I suppose one could argue the point of the matter, but I find it difficult to see any reason to call the opposition leader the leader of the Liberal Party. Indeed, it fascinates me why journalists refer to this conservative party as liberal. On the contrary, a Liberal Party no longer exists in Australia.
One of the tenets of liberalism expressed on the so-called party’s internet page notes the following:
“In equal opportunity for all Australians; and the encouragement and facilitation of wealth so that all may enjoy the highest possible standards of living, health, education and social justice.”
This is a condescending way of saying that if enough people become rich, the poor who make them so will be looked after by the leftovers of their wealth.
I would dispute that every claim on the page is owned by liberalism. On the contrary, claims of ideological ownership often transcend parties simply because logic would dictate it so.
The LNP accepts Medicare, the NDIS and other social welfare policies based on necessity, not ideology. Conservatives would have none of it if they stuck to their philosophy. In other words, they are flexible when it suits them.
In his essay “Has Menzies’ Liberal Party Run its Course?” Greg Melleuish says that:
“Malcolm Fraser was the last Liberal prime minister in the style of Menzies. He is sometimes derided for not taking advantage of his control of the Senate between 1975 and 1980 to push through an economically liberal agenda. That only makes sense if one assumes that the Liberal Party was addicted to an abstract theory of Liberalism…
Howard’s genius was to redefine the Liberal Party as a ‘broad church’ and to argue that it had always been the ‘principal custodian of mainstream conservative values in Australia’, even if this had not been the case.”
Midway through his essay he quotes John Howard:
“There is nothing, either in the statements of Menzies when the party was formed, or in his subsequent conduct as leader, to suggest that he did not see the Liberal Party as inter alia the principal custodian of mainstream conservative values in Australia.”
While concluding with the question:
“Has the Liberal Party of Menzies indeed run its course?”
If one is conversant with the actions, deeds and leadership since and during Howard’s time, one could only conclude that the decline of liberalism started with Howard and ended with Morrison. During that period, the party became infiltrated with right-wing nutters who espoused a conservative worldview similar to Donald Trump.
So my point is that in the past, the Liberal Party accommodated both liberal and conservative values, and now in its makeup, it is entirely a conservative party.
Howard’s characterisation of the Liberal Party as a broad church had two dimensions. The first was the metaphor of the general Christian church, and the second was to take conservatism and its more extreme right-wing views under its wing.
The party’s current leader Peter Dutton insists that he isn’t of a conservative disposition, but his political record would suggest otherwise.
In the aftermath of their election loss he was off the blocks asserting his place as the next Liberal leader. He claimed Labor would be a “bad government“.
Dutton acknowledged that his reputation as a former copper and hardman came about because of his roles in home affairs and defence minister.
Did he forget immigration? Then he said he wanted to show Australians “the rest of my character, the side my family, friends and colleagues see.”
To say that you have to portray a specific personality for these portfolios is tantamount to admitting you’re a bastard. But then, he didn’t earn his dastardly reputation by being honest and trustworthy.
His wife Kirilly told us of his softer side; he was an “amazing father” with “a great sense of humour … an incredible compassion.” I note that before the 2019 election, she claimed that he wasn’t the monster people claimed him to be.
When he won the leadership of the Liberal Party after the May election he reassured his loyal base that:
“We aren’t the Moderate Party. We aren’t the Conservative Party. We are Liberals. We are the Liberal Party. We believe in families – whatever their composition …
Small and micro businesses. For aspirational, hard-working ‘forgotten people’ across cities, suburbs, regions and in the bush.
Things are going to be tough under Labor: higher interest rates, cost of living, inflation and electricity prices. Labor talked a big game on the economy. They now have to deliver, and we will hold them to account.”
Later he told Radio 2GB he believed the Coalition could win the next election.
“There’s a lot of work between now and then, and the Liberal party has to get back to being the Liberal party and being the broad church and making sure that we represent all Australians.”
Liberal moderates, including Simon Birmingham, Dave Sharma and Matt Kean had already been quoted saying that the party had gone too far to the right.
In response, Dutton said he wasn’t going to be radically shifting the Coalition but wasn’t “some extreme right-wing person… We’re a centre-right party.”
Did I hear a voice in the wilderness say; “Sit down, boofhead.”?
Can this party that was so institutionally and politically weakened by Labor, the Greens, the teals and independents structurally reform itself to become something other than what they have been in the past?
Labor now takes the space small “L” Liberals occupied for so many years, and if they decide to continue down the path of conservatism, they have no choice but to be more radical and extreme.
Former federal finance minister Nick Minchin was recently booed at a conference of self-styled conservatives for not being right-wing enough. He made the mistake of telling his audience that the Liberal Party didn’t need much change.
The booing went on for some time, I am told.
The event was CPAC, a globalised conference that caters for the brain dead. One of those occasions you would most definitely ignore if you could. When asked about CPAC’s view that the Liberals had lost their way, Dutton noted there were:
“… a lot of people who offer free advice at the moment” – people who had never formed government and never sat in the big boy’s chairs. People might have “all sorts of theories” about how to regroup after a flogging, but he intended to approach the leadership of his Party as a descendant of Robert Menzies and John Howard. The Liberals would win by articulating core values and “calling out Labor’s hypocrisy.”
If Dutton seriously believes that the Liberals would win by articulating their core values whilst carrying the luggage of his past, he isn’t a leader’s bootlace.
Articulating the difference between your and the other party’s ideology is obligatory if you want to win.
If you cannot do that, you will become just another lonely long-term Opposition Leader.
My thought for the day
A conservative outcry:
Poverty is the victim’s fault, but wealth comes from virtue, and both are the natural order of things.
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