Australian Notes

Australian notes

16 October 2021

9:00 AM

16 October 2021

9:00 AM

What would happen after a loss?

Here’s an important question to ponder. What direction would the federal Liberal party take were it to lose next year’s election? Because if readers are being honest with themselves they have to admit this is now at least a 50-50 proposition.  Believe the polls and it is probably a more-likely-than-not scenario. Mr Albanese will not make the mistakes Bill Shorten did and threaten to tax all sorts of people in the property market. He’s taking the lowest of low profile approaches (a good call in my view) and inviting people to vote against Team Morrison, rather than affirmatively to endorse Labor.

Now I have made no secret of my disdain for Mr Morrison’s near total lack of values and support for freedom-related issues – from his disregard for the need to repeal our woeful s.18C hate speech laws to his inability through this pandemic to stand up for civil liberties or even to voice a single strong criticism of Dan Andrews and his world’s toughest lockdown regime (which on all sorts of strong evidence from around the world – the political left would call this ‘the Science’ – has accomplished nothing save to ruin many lives of the young, those with small businesses, those without public service jobs, those who missed health checks for other things, the list goes on into the horizon). But leave that aside for now. Just focus on what you think will happen to the Libs if they lose next year.

Why does that matter? Well, all parties lose sooner or later. And if the federal Coalition does lose next year then there are two likely alternatives. One is that the Liberal party (we can ignore the Nats for now) will rediscover its base. It will move slowly back to standing up for the values it is supposed to embody, but patently no longer does. You know. Things like individual freedom. The small business sector. Keeping government spending under control. Not indulging in virtue-signalling moralising that impoverishes citizens (hello ‘2050 net zero’).  Doing something about the world’s most one-sided and biased public broadcaster, the ABC. In other words, after losing next year the Libs will move back somewhat to the political right. The party will emasculate what Christopher Pyne glowingly self-described as ‘the Black Hand’ wing of the party, aka ‘the moderates’, aka ‘Labor-lite’, aka ‘the closet Greens’. In other words, out of a loss will come regeneration and a better product for the next election.

The other possibility is bleak but at least as likely. On this scenario after a loss next year the federal Liberal party will mimic all – and I mean all – of its state counterparts. It will shun even the few remnant conservative beliefs and values it has and become an overtly ‘we are the party that sits a fraction of a smidgen of a soupçon to the right of Labor, wherever Labor happens to be’. After all, that is precisely what one sees when one looks at the Libs at the state level. What do they stand for? I have no idea. And neither do the voters. In Western Australia they aimed to out-Green the Greens. In my state of Queensland the LNP opposition is, and has been since Campbell Newman, completely and wholly useless. (I speak as kindly as is humanly possible, you understand.) Do they bang on articulately about the evils of lockdowns? Do they promise to repeal the awful statutory bill of rights? Do they stand up for freedom? Do they criticise the heavy-handedness of the public health caste? Do they demand that the politicians who are crippling small businesses take a pay cut and do so unilaterally themselves? No, no, no, no and no. Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, working together, couldn’t discover what they stood for. And it is, incredibly, even worse in Victoria. How hard is it to stand on principle against the democratic world’s most despotic and heavy-handed government? It’s not as though you need to be a rocket scientist to blast the incompetence and authoritarianism of the  Dan Andrews’ government. Yes, that means stopping all the equivocating and taking clear, definite (and sometimes risky) positions on things. Yes, it means standing up to the ABC worldview. Alas, for the Victorian Liberal opposition all that is mission impossible. As for the Liberal government in South Australia, the less said the better.  If that is what a ‘liberal’ (note the name of the party please) government gives you, there is little reason to care either way.

And let’s be honest. There is a fair chance that a defeated Team ScoMo could next year move in precisely that invertebrate direction. Indeed, that is what many wavering Liberal voters fear. It’s not that Team Morrison has anything much to recommend it. It is that a spell in opposition, instead of sharpening the resolve and instilling something in the way of backbone in the party, will in fact give us something like what we see at the state level. A Liberal opposition that is torn asunder between its hard-left (sorry, ‘moderate’) wing and its shrinking conservative wing. One that stands for nothing and is unable to attack Labor with anything like the success that a Tony Abbott-led Liberal opposition did. I think the fear here relates to how many careerist MPs now infect the Liberal partyroom. These are MPs who start with the Libs at university. Then go work for a Cabinet minister or a think tank. They spend all their waking hours in political circles where values and beliefs are things they pretend to have at election time, or trot out when speaking to the party base. But really it is all about keeping the perks and the chauffeur. Nothing becomes worth losing their job or promotion prospects over. (Compare Britain where fifty-odd Conservative MPs voted against Boris’s lockdown diktats to here, where the number who did so rhymes with the fifth Roman Emperor, the pyromaniac.)

Look, on this I’m an optimist. I think a defeated federal Liberal government will discover some principle and some attachment to core liberal values.  And so, yes, that will make it easier for me – out of disgust with what we have seen from Team ScoMo during this pandemic – to vote next year in a way that delivers the Libs the punishment they so richly deserve. But then I could be wrong.  Maybe a defeated national Liberal party would end up like the ones in Victoria and Queensland led by, umm, gee, who are they led by again?

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