Leading article Australia
22 April 2023
What delicious timing. In the same news cycle that Peter Dutton announces the re-launch of the Coalition and his determination to win the next election, Labor’s Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen announces his national strategy for electric vehicles. Could there be a sharper and more entertaining juxtaposition between the priorities of our two major parties?
Make no mistake. The re-launch of the Liberal National coalition is serious and has every chance of success. Usually, such announced re-launches or ‘refreshes’ coming hard on the heels of electoral defeats are garnished by vague promises to ‘improve our image’ with the jettisoning of supposedly unpopular (i.e. conservative) policies. Almost invariably, this leads to a centre-right party heading ever further leftwards. Under former leaders Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, we heard frequently about the need for ‘more women’, ‘tougher action on climate change’, ‘a softer image’, more ‘modern’ policies and so on. In other words, let’s pop on the hair shirt, turn against ourselves and our own supporters, be more like our opponents, ditch our values and… wonder why nobody is fooled.
But this time it’s different. Not since Tony Abbott was opposition leader have we seen the Liberals seriously oppose Labor values, rather than simply mimic them. The announcement last week by Peter Dutton, celebrated on our cover, that the Liberal party would join the Nationals in supporting the No case in the Voice referendum was a watershed moment. Clearly, Anthony Albanese and the Labor party were caught flat-footed.
More good news came a few days later. This magazine has long been calling for Julian Leeser to be replaced by Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and it is a sign that the bedwetters have finally been stuffed back under the doona that this is what in effect has occurred, with Senator Price now leading the charge against the Voice. The sight of Peter Dutton and Senator Price standing together in the heart of Alice Springs is an image that will give many well-meaning, mainstream, but politically ambivalent, Aussies who for whatever emotional reasons are flirting with supporting the Voice serious pause for thought.
Although the referendum should not be a mini-election, it is. What ‘climate change’ was for Tony Abbott, the Voice is now for Mr Dutton. This is the fight that will define his effectiveness, passion and communication skills as an opposition leader. And potentially carry him to Kirribilli.
The Spectator Australia is committed to covering the referendum Yes and No campaigns over the coming months by focussing on the insights and angles that are often overlooked in the hysterical finger-pointing and accusations of ‘racism’ that are used to stifle debate. This week, our writers offer, yet again, fresh insights around the genuine issues at play.
But the bottom line is clear. Mr Dutton is now at war with the Left on a profoundly important cultural as well as political issue. This is the first time the Coalition has waded into the murky and treacherous waters of the culture wars for many years. Our hunch is that many wavering and lost Liberal voters will return to the fold, galvanised and inspired by the preparedness of Mr Dutton to do battle with the sanctimonious, intolerant and totalitarian Left.
And what does Labor offer? Apart from sneering accusations of ‘racism’, the clownish Chris Bowen has now launched his electric vehicles policy at a time when the European Union is watering down its own EV policies and certain car manufacturers are pointing out that these vehicles are not quite all they are cranked up to be.
By the end of this year, Labor will be exposed on many fronts, particularly economic. Mr Bowen’s ideological crusade will be heading off in the wrong direction, and – if a majority of Australians in a majority of states reject the Voice – Mr Albanese and his team will appear increasingly out of touch and irrelevant to the concerns and plights of many Australians. In such circumstances, a change of government could well be on the cards.
Barry invented The Speccie
The sad news that long-time Spectator contributor and reader Barry Humphries has not been well has been known to The Speccie for some time. Indeed, as he himself is very quick to point out, the nickname The Speccie was invented for our UK mothership by none other than Mr Humphries himself, when asked by his friend Graham Greene what Dame Edna would call the magazine. ‘I felt the name The Spectator was a little too dry,’ explained Mr Humphries the other day to this magazine’s editor. ‘It needed something a little catchier.’ And catchy it has proved to be. Mr Humphries comments were accompanied by what Australia’s greatest comedy talent himself described as ‘a bit of doggerel’, namely, an ‘Ode to The Spectator’, which he especially wrote for the magazine and which we shall be delighted to publish soon in… The Speccie.