If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely you’re conservatively inclined. Indeed, skimming The Spectator Australia or spying the Sky After Dark set are among the few rites remaining for us on the Australian Right.
Unfortunately, our efforts are rarely celebratory.
Conservative energies have been engaged in either utter indignation at the latest leftist excess – like Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ pay rise or his tokenistic removal of the state flag from the Westgate – or in a lament for what our country has become and a forlorn desire to return to superior times.
Articles from fellow conservatives are thoroughly emblematic of our impotence. Gerard Henderson writes on the hypocrisy of the Left in excluding conservatism from our putatively diverse public square, while others rage at the inability of other conservatives to reckon with the rise of Teflon Dan. The Australian Right has been reduced to baying at the moon as the Left go about reshaping the country in their image.
If further confirmation is needed, consider a range of rather random recent events.
In the cultural domain, there was the AFL ‘pride’ round in Sydney, replete with the now-standard rainbow flags and drag queens. In the corporate world, there’s the ubiquity of ‘Woke Capital’, acting as a reverse Midas and immiserating everything it gets its hands on. Education is so thoroughly saturated with fashionable leftism it’s hardly worth mentioning at all.
Even politics has been almost entirely captured. Labor’s federal win has only reinforced trends seen at a state level for quite some time. Tasmania and New South Wales are the sole non-Labor states. Once-conservative places like Victoria – the former ‘jewel in the Liberal crown’ – are a one-party Labor concern.
This is an unwanted prize for those of us in the Garden State, yet one we’ve been forced to hold for the best part of forty years. It doesn’t look like things will be changing soon, given Labor’s political dominance and the ineptitude of the Victorian Liberal Party: an eternally bemused outfit unable to ascertain why they are never anywhere near the levers of power, even after two years of lockdowns and outright Labor incompetence and mismanagement.
Traditional conservativism – of the kind once seen in the West and now only found in ‘reactionary’ places like Hungary or Japan – is effectively dead as a viable concern. Favourable electoral results and periods of conservative power are largely nominal: think Malcolm Turnbull’s introduction of ‘marriage equality’ or the Liberal Party’s record immigration intake, to take but two recent examples.
What we have is an exact replica of the enfeebled state in which British conservativism finds itself. English author Ed West’s remarks on ten or so years of conservative rule are highly evocative of our own period of Coalition leadership:
‘Someone might have gone into a coma [a decade ago] and awoken with no idea who had been in charge this whole time. Immigration has reached record levels, the Pride flag flies from every building, DEI [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] teams are ever more powerful and embedded in every university, government body, and corporation in the country. The only hint at who’s been in charge might be the visible increase in homelessness, the one tangible result of Tory rule.’
The right’s new raison d’etre is almost entirely procedural. They are expected to show up and play their part as purported evil ogres and act as mere leftist foils. It is a status confirmed by the minuscule amount of Liberals found in Canberra and reminiscent of the fate of the Right in what are now thoroughly-leftist locales like Canada, California, or our very own Victoria.
It’s worth wondering how we got here, and what we can do to extricate ourselves from the ditch in which we find ourselves.
To this end, the primary force propelling us to our present fate has been the philosophical incoherence baked into the heart of the Liberal Party. As party founder Robert Menzies outlined, the party was never wholly conservative: indeed, it placed a great emphasis on liberalism right from the outset:
‘We took the name ‘Liberal’ because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his right and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea.’
While this was a mildly tenable proposition in the wake of the second world war, with the global threat of communism and a more homogenous local population, the ‘progress’ of these liberal trends has proven utterly disastrous. Like a navigator a degree off in his initial calculations, we now find ourselves completely adrift in unknown and inhospitable waters.
The social and economic liberalism that was unleashed under this side of Menzian philosophy has radically undermined the socio-economic conservatism needed for our preservation. It is a claim evinced by a range of metrics, such as Australia’s declining fertility rate and reliance on mass immigration; the exorbitant price of housing; or the unhealthy state of the average citizen.
Much of this was predicted early on by thinkers such as Christopher Lasch or John Gray; although their warnings went largely unheeded in the market-driven myopia that characterised our reaction to the stagflation of the 1970s out of which ‘neo-liberalism’ was a partly-justifiable response.
As Lasch put it in 1990:
‘The question before us is whether cultural conservatism is compatible with economic liberalism, the political philosophy of [global] capitalism.’
His answer (and clearly ours too, after forty years of de-industrialisation, disruption, and decay) is that it isn’t.
For Gray, the neo-liberal project was an exercise in short-sightedness and stupidity, particularly for genuine conservatives who should presumably know better. As he remarked in the early-90s: ‘[The hegemony of the] new-liberal ideology has had the effect of destroying conservatism as viable political project in our time.’ With traditional conservatism described as ‘no longer a realistic political option when inherited institutions and practices have been swept away by the market forces which neo-liberal policies release or reinforce’.
What we are witnessing is the unravelling of our incoherent ruling ideology, with ‘neo-liberalism itself … a self-undermining political project’.
Our current state serves as confirmation of Gray’s warning that the ‘progress’ of these two liberalisms would erode ‘the cultural traditions, and constellations of interests, that neo-liberalism was bound to dissipate’. It is a reality reflected in the marginal status afforded to local traditionalists like Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi.
Vast demographic changes have been overseen under our carte blanche neo-liberal approach to immigration. As ex-Centre for Independent Studies fellow Helen Andrews has shown in the US, a diverse immigration intake (from nations with heavily left-leaning governments) inevitably pushes a conservative country leftward. A claim confirmed here too with the recent census results, and well evident in the Labor strongholds scattered throughout Western Sydney and Melbourne.
Bemused Liberals also smarted at their loss of blue-ribbon concerns like Kooyong: the home of Menzies that was lost for the first time ever by Treasurer and Liberal deputy, Josh Frydenberg. It is a result that doesn’t look like altering, with ‘progressive’ inner-city seats shifting under our leftist educational and cultural regimes. The Liberals appear to be facing a prolonged period in the wilderness, eaten away at from both sides.
Education is implicated in this conservative failure. With years of indoctrination and bias, our young have been rendered default left-liberals upon leaving formal educational. This claim is borne out by the figures and is finally being addressed by senior Liberals like Hollie Hughes and Peter Dutton.
The Australian Right, like their British counterparts, have been too infected with ‘Thatcherite Treasury Brain’, as Aris Roussinos has observed, to ever dream of using the state for their own beneficent ends.
Given these problems, and to quote an infamous 20th century Marxist, what is to be done?
If significant social reforms aren’t enacted, then, like California and other locales, there really is no future for conservatism in Australia (nor possibly for Australia as an outpost of Western civilisation at all). Hopefully this realisation has dawned on the Liberal Party, as most of their ostensible supporters and members offer little in the way of real hope: busily baying at the moon as the left continues to dig the ground out from underneath them.
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