There is a question I wanted to ask Julie Bishop at the lecture, but never got the opportunity to, it read as followed.
“I consider myself a moderate Liberal, but the growth of the ‘Moral Conservatives’ and anti-intellectualism is deeply concerning and disenchanting to the point I no longer recognise myself in the party. Is there a future, that you see, where the party moves back to its once rational state?”
The question felt personal, it felt necessary.
It embodies a struggle that so many young individuals I meet have with the party.
So I end up asking myself, why I am still a part of it, why do I dare support candidates for a party I don’t agree with anymore. When I look at my list of federal members I see only three women for the entire state (including both House and Senate) and a list of men I don’t recognise or know are too conservative for my liking.
State candidates aren’t much better, although, this election I found two that I was happy to actively campaign for – John Pesutto and Dr Katie Allen.
They were able to fulfil my criteria of a politician as considerate of others – empathetic – able to think clearly and independently – intelligent – and they have a respect for minority groups – socially-progressive.
So now I’m at a crossroads, a disillusioned member of the Liberal Party uncertain of their future, more in-tune with the current policies and attitudes of the Labor Party and worried about the progression of the Liberal party.
Do I leave the party? While campaigning at the Prahran election, the director of the Labor Branch for the Prahran district offered me an executive spot in the branch, and anther Greens volunteer attempted to poach me. Something about being moderate, sensible and approachable (to inflate my own ego a little).
I know that if I were to leave the Liberals and join Labor all my friends would rejoice, most of them think I never belonged with the Liberals anyway. Even some Liberal party members question why I am a part of the party. I believe in almost none of the current policies of the federal and state parliamentary caucuses.
Why stick around then? I’d be accepted elsewhere, I’d not feel embarrassed when I support a party, and I’d feel more morally justified.
To which I ask myself two questions;
- What do I have to gain?
- What do I have to lose?
The answer to 1. is more support from my friends, a chance to speak more openly about my views and beliefs, to be accepted for how I understand the world to be, to not have to defend for the next decade decisions made by a body I have no influence in. It would be quite liberating actually… ironically.
The answer to 2. is a little more complex. While I would lose short term things like acquaintances, employment and connections to existing MPs and policymakers, I also lose out on an opportunity.
I will get to that opportunity in a second, but I must preface it with something I admire; an individual who is willing to stick through adversity when they are challenged.
At the moment, I am challenged to more core, to my political core, where my identity is shunned by a party and incongruous with another’s core values. A cyclical change in the party and in the dynamics of power has made it hard for me to feel as comfortable as I once did.
Yet, from the chaos, and the coming evacuation of many important people in the party from their roles (Mathew Guy having already stepped down), I am given an opportunity.
Stick through the hard times – eight years of infighting, eight years of moderate member marginalisation, eight years of being challenged by everyone around me on my views – so I can be the change I want to see in this party. This power vacuum will either allow for party reform in the right direction or party reform in the right direction – the second of which will be self-destructive.
So, here I find myself, disillusioned, emotionally and physically drained after a long state campaign.
But, this is the beginning of something greater.
… It is time to assemble a team, a plan, a goal. The party will once again represent the people, all people. It will be rational and effective, accommodating of the broad church, and willing to admit flaws. It will not just preach moral dignity, but act from the moral high ground. Empathy will become a factor of policy, not just the economy. We will not provoke, but stay our course and hold our values to their core.
The Australian people are moderate and the Victorian population even more so (the most progressive state I would even say), if change can be made, then a victory can be had in 8 years time.