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Voting Liberal is neither liberal nor conservative

The parties of the right in Australia are changing faster than their voters might recognise. It is increasingly the case that a vote for the “conservatives” is a vote for the radical or religious right.

No doubt the leaders of the Liberal Party of Victoria are disturbed by the fact that Moira Deeming, their candidate for the Western Metropolitan Region seat is closely connected to an anti-choice rally set for this weekend, six weeks before the state goes to the polls.

The party has indicated that it wants to “pursue progressive social and environmental policies.” For a state that, as they acknowledge, would require a “genuine, modern alternative” government, this is likely to be imperative.

The Victorian Liberals expelled Bernie Finn, Deeming’s predecessor and mentor, to signal that they would not stand for the radical right populism he aims to foment, in particular anti-abortion comments. Awkwardly for them, the branch selected Deeming, noted for her anti-abortion and TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, more accurately depicted as Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobe or FART) statements.

Finn and Deeming are intimately connected with the organisation. He founded it five years after abortion was decriminalised in Victoria, aiming to recriminalise it, with his organisation at the forefront of the battle. Deeming stepped down as secretary last year, but was previously prominent, and continues her activism post-preselection. Amongst the key statements on the march’s Facebook page are claims that it is “never ok to slaughter a child” and “Let’s make Victoria like Arizona” after that US state made the medical procedure illegal. The implication can only be that this group aims ultimately to plant the most extreme Christian Nationalist abortion bans from American states in Australia’s civil soil.

Not only is “March for the Babies” intending to strip women of our bodily autonomy, but it is also closely connected to far-right and white supremacist activists. They are on film attending the marches, but in 2018 Finn even hired these notorious figures as his bodyguards* for the event. Deeming’s connection to the extreme anti-abortion movement, as well as her activism against Safe Schools and writing in support of Conversion Therapy, reinforces that her transphobic activism is based in extremist Christianity, not feminism. This movement aims to erase LGBTQI people from the public space. The coordination of oppressive Christianity with its western chauvinist cultural deployment is a common pairing in the international religious right.

Denominational branch-stacking is an old tradition in Australia, but as the religious right problem around the world becomes more extreme, the attack on “conservative” branches here grows more concerted. Nondenominational Christian lobby groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby illustrate how radical the positions are becoming. International experience shows that these forces are content to work with cultural conservatives such as transphobes in order to broaden their appeal.

Becoming a target for motivated religious groups, pushing preselection of less moderate candidates is only half the problem for the Victorian party in making sure that it can be a genuine “modern” option.

The other is that the radical right nature of the Liberal Party – and its National Party colleagues – around the nation is functioning as an employment ad to people driven by immoderate goals.

Brian Klaas has spent years interviewing and researching the personality type of people who misuse power from the petty tyrant in the office to nations’ authoritarian leaders. His book Corruptible is well worth reading for an insight into the proposition that the LNP, the Republicans and the Tories have declined beyond redemption.

One powerful example that Klaas uses to illustrate the impact of a literal professional advertisement is the police force. Naturally, this job wrongly done can be much bloodier than a politician’s, so the similarities are not equivalent.

Klaas contrasts two extreme examples of police career advertising to make his point. On one hand, New Zealand aimed to address the problem of the wrong people choosing a police career by creating a campaign that featured humour, a diverse array of backgrounds and a focus on a job as a support to the community. The campaign was a huge success, attracting women, Maori and people from other non-white groups to join in substantial numbers. Now the police are much more likely to look like the people they are policing, and the outcomes are similarly better.

The most extreme American ad came from Georgia. A small town website posted a recruitment video that began with the Punisher logo (a violent vigilante figure beloved on the extreme right) and continued with military vehicles, smoke grenades and firing with military-style weapons to the soundtrack of “Die MF die.”

The people who self-select for this police force are not the same people who select for the NZ version where people who return dogs to grateful owners or help hungry street kids are the personalities celebrated.

This is clearly a much more extreme career path than politics. The people harmed by politicians are usually separated by many layers of public service and are much harder to link causally to parliamentary and administrative decisions.

But the echo of the lesson remains: when a coalition of parties advertises itself as the home of self-interest and the celebration of prejudice and cruelty, who is likely to self-select? Klaas’s study suggests it is more likely to be people belonging to the “dark triad personality” type, already drawn to power.

The dark triad personality illustrates elements of the overlapping narcissistic, Machiavellian and sociopathic personalities. The impact is described thus: “People with these traits tend to be callous and manipulative, willing to do or say practically anything to get their way. They have an inflated view of themselves and are often shameless about self-promotion. These individuals are likely to be impulsive and may engage in dangerous behaviour—in some cases, even committing crimes—without any regard for how their actions affect others.”

