Remember Menzies’ ‘forgotten people’

Flat White

Damian Coory

Getty Images

Damian Coory

22 April 2023

9:14 AM

Another prominent former Liberal Party leader has warned the party against any further ‘shift to left’ calling instead for a return to traditional classical liberal values of the Australian middle class.

On Saturday, Liberal Party royalty threw their weight behind plans for a big policy overhaul to realign the party with its traditional centre-right base.

Former LNP Queensland Premier and Liberal Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, told ADH TV’s The Other Side, the party must put its focus back on its members rather than career politicians within the party elite.

Newman says the party has lost touch with ‘the building block of the party’ – its members – and as a result, they’re leaving in droves.

‘The membership has tanked in every state of Australia,’ Newman said. ‘And why has it tanked? Because people are going: “Why would I support [former NSW Treasurer] Matt Kean? He doesn’t support me. He’s pushing policies that are of the left. I’m not going to turn up and hand out how to vote cards. I’m not going to donate $500 to his campaign. I’m not going to support the Liberal Party.” That’s what’s happening. That’s why people have left.’

Newman told the online news program he was ‘all but pushed out’ of the party before his decision to leave and join the Liberal Democrats in 2021. His tilt at the competitive Queensland Senate race for the minor libertarian-leaning party was unsuccessful.

For a man who had led two governments for the Liberals and was the son of two Liberal federal ministers, Newman says it was an agonising decision to abandon ship. His mother, Jocelyn, was a member of John Howard’s ministry while his father Kevin was in Malcolm Fraser’s cabinet.

‘By the time we got to the end of 2020 it was quite clear that there was already an over-reaction [on Covid],’ Newman explains. ‘The Morrison government stuffed it up completely and took the Liberal Party to places that Menzies would never have sanctioned. Essentially it was restrictions on our freedom and liberty, intervention in the private sector in all sorts of ways, not standing up for the values of the party, and then we had state oppositions and administrations that were doing the same sort of stuff.’

On Saturday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton told The Australian he would not entertain the idea of any further shift to the left under his leadership.

‘The idea if we make ourselves more like the Labor Party then people will end up voting for us is fallacious,’ Mr Dutton told the national daily. ‘From the time Tony Abbott was deposed by Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberal Party hasn’t stood for any substantive [policies]. There was no major policy offering at the 2022 election. Over the period from Abbott losing the prime ministership, we allowed ourselves to be defined by our opponents. I intend to address that in a very determined way.’

Dutton’s comments were in reply to a call from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition frontbench colleague Dan Tehan to conduct a wide-ranging policy review and promote a ‘stronger agenda and identity’ for the party which has lost eight of the last nine state and federal elections, Tasmania’s 2021 poll being the only win.

The call came in an exclusive front page report by The Australian’s Paul Kelly on Saturday.

Earlier in the week Mr Tehan – the former Tourism, Trade, and Industry Minister – hosed down speculation he may be ‘asked to lead the Liberal Party’.

Tehan is the federal member for Malcolm Fraser’s former seat of Wannon in southwest Victoria. He told the area’s local newspaper The Standard last week that his ‘priorities are serving his electorate and helping the Liberal Party regain power’.

Campbell Newman says the path back ‘out of the hole’ is for the party to get back to its Menzian roots as a champion of the ‘forgotten people’.

Sir Robert Menzies, the Liberal Party’s central founder and the nation’s longest-serving Prime Minister, gave a radio address in 1942 in which he defined the term the ‘forgotten people’ as middle-class Australians who were not represented by either Labor and the unions, nor the big end of town: small business people, tradies, professionals, and ordinary families with traditional values.

‘As it was in 1942, so it is in 2023,’ Newman told The Other Side. ‘It’s all there. And it’s quite simple. It’s not lurching to the right; it’s doing your job the way the founder of the party articulated so carefully and precisely back in 1942.’

Asked if he thought there was any hope for the party’s future, Newman said there is, if the party wakes up, stands up to a fight and stops cowardly following the left’s policies.

‘They keep doubling down and thinking, “Oh well, you know, the Teals, we’ve got to be Woke, the country wants Net Zero!” Well, if you want to go Net Zero, I’d have more respect for you if you stood up and said, “I back nuclear power,” but they won’t even fight on issues [as straightforward] as that.’

Former Prime Minister John Howard also put his weight behind a policy review, telling The Australian the party ‘shouldn’t pretend things will naturally come back without a lot of hard work’.

It’s a fair call. Until the values of the Liberal and National parties are clearly re-defined and confirmed, and policies are consistently aligned with those values, it will be impossible to communicate a strong message to the Australian voters about what a Liberal-National government will stand for.

The coalition will continue to lose if it can’t sell a breakthrough narrative to reinvigorate its waning membership base and excite voters. Good policies only win elections if they are simple to explain and are tied to a powerful and unifying set of underlying values that truly inspire Australians.

The Other Side Australia is a weekly news and commentary summary show streaming on ADH TV. Both shows are hosted by Spectator contributor Damian Coory.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: