Leading article Australia

Conservative populists

27 November 2021

9:00 AM

27 November 2021

9:00 AM

‘Disgusting right-wing nut-jobs’, ‘rebels’, ‘populist conservatives’ and of course ‘anti-vaxxers’. These are just some of the politer insults being hurled at those who espouse the once universally accepted concept that it is legally, ethically and morally wrong to mandate medical procedures or vaccinations upon people against their will. Or indeed to coerce or even manipulate people to take any form of medication whatsoever.

Readers of this magazine were made aware many months ago of the political perils of vaccine passports and mandatory vaccination requirements within the workplace and elsewhere.

Back in July we offered this advice to the Prime Minister and his team: ‘Condemn the state lockdowns; make all vaccines and treatments (like ivermectin) available to GPs and pharmacies as swiftly as possible with appropriate risk information; and allow individuals, not bureaucrats, to make the decisions that they feel best protect their families’ health’.

Needless to say, in following the now wearily familiar formula of avoiding any confrontation with the soft-Left and determined to avoid the hard calls that leadership always demands, Team Morrison has tried to get away with a ‘half-pregnant’ strategy of insisting vaccinations are not mandatory and in the very next breath acknowledging that they in effect are. If those who are advising the PM think this is the smart way to go about it, they are in for a rude shock come the next election. Voters elect and reward strong leaders. In the absence of a proven strong leader, they will opt for the untried alternative with fingers crossed behind their backs.

Back in August we offered a clear path forward for the government to defeat Labor at the next election. In fact, we offered two simultaneous pathways. Both of which were ignored. One was the ‘GST’ strategy of going to the next election committed to revoking the ban on nuclear energy to offer a credible path to net zero. Instead, making a fool of himself at Cop 26, the PM offered up Twiggy Forrest’s and Dave Sharma’s ludicrous notion of ‘green hydrogen’ being this nation’s economic and environmental salvation. Within a matter of days, one of the US tech billionaires of the sort we were no doubt hoping to seduce with this plan, Elon Musk, had dismissed ‘green hydrogen’ as ‘mind-bogglingly stupid’. Yet that is what the Liberals and Nationals are pinning our future prosperity on.

The second and most important part of the advice we generously offered was for the Coalition to become the party of freedom. As we pointed out back then, ‘The mood of the electorate is now shifting dramatically and the battle lines of the next federal election are being drawn. The party that offers a credible path to freedom will win. The heavy hand of endless lockdowns should be to Labor what Chris Bowen’s franking credits were at the last election: if you don’t want permanent lockdowns, don’t vote for Labor’.

Again, our advice was ignored. And it’s interesting to note that so-called highly respected ‘centre-right’ commentators in the media went out of their way to dismiss our and similar advice as ‘conservative populism’. The idea of promoting nuclear power was ‘electoral suicide’ and the notion that the government should back freedom of choice in Covid matters was airily dismissed as ‘senseless, indulgent and irresponsible’.

The latter criticism was delivered following the laudable actions of several senators in crossing the floor to support Pauline Hanson’s failed Bill to prevent the states imposing mandatory vaccinations. That the Bill was regarded as flawed by some conservative members of the government – who abstained – is neither here nor there. The point is clear: the government could and should have been out on the front foot proposing legislation of its own, or, at the very least, the PM and his Cabinet could have easily taken the moral high ground weeks ago with a strong condemnation of the states’ vaccination rules. What’s that word again…? Oh, yes, ‘leadership’.

Speaking of which, nowhere in the history of democratic politics is there any shining or even remotely successful example of a government surrendering not only its power but its moral authority to sworn ideological opponents and then benefitting from that surrender. Yet this is precisely what Scott Morrison did with the idiotic ‘National Cabinet’ scheme. Again, as we said all the way back in July, ‘The National Cabinet is a disaster, removing elected federal government MPs from decision-making at a critical time and replacing them with a motley gang of mostly left-wing premiers and bureaucrats who have used fear and over-the-top authoritarian measures to pander to the polls, whilst the humble taxpayer has been left to pick up the tab.’

A strong and unequivocal (as opposed to mealy-mouthed and unconvincing) condemnation of Labor’s mandatory vaccination laws, Labor’s lockdowns and Labor’s closed borders would, in our opinion, see a convincing Coalition federal victory after a successful campaign of painting itself as the party of freedom. Moreover, such a principled stance would be in keeping with what were once core Liberal brand values. What’s that other word, again…? Oh, yes, ‘conviction’.

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