The treatment of Australians in scandals such as the Robodebt trial; our First Nations people in general; and the extremity of cruelty meted out to asylum-seeking refugees over the last decade all illustrate decisions that might have been made by people acting out of these personality traits. The fact that the scarifying treatment of refugees was the point, and that rotten publicity was welcomed for its deterrent effect, underlines the distorted thinking at work. We were intended to be – and be famous for being – worse than the Taliban, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the genocidal Burmese and Sri Lankan armies.

It is hard to imagine wholesome people wanting to ally themselves with this brand. It is also hard to imagine them wanting to immerse themselves in a workplace filled with people happy to harm others.

This is not to argue that any other party is free of these characters, but all the rational parties do not market themselves as the party of cruelty, greed and memelord trolling of the vulnerable.

Most of the decent Liberals have left after failing to prevent the descent into radicalism. Indeed, their federal vice-president celebrated their departure as a cleansing of so-called “lefties” within the party at CPAC Australia recently. Their coalition partners have not shown such caution, maybe hoping that they can rescue their party from the trolls yet.

It is hard to know how Australia’s “conservative” parties can rescue themselves from this spiral of awfulness. In the meantime, their voters must know what is at stake.

*One of those “bodyguards” is alleged to have been amongst the group of Neo Nazis throwing the Hitler salute while protesting a youth LGBTQI gathering in a Moonee Ponds, Melbourne park. This is an echo of the Christian Fascist/Nationalist intimidation of many LGBTQI events around America in Pride Month 2022.

This was first published on Pearls and Irritations as Liberal candidate supports US-style abortion ban ahead of state poll

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7 comments

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  1. Harry Lime

    Well, the Dutton thing fits admirably into “the dark triad personality”,and is an ex cop to boot.The Liberal Party in Australia is already morphing into a rump of right wing zealots and assorted wing nuts.Guy’s imminent defeat in Victoria will open the way for more rabid bigots to add to the destruction.

  2. Phil Pryor

    How many virgins are there in the Virgin Islands? How many canaries are there in the Canary Islands? How many liberals are there in the Australian Liberal party? The answers are probably the same.., none, or few, or scarce, or Hmmnn. Conservative claptrap, cranks, crooks, creeps, cynical hypocrites, clamorous profiteers, climbing wannabes, cleverarse insiders, collaborators on scheming and dreaming, this is the current load of right wing manuredwellers that infest it. Peter Duckwit-Futton, an ex Q’land Cop (ho ho) is its loveable face, which sums up deceptive futility and errant political drive. NEVER trust a conservative, egofixated greedites…

  3. Canguro

    Before continuing with this post, I make the point that it is a hypothetical for the purposes of illustration and that I am not promulgating the following course of action, however…

    …if Moira Deeming was to have the unfortunate experience of being pack-raped by a group of thugs, was brutally traumatised, was taunted, abused vilely, treated abominably, hospitalised, and then found to her horror that she became pregnant as a result of this awful event, would her views on abortion change?

    It’s far easier to pontificate from the safety of being behind the barriers, so to speak, but in the line of fire, whether an unwanted pregnancy after already having had your preferred quotient of children, or being a single mother, unemployed, living week to week, or being a rape victim, or having an ultrasound or amniocentesis which indicated a severe congenital abnormality such as the Dandy-Walker syndrome, what would your position be? Go ahead, knowing the intolerable burden you’re about to adopt, or make the more rational but no less difficult decision to terminate?

    It seems many Christians these day prefer to be anything but Christian, and, if I could put myself in God’s shoes for a moment, I’d bet he doesn’t particularly care about the minuscule number of humans missing out on their full-term journey through the birth canal. And, each male ejaculation contains around 100 million sperm but only one is needed for impregnation, but no-one’s out there complaining about the enormous attrition rate of the weaker swimmers. 99,999,999 sperm can kick the bucket and no-one gives a shrug, but let an egg die and all hell breaks loose? Give me a break! And further to the absurdity, while the female is still fecund, she sheds an egg every 28 days thereabouts, over how many years… do the math… around 400 eggs down the drain without a peep, yet if one is intentionally flushed… again, all hell breaks loose.

    These RWNJs seem incapable of absorbing and digesting the overall complexity of circumstances, they seem to lack the coding for the empathy gene, they seem to lack mirror neurons. They seem to be dangerous androids, dressed up as humans. It’s all very well to argue for freedom of speech, but it wouldn’t hurt to institute a requirement that all RWNJs wear something akin to a spiky carapace that warns others of their toxicity.

  4. Andrew James Smith

    Interesting read with the interplay between right wing politics and now non mainstream Christian denominations in the US and Australia. Think it was Jane Mayer of ‘Dark Money’ fame in an interview or presentation several years ago, stated on the basis of her research that Kochs attracted, platformed and used Evangelicals to form (another) ‘conservative’ voter bloc on behalf of the ‘owned’ GOP their ‘delivery system’.

