Guest Notes

Australian notes

25 February 2017

9:00 AM

25 February 2017

9:00 AM

Tim wilson is wrong

In this past Saturday’s Inquirer page, Liberal MP Tim Wilson – former Commissioner in the Australian Human Rights Commission – wrote an opinion piece that urged right of centre voters to come together and form a ‘united front’ or else such voters would be ‘risking progressive control of both the house and the Senate’. Along the way, Mr Wilson managed to rail against ‘the incoherence of nationalist populism’, to attack just about all things related to the election of Donald Trump and to lament the lack of trust voters have in their elected representatives.

Now as a small government, Hobbesian kinda guy and so someone who is presumably part of Mr Wilson’s intended audience, I have to say that I found his arguments unconvincing, slippery, a bit ill-informed and all leavened with a pretty big dollop of special pleading. If you’re looking for the problems with today’s Liberal Party, look no further than what you read in Wilson’s opinion piece.

Start with the slippery bits. When you toss around terms like ‘populist’ and ‘nationalist populist’ it would be well if you defined what you meant. My personal view is that charges of ‘populism’ amount to nothing other than ‘we don’t happen to like your policies’. In a democracy if you win an election and people then attack you for ‘populism’ what at heart they don’t like is the choice made by the voters using the democratic process in that country. That’s pretty much what charges of ‘populism’ boil down to, that Mr X won an election and we don’t like his policies. But it’s precisely these sort of attempts to delegitimise the outcomes of elections – attempts that mostly originate from the political left as it happens but, as Wilson’s piece shows, not only from the left – that are partly to blame for the loss in faith of democracy that Tim, rightly, laments.

Wilson’s arguments are also unconvincing and ill-informed. I will give you two examples. First off, Tim suggests that Donald Trump is an undesirable winner of the last US election because he is ‘pushing through institutions’ rather than ‘conserving them’. Oh, and Trump has attacked the legitimacy of decisions made by US courts. But surely no right of centre person with all of his or her faculties intact wants to conserve all institutions. That, if I may say so, is one of the major problems with this present Coalition government. Faced with a billion dollar a year ABC broadcasting behemoth that employs not one single, solitary TV presenter, editor, producer (you name it) from the right of the political spectrum – not one – our Liberal Party’s response is ‘to conserve this institution’. Mine would be the Trump response. I’m betting a heck of a lot of others in the Liberal base agree with me. Same goes for the Australian Human Rights Commission, Mr Wilson’s former employer and of late a total disgrace. I’d close it down, or in Tim’s quaint terms ‘push through this institution’.

But the response of this present Team Turnbull incarnation of the Liberal Party is to have Ms Triggs around to tea. Oh, and when your job came vacant Tim, on the HRC, who did Mssrs Brandis and Turnbull appoint to replace you to that $350,000 p.a. post? Ed Santow. This is a man of the cultural Left who in his whole time in the job has yet to say a single word in defence of either the QUT students or Bill Leak. Sometimes matters get to the point that we need disruption. We need anything but conserving. And that is wholly compatible with being a measured, thoughtful right of centre voter.

So when you talk in your piece about this Liberal/Coalition government’s ‘values’ – actually you extol them – I’m left wondering just what your values are that we on the right are supposed to like. Yes, yes, yes, I know you’re a millimetre to the right of Labor. But am I supposed to be enthused by your half-bonkers Renewable Energy Target of 23 percent (and note that all of the damage being done right now is due solely to that target, your government’s) just because Labor’s policy is even more bonkers and impoverishing? Or by the raid you made on my superannuation. (I’m not one of the privileged few on a defined benefit scheme, the sort you Libs have left more or less untouched. Are you, Tim?)

Or go back to your implicit dislike of Mr Trump’s attack on the judges who invalidated his immigration order. Have you read those decisions Tim? Have you seen the decision of the 9th Circuit? It’s a disgrace. It’s judicial activism writ large. New principles plucked out of thin air. There’s a reason those on the political Left started this case where it would end up in the 9th Circuit, because that’s the most left-leaning Circuit in the US (and, for what it’s worth, the one with the highest rate of being over-ruled by the Supreme Court).

In the face of this sort of judicial decision there is, in my view, nothing at all wrong with politicians making it plain they disagree with the judiciary, and in strong terms. Obama did it lots of times, most memorably before the Obamacare case, and at one of his State of the Union Addresses to Justice Scalia and other conservatives to their faces. Okay for Obama to do Tim, but not Trump, because I don’t recall you castigating the former President?

So this all looked like special pleading to me. Having seen over a million former Liberal supporters flee the party at the last election (full disclosure, I was one of those deserters), you now plead for unity. But why come back home now? The Liberal party looks in a pretty sorry state to me right now. As I happen to believe the voters usually get it right, that should make you pretty nervous about the next election.

As for your talk of ‘redressing the trust deficit’, well, Tim, I think that ship left port when 54 of your colleagues defenestrated a first term PM, Labor-style.

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