There is an old saying that my supervising partner said to me when, in a previous life, I was employed as a junior lawyer in a large national law firm: ‘It’s okay to make a mistake, just don’t make the same mistake twice.’
It’s a saying the Liberal party across the country would be well served to heed. The only problem is, as usual, such sage advice is being ignored, and to its peril. It seems there are none so blind as those that will not see.
The Liberals are now not only out of government federally, but in every state and territory bar two. In New South Wales they govern in minority, and face an election in March next year.
Since February of 2021, the Liberals have been decimated in Western Australia, South Australia, and federally. On each of those occasions, the Liberals tried to out-left the Left and went all-in with the #MeToo approach on ‘health advice’.
It did them no good.
To paraphrase the words of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of being Earnest: ‘To lose one election may be regarded as a misfortune: to lose more looks like carelessness.’ Yet the Victorian Liberals under Matthew Guy seem determined to stay in opposition by making the same mistakes.
Melbourne was the world’s most locked-down city over 2020 and 2021, yet, throughout all that time, the so-called conservatives in Victoria, just like their federal counterparts, refused to defend fundamental rights and freedoms. They refused even when a pregnant mother was arrested in her house in her pyjamas for posting on social media her opposition to lockdowns, when grandmothers were being harassed in parks, when people were being fired at with rubber bullets. I could go on. Nor do I recall the Liberals in Victoria at any time standing up for common sense against the extreme social agenda of the Andrews government.
Now, refusing to learn the lesson that the climate luvvies will never vote Liberal, and in the face of the worst energy crisis (and, as a result, the highest power prices) in the country, Matthew Guy has vowed to halve emissions by 2030, which goes even further than the federal Labor government’s reduction target.
Announcing a 50 per cent cut in emissions is, yet again, a classic case of trying to appeal to those who will never vote for the Coalition parties, all the while alienating their voting base even more.
The Western Australian Liberals went to the state election last year with more ambitious targets than WA Labor to close coal-fired power stations by 2025, and not offer any challenge to the ‘health advice’ at a time when Premier McGowan locked up 2.5 million people over one positive Covid test. The outcome? Premier Mark McGowan has a huge majority in both houses (the Libs hold only two seats in the lower house), which means he can do as he pleases, and that has included, among other things, ramming through legislation to extend the state of emergency until January 2023.
Victorians want to be rid of Andrews, but that can only be achieved if Matthew Guy learns the lessons of the past and forgets the nonsense that is focus group polling and offers true centre-right product differentiation, with properly thought-through, realistic and costed policies.
The Liberals in NSW, seemingly under the spell of Matt Kean, are sleepwalking toward defeat at the polls in March. But it’s not only Kean’s obsession with renewable energy that will spell trouble for Dominic Perrottet, but his government’s obsession with other Woke causes which, as Mark Latham pointed out as only Mark Latham can, has led to that state having the fastest falling school academic results in the world.
If the Liberals really want to learn some lessons and avoid making the same mistakes, they have a couple of examples they could follow.
First, there is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who, as James Allan wrote in these pages, is brave (in the proper sense of the word). He stood up against the public health know-alls and fear-porn press, refusing to stage a lockdown, and shunning mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and the demand for school closures. Guess what? With an older population, Florida outperformed New York and California on Covid criteria – meanwhile on all economy and freedom measures Florida is outperforming nearly every other state. And see how his popularity went up after he took on Disney’s wokeness and virtue signalling, in stark contrast to the Liberals in this country who, sheeplike, give in to cancel culture at every opportunity.
DeSantis is successful precisely because he does not cave in to the focus group approach to politics. Instead, he has values and is prepared, as John Howard did, to argue for them and convince voters of their benefits.
Second, there is outgoing UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who, in his final speech to the House of Commons as PM, seemed to suggest he had learned from his mistakes. In what could be the best-ever summary of core centre-right principles, this was his advice to his successor:
‘[S]tand up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the best place to live and invest. Focus on the road ahead but always remember to check the rear-view mirror. And remember, above all, it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people that sent us here.’
When the Liberals look in the rear-view mirror they will see three electoral beatings because they forgot about their principles and the people that put them there. If they don’t learn the lesson that you can’t win an election by being a poor imitation of your opponents, since voters will go for the real thing every time, then they face many long years in the wilderness, to the detriment of this country’s prosperity and its democracy.
Dr Rocco Loiacono is a Senior Lecturer at Curtin University Law School. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Curtin University.
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