7 February 2023
Following the delivery of the Liberal Party’s post-election review, the Loughnane-Hume report, at the end of 2022, the former member for Wentworth Dave Sharma wrote:
‘As the movement for Italian unification gathers force, the young Sicilian aristocrat Tancredi tells his uncle, Don Fabrizio, in Lampedusa’s novel, The Leopard: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
The Liberal Party federal executive should keep Tancredi’s advice in mind as it absorbs the post-election review. For if the Liberals are to remain a prospective party of government, things will have to change.’
Sharma unfortunately misunderstands the true significance of this quote. Don Fabrizio pretends to support the introduction of a new regime to preserve the privileged position of the aristocracy. Thus, changes are implemented on the condition that everything remains exactly as it is, nothing must change. In other words, keeping power for power’s sake.
It is this mentality of the Leopard that pervades the Liberal Party. As the Loughnane-Hume report pointed out, factional warlords, careerists, and blowhards in both the parliamentary party and party organisation do their level best to hang on to their internal influence and privilege. Along the way, Liberal Party has forgotten what it stands for.
Things must change in the Liberal Party. It must rediscover its Burke-Mill tradition in a mid-21st century context, notably smaller government, free markets, and promoting individual freedoms in exchange for individuals taking personal responsibility for their choices and actions. To find inspiration to achieve this goal, the Liberals should also look to Italy – to that country’s first female Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni.
Meloni is a declared admirer of Anglo-American conservatism and one of its greatest proponents, Sir Roger Scruton. As Meloni pointed out in an article in the Italian daily il Giornale in January 2021 on the first anniversary of his death, it was Scruton who explained to us that conservatism is born from the conviction that it is easy to destroy good things but it is not easy to create them.
Last September, Meloni was swept into power because she offered Italians a program that is a perfectly legitimate centre-right amalgam: more police, less crime, cost-of-living relief, control over illegal immigration, lower taxes, reassertion of traditional Italian identity, support for moderate conservative social values, and more independence from the dictates of the European Union. Meloni also promised to address the energy crisis in part by increasing the supply of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
Since her election, Meloni has acted swiftly to address the illegal immigration crisis. Given its proximity of the island of Lampedusa to the African continent, Italy is on the front line of a wave of illegal migration that started in 2015 and never fully stopped. In 2022, 70,000 migrants arrived on boats on the country’s shores, according to BBC News. Last November, Meloni decided enough was enough, and her government barred any vessels carrying illegal immigrants from docking at Italian ports.
As Meloni pointed out herself in a recent television interview: ‘The solution is not to take Africans and bring them to Europe. The solution is to free Africans from certain Europeans who exploit them and allow these people to live off what they have.’
As far as the cost of living is concerned, the Italian Parliament approved the Meloni government’s first budget in December last year. Its key measures are aimed at small businesses, young Italians, and families. They include loan assistance for young couples buying their first home, tax cuts and bonus payments to assist young families with newborns and young children, tax incentives for businesses to employ young people, and women in particular. These were announced by the Minister for Families, Fertility and Equal Opportunity, Eugenia Roccella, who added that the government wants to give young Italian families hope, optimism, and comfort so that the country can look to a brighter future.
Meloni has also consistently emphasised that Christianity has a place in the public square because its values are those that underpin the development of our society. Just before Christmas, she posted a video of her putting together a nativity scene in her home, noting the values it represents – love, respect, tolerance, self-sacrifice – are those that Western liberal democracies have been built on.
Meloni has not displayed the cowardice that has been present in the centre-right in Australia and the Anglosphere generally. As Greg Sheridan wrote in The Australian, ‘To win in politics, you have to be willing to lose everything. You have to believe in the nation, care about the culture, believe in your own values.’ As interest rates continue to rise, as affordable and reliable energy is sacrificed on the altar of Net Zero, and as senseless, toxic self-loathing continues to undermine our cultural foundations, the Liberal Party must rediscover and defend traditional liberal-conservative values, and in Giorgia Meloni they have a model on how to do so, and successfully.
Dr Rocco Loiacono is a legal academic, writer and translator