the modus operandi observed in the US, now UK Tories and the Liberal Party locally of past generation; one is not sure how well or sustainable imported US tactics work, esp Christian thing, with more secular Oz and UK?

    The ‘owned’ Liberal Party hollowed out, declining membership and prone, is kicked around, lobbied and directed externally by the influence of imported fossil fueled Koch libertarian (i.e. authoritarian policies via Murdoch Snr’s IPA etc.), Tanton faux environmentalism (i.e. white nativism SPA etc. around ‘immigration’), conservative &/or evangelical Christianity (Mormons, Pentecostals etc.), pollsters & ‘wedges’ (GOP trained Crosby et al.), Murdoch led right wing media cartel and ‘political activists’; on the latter far more online -ve influencing and astroturfing against the centre e.g. The Voice.

    Many Australians, especially Labor supporters demanding single issue outcomes and.or faster change, forget or are ignorant of the external forces that endeavour to at least nobble and slow down any progress for now, by leveraging ageing demographics of Howard’s ‘skip’ Australia, but that powder is running out as more above median age are educated and/or diverse looking to the 21stC vs. 19thC…..

  9. Clakka

    Excellent article Lucy, and rightly naming names.

    IMO we ought not neglect to consider there is not only an underlying olde worlde system of fear/faith mechanism targeted at the vulnerable / ignorant, but also above that a raft of will say anything for a buck and infamy droogs desperate to reap, and above that a pinnacle of extremely wealthy disruptors that will finance anything to destabilise society via politics and/or religion and/or mass media so that they can advance their fortunes come what may.

    It’s in plague proportions, and must be taken seriously as the most significant threat to wellbeing. In its current form, it has been alive, well and growing for more than 40 years, and become ubiquitous with the advent of the internet of everything. America and Britain have become saturated with it, but there are signs that the fightback against it is having traction. Suffice to say, a pivot appears to be developing, but that’s not to say complacency or a laissez-faire assurance can be afforded. It remains a great unpredictable and labile danger perpetrated and funded hugely by irresponsible lunatics.

    I fully support those with the skill and information necessary to expose those making the threats and facilitating that danger.

  10. Lucy Hamilton

    Thanks for the fascinating commentary, team.

    We have to encourage the punters who aren’t dwelling on all this to be thinking about it. We know there is nothing conservative about the LNP but voters who believe themselves to be “conservative” don’t have other options of merit.

    My big worry about hopeful signs is that they might be false dawns with the far more cunning and well funded tweaking their game plan for the next foray.

  11. Uncletimrob

    The link between extreme right wing views and actions and the demise of education is real and quite scary.
    Keep the proles dumb ie destroy the education system, demonise teachers, dictate a curriculum, tell them what they can and cannot read etc etc, and they will believe anything that we tell them.
    Need proof? I don’t think you have to go far to see who gets sucked into these views most strongly. Thankfully we are somewhat behind the US in this.
    A 2016 poll found that about 40% of adults in the US believed that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Where does this come from? Quite simply, it comes from creationist, young earth claptrap.
    Who promotes this anti-science rubbish? Right wing nut-jobs.

  12. Steve Davis

    It’s certainly correct to be concerned, but it must be kept in mind that Australia does not have the fundamentalist base that exists in the US.

    We tend to see fundamentalism as a bit of a joke, while in the US it’s part of the social fabric. Hence it’s influence there.

    If fundamentalists take control of the libs, we’ll se a rise in the number of Teal MPs. We can thank our proportional representation system for that protection.

  13. wam

    A beaut but scary read, Lucy, with most of the extremist tactics on show to the majority.
    Sadly the %s match or exceed the loonies and their attacks on labor are as visible, and as unanswered, daily on the ABC as right wing journalists backed by anti-abortion, man made greenhouse effect deniers and handclapping xstian second coming extremists that spout on 5, 9, 10 and sky. Presenting an incessant anti-labor noise. Today I got a ‘yahoo sport’ post telling me that: “Anthony Albanese is copping it from CommBank Matildas fans of the FIFA Women’s World Cup”: and “Australians are raging at Albanese’s act after the matildas’ loss.” does ‘after’ mean the inappropriate act followed the loss?? Well, no, those who read past the headline will discover Albo’s holiday comment ‘put the jinx on the matildas’ and they were under too much pressure. Christians, believe in such rubbish. Albo you must stop the lying pricks or they will take at least currently ‘safe’ seats.

  14. Paul Smith

    ‘ He elsewhere describes the Deeming event in Melbourne as a “new brand of center [sic] right politics.” ‘
    A telling admission of where the “acceptable” location on the political spectrum is. Relying on others not to notice the discrepancy between that and their actual location is called flying by the seat of one’s pants. Sometimes it works. Let’s hope it doesn’t in this case.

  15. Barry

    I will only question one point brought up in this post which could be summarized as predominantly ‘anti-Antic’, ie. the assertion that ‘Antic . . continues to spread covid “vaccine injury” misinformation.’
    The National Institute of Health study referred to in the ‘misinformation’ link is dated 12 May 2021.
    The world of truth has moved on since then.
    In late 2022 a group of doctors (Public Health and Medical Professionals for Transparency) sought, and were granted by US Court order following a FOI request, access to Pfizer post marketing clinical trial data. The Pfizer report, ‘5.3.6 Cumulative Analysis of Post-Authorization Adverse Event to 28-Feb-2021’ gives an extensive list of more than 1100 adverse pathologies that runs to 9 pages (see Appendix 1).
    The TGA, for whatever reason is yet to inform the public about this information. So much for public accountability.