    Another feature in parallel has been the multi pronged attacks on all levels of education by the radical right, replicate din Oz, including curricula content, science, teaching methodology, teachers and gaining access to ‘campuses’ for disruption under various guises e.g. ‘freedom of speech’. The desired outcome appears to be dumbed down curricula, teacher centred instruction, precludes development of critical, analytical & science skills then produce fewer and less empowered graduates so future generations do not or cannot question the ‘status quo’.

    The reason is that the radical right libertarian socioeconomic policies, of their muse the ‘segregation’ economist James Buchanan (making his friends Friedman & Rand seem moderate), are unpalatable for most and their Libertarian Party garnered only 4% of the Presidential vote many years ago; Buchanan had a strong interest in all levels of education but for the wrong reasons (present ructions in UK Tory government on ‘Trussonomics’ is more about radical ‘Kochonomics’ influenced by Buchanan).

    Accordingly, in the US they now develop and use such voter blocs for electoral support to help pass the same radical policies into legislation by the GOP, but hidden behind very conservative ‘Christian values’, abortion/SCOTUS, ‘state rights’, gerrymandering, alt right, intimidation of the centre and authoritarianism; Buchanan’s ‘Virginian School’ experiment was apparent in Pinochet’s Chile.

    Finally, in the US, UK and Australia one assumes that its ageing electorates with legacy media in support, are being led into voting maybe for their own interests ala ‘pensioner populism’ but not only do we get Trump, Brexit and Oz with media central, but working age and youth are thrown under the bus or their interests are ignored.

  5. Kathryn

    There is absolutely NOTHING “liberal”, democratic, compassionate or foresightful about the regressive LNP! The LNP has proven to be a protective haven for alpha male misogynistic predators, lying conniving political psychopaths, callously inhumane miscreants, disingenuous bible-thumping hypocrites, religious cultists and insular xenophobic racists! Sadly, there is NOTHING good one can find to say about a single member of the current LNP cabinet! They are a group of self-serving sociopaths who’s ONLY focus is the autocratic empowerment and the further obscene enrichment of themselves – and their multi-billionaire donors in the Top 1% at the expense of ordinary working- and middle-class Australians. You only have to look at the type of unspeakably avaricious and callously inhumane right-wing billionaires who support the LNP to realise the open contempt they all have for ordinary Australians: people like Gerry Harvey and Gina Rinehart who is notorious for saying that, in order for Australians to be competitive, they should work for $4 per hour! Needless to say that she doesn’t include HERSELF in that appalling scenario as she managed to INHERIT most of HER wealth from her late father, the appalling racist, Lang Hancock!

    The truth is that the LNP, and the type of greedy right-wing conservatives who support them, are a group of depraved, prosperity-driven classist elitists who are drowning in self-entitlement and an undemocratic born-to-rule arrogance that see the “general population” as nothing more than hand maidens or “underlings” that they can use and abuse on their “road” to obscene wealth at OUR expense! This is WHY the British Tories and their like-minded colleagues in the LNP here in Australia, as well as their born-to-rule supporters, despise anyone and everyone who attempt to “rise above their station in life”; they maintain their elitist belief in the “haves and the have nots”! Only problem is that THEY will ALWAYS maintain that THEY should remain in their God-given position as the “haves” and the rest of us must be happy to remain in our position as the “have nots”, content to eek out a subsistent existence with whatever we can attain from what “trickles down” after they have greedily skimmed off just about everything they believe they are entitled to! There is NO LIMIT to their greed, NO END to their relentless lack of humanity and not one iota of remorse for the way these pretentious classists continue to treat ordinary hard-working citizens. The truth is that these multi-billionaires would NEVER be in the privileged position they are in if it wasn’t for sheer luck, good fortune and their ability to live a parasitic lifestyle benefiting from the blood, sweat and tears of their hard-working employees, many of whom are underpaid and/or struggling for better pay and working conditions!

    Never forget that a vote for the LNP is a vote to foster British-styled elitism and snobbery in our nation which has the international reputation as being one of the most egalitarian in the world! If we want to attain and maintain our sense of fairness and egalitarianism, it is essential we ensure that the wealth-obsessed elitists in the LNP remain in OPPOSITION indefinitely!

  6. wam

    You have to laugh when you think that pig iron bob would have been called a leftie? The police culture, as seen in the media, especially the social media, is racist, sexist and homophobic. How some officers are given a job, much less sent to Aboriginal Communities, is symptomatic of the selection process for men, being racist sexist and homophobic. The kiwis are ahead again. All our politician should be tested and made to face their prejudices.

  7. Max Gross

    Christo-Fascism is an LP thing. But it would not be an LP thing without John Howard getting the toxic ball rolling all those years ago when he embraced the Exclusive Brethren

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