The problem with Australian politics is the paradox of a lack of clear choices and a context of unprecedented polarisation. If I can even be so naive as to suggest there is only one problem, or even only one main problem, optimism about political debate and futures could be greatly improved simply by the major parties clearly distinguishing themselves from each other.
There’s a common frustration about both parties being nearly indistinguishable. Parliamentarians often feel this is unfair; especially those further from the centre, and their feelings are not without merit. But neither are the comparisons. For example, the Labor Party insists that they won’t incentivise the miserable trade in human trafficking which flourished under their previous policies, frustrating leftists who want every refugee application approved indiscriminately, if not open borders. On the other hand, the Liberal Party insists they can be trusted with the nation’s economy, and yet their borrowing and spending has frustrated conservatives opposed to the immoral theft that is intergenerational debt.
Some of my conservative friends and colleagues hold no hope for Scott Morrison being the Liberal prime minister we feel all Australians need. They criticise his cabinet choices –in particular, omitting talented rising stars like Andrew Hastie and instead installing so-called “moderates” with half the talent and character. Morrison’s decision to recognise “West Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital and relocate our embassy when unicorns parade at the announcement of a Middle East peace deal showed a rare ability to upset Jews, Muslims and Christians all at once.
The Prime Minister hasn’t briefed me on his thinking and strategy behind the various decisions he’s made. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and speculate he’s trying to unite the left and the right in the ‘broad church’ of the Liberal Party in the fashion John Howard achieved in what now seem like the golden era of Australian politics, before Kevin 07 and Australian presidential campaigns. I suspect he’s trying to compromise: give everybody a little win while steering us in a generally better direction.
It’s obviously not working. In trying to please everybody, he’s pleasing nearly nobody. John Howard managed his balancing act in an age of 24-hour news cycles and social media. Society since then has become much more polarised, punters have become much more opinionated and merely look for facts convenient to rationalising their feelings. This is a game conservatism cannot play and win. We can’t show a photo of 1,000 people who didn’t drown at sea to manipulate useful idiots to support our agenda of compassion. “No one was killed or injured” isn’t a headline that goes viral.
But the progressives can show a dirty, tear-stained face of a child through a fence, carefully omitting the open gate a dozen metres away, and claim those nasty conservatives are torturing them. They can show hundreds of public servants fired from redundant bureaucracies, but we can’t show photos of our children and grandchildren saved from harsh national austerity measures and servitude to China because of wise budgeting and limited borrowing. We can’t win the sensational feelings debate with attempts to make responsible government feel good.
Polling suggests the next federal election will be an annihilation of Liberal Party MPs and the Bill Shorten regime is inevitable. There is no likely path to success without a miracle. The government is lost. How then should an unashamed Christian conservative prime minister lead his party and govern for the whole nation?
I believe the only chance for Scott Morrison to continue in that role is for him to completely ignore the commentary from the opposition and the leftist media complex. This has been the single greatest failing of prime minister Abbot, prime minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Morrison. The leftists are never going to vote for you, so don’t go after their vote. The commentariat will never review you well, so don’t try to impress or even appease them. Don’t just be yourself, don’t just be likeable or authentic – also be assertive.
It’s time to risk another approach hoping for a better outcome, rather than repeating the same approach insanely expecting a different result. Morrison needs to abandon the concessions to Leftism that saw Abbot claim ISIS isn’t Islamic and Turnbull attempt to tax carbon dioxide to change the temperature. It’s time to tell the media to rack off and let them shriek in their ABC and former Fairfax echo chamber. What people will rally to is a clear vision for a better Australia: free of debt and over-government, free of lawfare replacing liberty, free of the march of post-modern relativism enslaving our public institutions.
Prime Minister Morrison doesn’t need to be President Trump and could never pull off his braggadocios bullying, but the silent majority of Australians are craving a similarly fearless leader who will pick the right battles and happily die for them, risking his career and his government and unflinchingly weathering the storm of resultant hate in mainstream and social media.
We are fed up with populists following from the front concerned only with clinging to power, and pray for someone prepared to lose for the right reasons. We want a clear choice who will be pro-justice, life, liberty, family, and responsibility; and who refuses to be defined by cynical labels or apologise to the mob for fighting for what’s objectively right.
Even if this won’t save the next election, and it may or may not, it has the real potential to save the Liberal Party from total irrelevance in the wake of electoral failure. To seize the initiative and rebuild the party with a momentum away from the moral relativism of the Greens who have the Labor Party hopelessly trapped in an effective coalition would be a great result for the leadership of Scott Morrison. Even if only opposition leader, to demand honest conversations about the consequences of cultural compromise would be to again give Australians a clear choice at future elections, and breathe fresh energy into a lukewarm party, neither hot nor cold and good for nothing.
This approach could save Australian politics because the choice would become bright between bleeding heart socialism (which killed more people in the twentieth century than all of preceding history combined) and the liberty of common sense conservatism.
The polarisation of politics will not be fixed in a generation, but a conservative with conviction can cut off the hopelessness of competing for the compromised centre that is ever lurching to the Left.
The choices should be stark, and the call to make an informed, objective, good decision at the next election should be loud and clear.
Dave Pellowe is a speaker, writer and political commentator and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.
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