  16. Phil Pryor

    Barry was right to mention some TGA related info on reports concerning trial, related to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for covid. Anyone can research this…National Library of Medicine, published online, 2022, August 31.., “Serious adverse events of special interest following mRNA Covid-19 vaccination randomized trials in adults.” However, Antic is a “natural” fascist/nazi type in the traditions of Pavelic and the Ustasha, a murderous, treacherous, execrable movement of W W 2 times, but leaving behind disgusting traditions and unfortunate influences. Menzies needed numbers in 1943 and took aboard some very dodgy conservative ratbag groups to coagulate his revived liberal group. The old honorable traditions of Deakin and Griffith here, following Gladstone and Asquith in Britain, were fine in example, but vulnerable to the greed, ignorance, racism, xenophobia, cynical crookedness, evil fellowships, incrowd mentality, old tie school and uni fellowships, all leading to growing conservative influences, even control.Having shared classes with Jack Howard, be assured he never changed from being vindictive, ignorant, obsessive, fixated, egoromantic, narrow, particular, empty and untrustworthy. Today’s local conservatives follow that line too closely.

  17. Lucy Hamilton

    Barry, your comment is misleading. As we know from any of the packets of pills we take on the reg and bless for the antibiotic or painkilling impact that our ancestors could only pray for, the list of adverse impacts supplied is always extensive and scary. In fact covid is continuing to prove far more scary and long-lasting in impact than any of the vaccines. This is the metric that must always be held in mind when assessing that kind of information. I will find a better link to satisfy your needs but the fact remains: Antic constantly spreads misinformation on climate, gender, covid and anything else he touches. I choose not to say disinformation because I think he is stupid rather than malicious. I leave you to judge.

  18. Lucy Hamilton

    Paul, the other thing that I find interesting about this new trope that the far right is “center right” is that it must be emerging out of America for Antic to choose to spell it that way. I’m intrigued that he has not chosen to domesticate the spelling.

    A NZ commentator who describes himself as centre right and depicts Deeming as the centre right path forward also labels any of her critics as “groomers.” That and the word “woke” tell you all you need to know about the shallow intellect and gormless reasoning of the speaker.

  19. SkuzeMe

    And “my” ABC radio news had the temerity just now to interview and play back Simon Birmingham saying:……
    “I’m concerned about divisions within the Labor Party”.
    ………..My sides are still hurting from laughter…

  20. Canguro

    GL, the argument that good and evil exist side by side is relatively valid, however, the devil is in the detail, as always. The phenomenon of same sex relations is nothing new, and as old as Methuselah, one might aver. Roman orgies, Greek love of youth, propensity for certain Middle Eastern cultures for men to get their rocks off with young boys… Oscar Wilde and a host of other Western luminaries… it’s been a thing since, arguably, prehistoric times. Evil has many faces, but if the axiom of ‘do no harm’ is at the forefront, much that is labelled as such is really a straw man’s postulate, and as such ought to be duly & deservedly ignored. The Anglican Church, along with many if not most of the plethora of Christian sects is hardly a sainted and unblemished organisation; a moment’s consideration of the enormous damage done to individuals and cultures across the planet in the name of your magic bearded non-existent sky fairy demonstrates such a fallacy as that nominated by the uninspiring Sydney chapter who, predictably, choose to focus on such a mundanity and ignore the greater legacy of their relationship to such deeply historical outrages.

    Religion and its chosen beliefs continue to exhibit their narrow-minded prejudices and will, unfortunately, continue to do so… such is their nature. Is Michael Kirby evil? Or Patrick White? Percy Grainger? Peter Allen? Robert Helpmann? Graham Kennedy? Bernard King? Reg Livermore? Shame on the diocese, for their obdurate ignorance.

  21. Harry Lime

    Skuzeme,It’s amusing that political pundits keep referring to Birmingham as a “moderate”…he’s one slippery bastard that talks out of both sides of his mouth with ease.This “moderate” was a willing member of the most atrocious, hypocritical government we’ve ever seen.
    You’d have more luck trying to put a squid into a string bag than squeezing truth out of him.Same with the detritus that still infects his party.He’s just another passenger riding on the public coin.

  22. leefe

    ” … Greek love of youth, propensity for certain Middle Eastern cultures for men to get their rocks off with young boys … ”

    Please don’t equate homosexuality with paedophilia; they are nothing alike. Properly informed and freely consenting adults are a very different thing from children (including adolescents) being groomed and/or abused.

  23. paul walter

    I know their excuse for a catholic centre-right ALP is that lefties will leave for the Greens and the only the hard -right will be left as to a disintegrating right. But I CANT forgive the ALP for their dumbed down “conference” and lack of openness and accountability.. A proper debate was needed, not close down. No better than Morrison, this time.

  24. K

    Great article (as always) Lucy Smith, and great commentary, from a number of names I recognise (yes, I read comments, and often the fine print).

    Agreed on a number of points raised here.

  25. LambsFry Simplex.

    Antic and Deeming?
    THIS is the response to the horrible thrashing they got last election from an angry public?
    So their solution is to drag in MORE of the rubbish we’ve experienced over that last decade?
    Cuckoo’s Nest… get me out of here before they eventually lobotomise me also for the “fun” of it like robodebt.

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