Flat White

Liberals, Nationals and Australian Conservatives

15 March 2018

5:26 PM

15 March 2018

5:26 PM

It’s a sad day when one is forced to disagree with the recent offerings of such sage Spectator scribes as James Allan and John Ruddick. Alas…

Firstly James, who sees the Australian Conservatives as pointless because they give their preferences to the Liberal Party, the very crowd they believe is failing them. They do indeed. However, AC voters do register a protest by conservatives against current Liberal policy of the kind Malcolm Turnbull and his government are pursuing. To direct AC preferences to Bill Shorten would very likely be too much for conservatives to bear and would cost AC votes it would otherwise attract. Those votes would then go directly to the Liberals and mistakenly encourage them in their leftist policies.

James’ policy preference is to ensure annihilation of the current Liberal parliamentary membership and endure three terrible years of Shorten in the belief a revitalised conservative Liberal government would be returned at the following election. As things stand return of a Shorten government with a Liberal rump at the next election is already a 99 per cent reality.  James preferred policy would ensure an even greater Labor majority and probably two or three terms. What irreversible socialist changes might be wrought in six or nine years of Shorten. It is a Catch 22 situation but on balance my preference is to follow the AC ticket and preference the Liberals after One Nation and the Liberal Democrats, these latter diversions being only symbolic in the House of Representatives.

This brings us to the Senate, which currently renders strong government impossible. This is the fault of the Senate voting system that cannot be changed until one of the major parties gets a majority in both houses. It is there perhaps that James’ argument is strongest because if a majority Labor senate were returned in a landslide, Labor would surely act. Six electorates, each electing a single member to represent their state (two members in a double dissolution election) would solve the problem. Liberals and Labor together at any time could do that, but such cooperation is beyond them.

James’ belief that decimation of the Liberals would allow the Australian Conservatives, for example, to replace them at an election is hard to imagine. Corey Bernardi would need to campaign relentlessly making it clear that is the purpose and aim of his party. And, he would need to have a large Australia wide membership which at this point he lacks. In the meantime let’s get behind Corey.

Of course, the problem really lies in the selection of Liberal candidates. Over recent decades small ‘l’, leftist, ‘progressive’ liberals have been selected in numbers, sufficient to replace Abbott with Turnbull. John Ruddick is trying to correct that by taking pre-selections out of the hands of the ruling Liberal elite in favour of party members. But this brings me to his advice that the National Party, his so-called B team, should be kicked while it is down, following the Joyce affair. Downtrodden they would then, in his view, have to join the ‘A’ team Liberals (hopefully cleansed of bedwetters after his plans take effect) where Nationals would be welcomed as second class members. Nationals he thinks masquerade as a party of the Country when in fact Liberal members hold more country seats.

That may be so but those members are Liberals that is the difference. They must subscribe to the Liberal philosophy of the day and it is only by dint of superior electoral organisation on the ground, that Liberals gain country seats. In a contest on equal terms, with financially well-supported candidates, Nationals would win regional seats hands down in most cases.

The thing is that Nationals rank and file are not in it for themselves while most Liberal party members are seeking perceived prestige, a political sinecure or eventual selection as a candidate. Associated aggressiveness wins them funding that outstrips that of the Nationals. As often as not, Nationals office holders and National Party candidates are drafted. In short, the Nationals are more family with family values hoping that someone else will put their hand up when a vacancy occurs. You will rarely see branch stacking or undermining of another member to gain Nationals pre-selection.

John Ruddick thinks that the Queensland LNP is a division of the Liberal Party in which Nationals are only affiliates, lacking the electoral clout of true Liberals. He might be interested to know that until the shambles that is the LNP, Nationals outnumbered Liberals in every Qld election result. Liberals, in fact, rode on the Nationals coat-tails from 1957 to 1989 continuously losing numbers to the Nationals in electorates jointly contested.

Many Queensland-elected Liberals at a state level are and always have been seen as a sick joke. In the last state election, a Liberal LNP leader lost the unlosable election. Currently, we have a National as party leader and a deputy who would easily qualify as a National. Even so, they have the job in front of them to defeat a lacklustre Labor outfit, because state ‘Liberals’ are seen as too flaky, especially in Brisbane which should be their power base.

It is fanciful in the extreme for John Ruddick to think that the Liberal v National contests would always be won by his Liberals A team. By all means, let us have Liberal and National candidates, equally funded, exchanging preferences in every electorate. That would maximise the ‘conservative’ vote and set One Nation back a treat. But expect the ‘B’ team to pick up seats at the expense of his Liberals. That is the Queensland experience. What a breath of fresh air it would bring to Canberra to have a government led by Nationals.

John Ruddick says other countries do not have rural and urban-based parties and rural interests would be strengthened by their being inside the tent with the urban majority. In saying that he fails to understand that Nationals are different and see themselves as different from Liberals. They bring to the parliament that exhilaration that overtakes everyone, just a few miles out of any city, as they leave behind the posturing and affectation so essential to city life. That is the change Australia needs to have. Nationals know instinctively the sensible course to follow, when everyone else is mesmerised and confused by demands of the febrile media and their latest fad.

A Nationals leadership could give Australia the no-nonsense government Bjelke Petersen gave to Queensland. In his near 20 years as National Party Premier we had balanced budgets, debt free and patient free public hospitals (before Medicare was even dreamed of), a lean and highly effective public service, fully funded public service superannuation, the most efficient coal-fired generators in Australia (still the lynchpin of Australia’s supply) and a program of continuous development of dams, ports and roads that stayed ahead of demand. A Nationals parliament would bring that sort of thinking to Canberra.

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