Don’t go chasing the doctors’ wives

Conservatives can never win by aping the Teals

Features Australia

James Allan

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James Allan

1 April 2023

9:00 AM

Shortly after my family and I first arrived in Australia at the start of 2005, the Commonwealth and every state in this country soon had Labor governments. Indeed, at one point the most senior Liberal politician in the country was the mayor of Brisbane, one Campbell Newman. Within one term of Labor government federally, opposition leader Tony Abbott had dragged the Coalition to a near win in the 2010 election. In fact, it took a few independents from generally conservative electorates opting to put Labor in power – thereby effectively ending their own political careers – or Mr Abbott would have won power three years earlier than he eventually did with a big majority victory in 2013.

How did he do it in opposition? He fought. Abbott fought against climate change mania that refuses any and all cost-benefit analyses and which relies on a sort of religious-like mania and the sort of modelling we saw out of Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London during the Covid pandemic – modelling we know turned out to be so laughably wrong it over-estimated by orders of magnitude. Abbott fought against the big mining tax. He fought against Labor’s lack of border controls. He claimed he’d go to the wall for free speech and to repeal our woeful s.18C hate speech laws. He did not wholly give up in the culture wars. Of course, the ABC hated him. So did virtually all of the non-Sky TV after dark broadcasters. But he differentiated the party from Labor’s woke, big-spending, big-taxing, preachy, ‘we know better than the common person’ (so aptly embodied in Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit) government.

Now I certainly do not think that Mr Abbott performed nearly as well as prime minister as he had as opposition leader. He sold out virtually every free speech supporter by caving in to the partyroom on s.18C repeal, not even putting it to the Senate and making them reject it. (That lost Mr Abbott huge support amongst his core conservative base and, for me, was hard to fathom politically.) His first budget was not at all a small government or cut spending one, it basically held the line and imposed a miniscule charge for going to the doctor – a charge much lower than what we had had to pay when living in New Zealand. But instead of selling the budget as one aiming to get the deficit under control, he and Mr Hockey took some of those savings and spent them on big government things. (You can’t be saving the budget and spending on more government, the message is too mixed.) Oh, and the early Abbott appointments were woeful – whoever advised him on High Court appointments needed to be fired immediately when the Attorney-General appointed the wife of the retiring High Court justice in what was, and still remains, an embarrassing democratic world first.

But don’t let this all sound too harsh. In many ways I thought the Abbott government was braver and better than the later Howard ones. Stopping the boats was something I doubt any other Liberal could have accomplished. And his trade agreement credentials were excellent. So when Mr Abbott was defenestrated by his caucus only a couple of years after having delivered a big majority government I was stunned. And angry.  Remember all the celebrating by the ABC at the time? That was a fact that should have told any of the various non-Black Hand Liberal MPs who voted to get rid of Mr Abbott – and we still have not really had grovelling apologies from more than one or two of them – that this was a terrible idea. As I said at the time, whatever one’s views of how the Abbott government was travelling, if your answer to ‘how can we improve the Abbott government?’ was ‘let’s try Malcolm Turnbull’ then you were deluded, beguiled and as gullible as they come.

In my view the Liberal party has not yet recovered from that error. The Turnbull government was a disaster. It would have been better for the party had it lost the 2016 election and the stupidity of the MP assassins more overtly exposed. What the move to Turnbull did was to lock in this sort of ‘let’s move a centimetre to the right of the Labor party on everything’ while wholly throwing in the towel on all culture issues – the most important issues for all of us in the longer term. It meant the Liberal party didn’t have a stomach for real budget repair, though no one expected Frydenberg and Morrison to spend so prodigally during the pandemic that they made Justin Trudeau and Jacinda Ardern look thrifty and frugal in comparison – seriously, how can any Coalition government even pretend now to care about the budget? And the move to Turnbull opened up the complete sell-out on the climate lunacy by Mr ‘Five Ministries’ Morrison.

And so it has continued at the state level. The NSW election showed that being a massive-spending, let’s support the woeful Voice, go weak at the knees on energy issues, too afraid to attend Cardinal Pell’s funeral (to be clear, I’m an atheist and I would have gone given the blatant miscarriage of justice inflicted on the man, but not Mr Perrottet), and so afraid to fight wokery that NSW has the fastest falling school results in the world is not a winning election offering to the voters. As for the Liberal parties in WA and Victoria, well they tried to out-Green Labor.  Good luck with that. And don’t start me on Pesutto’s attempt to throw out Moira Deeming for standing up for sanity. If he’s not a dead opposition leader walking he should be. I’d never vote for the man.

The whole current Liberal strategy appears to be ‘let’s do everything we can to win back or retain those inner-city Teal seats’. Repeat after me. This won’t work! Say it again and again. The evidence from Canada, from Britain and from the US (where these trends come faster under their first-past-the-post voting systems) is that wealthy people now – I speak in general terms you understand – vote left. The policies you need to have a good shot at winning those seats make your party into a Green-Left-bit-of-concern-about-money-issues-for-wealthy-people party. I would never vote for it. The winning coalition for conservative parties is one that focuses on the concerns of suburban voters, those concerned about cultural issues, and those with a modicum of concern about freedom. It’s the coalition that both Trump and Boris put together. It is one that would have seen the Libs in NSW focused on western Sydney not Teal seats.

In this climate, with no culture and energy warrior in sight, the prospects for the Libs are worse than in 2007. Peter Dutton is as good as it gets for us. And after months and years he still can’t manage to come out against the Voice with its dividing Australians based on characteristics they’re born with and its near-certain igniting of judicial activism and fourth arm of government legislative stasis (for the Right, not the Left).

Maybe it’s time in this country for a new main political party on the right side of politics.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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