READ PART FIVE HERE
I mentioned the cycle of moderate members being pushed out, making the party more conservative and thus pushing more moderates out. This cycle is having an effect on the party from its Young Liberals and Uni Membership – the future movers and shakers of the party.
Sitting down with the President of the Melbourne University Liberal Club (MULC) gave me a degree of hope and pessimism.
The hope comes from the support of Malcolm Turnbull and lauding of the “reactionary right-wing” (as Banks would put it), the recognition of Climate Change as an issue, the need to invest in renewables – even if from just a pure economics perspective – and the need to be sceptical of radical social change while also showing a willingness to accept change.
However, the push for a flat income tax and to increase GST rates were two economic policies brought up that brought me down. Another being the fact that he didn’t believe growing income inequality is an issue in Australia, or recognise the overtly regressive nature of GST.
Next comes the knowledge of ‘splits’ in the Uni party, infighting at other campuses, stacking here and there. Sure, these were Liberal-economic thinkers (neo-liberal that is) filled with modern, moderate social views. Maybe I’m in the wrong party, but even now, things didn’t sit right with me.
However, a recent article by a MULC member in the Spectator offered a little solace but concluded on the same remarks around ideology on liberalism vs socialism and a desire to end the debate of conservatism vs progressivism.
Liberalism is the thinking of both major parties. It is the thinking of Australia and most of the Western world. As an enthused reader of the Economist, I get to see the clear benefits that such a philosophy has, but even the Economist is willing to acknowledge that governments have a role in supporting individuals and ensuring that government doesn’t create corporate monopolies, false incentives or rents – things the Liberals are surprisingly bad at.
You know why though? It’s the anti-intellectualism. Despite having such a well-educated group of ministers and members, they’re overwhelmingly at odds with academia and its publications. They complain about the left-wing bias of universities yet defund them year-on-year, even though Menzies, famously, was a strong advocate of universities.
I’ve mentioned two people before who espouse this, one older woman and another gentleman. The older woman believes her media diet is the truth and balanced because it is made up of The Australian, Sky News and The Spectator. The other man (who ran and almost got on the administrative committee for Victoria) believes the UN is creating a one-world government and that climate change is a hoax… but he’s an “environmentalist” in his words, so, we should be fine.
While not representative of the whole, this microcosm of party members reveals the fringe nature it has developed and attracted and how some of them almost gain the levers of power (he’ll have another shot in a year or two).
Only recently, we saw how the Nationals were invaded by right-wing extremists, leading to the near-successful passing of extreme legislation by individuals with neo-Nazi links.
The only hope the party has is if it returns to a moderate social view and begins to reshape its economic policy vision. Where the party disagrees on society, they usually agree on the economy, bringing together the “broad church” in a unified manner to legislate effectively. But, under the last three PMs, such a vision has been very limited to the appreciated but poorly timed personal and company tax cuts. A budget surplus being achieved earlier would’ve been much more appreciated rather than the flop surplus being touted by Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison.
However, such a vision is just as splintered as social policy has become more important in guiding how we approach issues of economics. The climate, inequality, immigration and feminism all play into it now.
If the party believed more in climate change, they would enact a carbon tax.
If the party believed more in inequality they would lift the Newstart allowance and fund it with a wealth tax and they would work harder to close the gap for our nations first peoples.
If the party believed in the power of immigration and multiculturalism they would not go around spending many millions of dollars locking up individuals on offshore prisons, they would not put political appointees on the committees who decide visa applications, slowing the process, and they wouldn’t suggest cutting immigration rates.
If the part believed in equality of the sexes, they would follow Iceland’s lead and make paying women less than men for the same work illegal. They would ensure strong maternity AND paternity leave.
They would also finally adopt a bloody quota, even if it is 40% with a target of 50%.
When you break it down, you start to understand why the party is going to spend years, maybe a decade in the weeds, sitting in opposition as Labor legislates away.
They’ve screwed their membership and their leadership. They’ve parted ways with their values and their sanity.
The party must change their ways over the next decade. This means more than just finding a new leader in the parliament, this means true reforms of how their state branches operate, how they approach government and people, re-learning their base and embracing the modern world and the challenges it faces.
This will take a decade to achieve, but in the meantime, they will lose many of their best and their brightest. They will be critiqued (evidently) and ridiculed (evidently) for every action. Hard conversations will need to be had amongst members, staffers, politicians and the admin.
I hope that the party can once reach its former glory as a strong centre-right faction, even if only so that democracy can function with a strong opposition.
This broke down into an insane rant very fast. If you managed to make it this far, congratulations, if it sounds like a madman wrote this (all six parts), that’s because more than half of this stuff was written after 1am across many days.
If you have any further questions, queries or concerns, please feel free to contact me.