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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Is the Australian mainstream socially conservative? « Previous | |Next »
January 21, 2008

Noel McCoy, president of the NSW Young Liberals, argues in The Australian that Howard's amalgam of economic liberalism and social conservatism is the best path for the Liberal Party to move forward and regain power. He refers to the way that Howard opposed the liberal-progressive values of the Left.

Slashing personal income tax rates, erasing $96billion of government debt, opening up the workplace to competitive market pressures and the introduction of private health care incentives are just a few examples of Howard's voracious appetite for economic reform. But in virtually the same breath, the Howard government reaffirmed marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, pursued a "tough on drugs" strategy, rejected indigenous apologism and replaced multiculturalism with integration.

This argument, which aims to influence the meeting of Liberal leaders in Melbourne to devise strategy and tactics, forgets to mention the neo-con foreign policy. What is more questionable is McCoy's claim that Howard's formula of blending free-market economic policy and socially mainstream values --note the slide from socially conservative to socially mainstream--- is an expression of Australian mainstream.

McCory says that the recent ALP's shift to the left---eg., apology to the stolen generations, an Australian bill of rights and allowing civil unions between homosexuals in the ACT---provides:

an opportunity for the conservative side of politics to take back ground and reassert its place as true representatives of the Australian mainstream. To take advantage of this opportunity, blending social conservatism and economic reform will be the key not only to electoral success of the Liberal Party, but to locking in Australia's long-term prosperity for future generations.

So we have the slide from social conservative values to mainstream social values to Australian mainstream. Is the Australian mainstream is socially conservative?

Howard's reflex Burkean conservatism is the right wing populist reaction to the effects of globalization on Australian social life. It's a one nation conservatism built around a pre-modern Christianity that is hostile to liberalism, and on the absolute authority of the national security state.

Howard has gone. So where do the pale-blue liberal moderates go in McCory's account? Are they to be banished? They had experienced the very long night of teeth grinding bitterness under Howard, even though they stood in the Deakinite/ Menzies wing of the Liberal party. What is the future of the moderate liberals (the ones who support a republic, reconciliation and refugees) with conservatives such as Downer and Minchin still calling the shots in the Liberal party. Yet more exclusion, if McCory's account is anything to go by. That's the message being sent out.

So will Rudd seduce the moderate liberals, as he increasingly loses leftwing support when dealing with climate change with his pale green governance, and the Liberal party swings further to the right?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:18 AM | | Comments (14)


some of these Liberal Leaders would have to be clowns--- I'm thinking of WA and Queensland. They have fully embraced the world of infotainment and see their role in the political world as entertaining the public with their antics.

This would be the same mainstream that just voted them out?

Conservatives have used this kind of linguistic contortion for more than a decade now. It turns out they're drinking their own bathwater and singing into their hairbrushes. It worked back when people were upset at Keatings cultural blueprint for the nation, but people have moved on since then.

You'd think that a party serious about a regrouping and devising strategy would invite their leader to such an important meeting. Nope. Nelson was not invited. That snub will be the story the mainstream will read in the papers. Not real bright.

It's worse than that. The few bright ones are deliberately entertaining but the others are trying to be serious.

The fall of the federal house of Howard has exposed the rotten foundations of the Liberal Party. Languishing in opposition, with little funding, they are casting around for someone to lead them out of the wilderness.

The leader they are looking for is one who will be able to perform miracles.

Well I hope they're not looking to Qld for this miracle leader. The nationals up here just chose Lawrence Springborg again. In his farewell speech when he resigned (seems like 5 minutes ago) he couldn't remember how many kids he had.

"Fall of the house of Howard" has a nice ring to it.

and there I was thinking that political leaders are meant to represent ALL citizens and not just the 'Australian mainstream'.

smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors. Others call it spin. Others talk about the claws sharpening to wound Nelson who doesn't seem to stand for anything

Some talk in terms of bread and circuses----dropping money from helicopters on their own electorates and the factions tearing into one another.

It's better than reality TV don't you think?

it is reality television.

Yes, Nan, I have to agree that the political circus is a rather entertaining spectacle. Certain parallels with 'survivor' can definitely be drawn...

the analogy with Survivor is a good call. Inspired. How long will Nelson survive? Will he overcome the obstacles placed in his way? Will he sacrifice himself for the party? How long does Turnbull wait?

You having some Liberal leadership fun and games over in Perth are you not?Troy Buswell, I understand, has a bit of a problem with alcohol and womens' bras.

the Liberals cannot be seen as the real custodians of long-term environmental sustainability can they? They are more akin to being ecological pariahs. And they say they are going to start singing from the same song sheet. I see that lawrenece Springborg will seek to avoid a third straight Queensland election loss by uniting the conservative parties and reconnecting with voters.

Unite?There has been infighting and a lack of direction among the conservatives in Queensland.

Reconnect? How is he going to do that when urban conservatives in Brisbane don't want to be lead by the Nationals.

Still the State Liberals have decided to meet regularly "to discuss and co-ordinate matters of state and territory importance". Well I guess you have to start from somewhere. The next step, presumably, is to change their leaders to create a fresh image.

There is no hope whatsoever of this united conservative party materialising in real life. Conservative politics in Qld has moved beyond Survivor into Lord of the Flies territory.

The Liberals all hate one another, the Nationals all hate one another and the only thing they hate more than one another are the people in their coalition parties.

People say Mal Brough could pull it off if they install him, or perhaps Brisbane council Lord Mayor Campbell Newman. I suspect that both recognise the futility of trying to herd cats.

These are the messages they've been sending the electorate for years and now it seems their federal counterparts are doing the same. Collectively the message they're sending this mythical mainstream is anarchy.

Troy is indeed a boozehound with wandering hands, Gary. But never fear, he has 'learnt from his mistakes and will ensure it never happens again'. Don't forget that the man he replaced shot his own son with a rifle on their farm near Manjimup. Oh dear.

According to this article in New Matilda Troy Buswell's inaugural speech to the Parliament was notable for exhorting the neo-liberal ideals that have just seen his Federal counterparts dumped from office.

It is of specific significance in these days of looming climate change disaster that Buswell gave particular emphasis to his view that the ‘encroachment on our rights and freedoms is in many instances driven by excessive government regulation, especially that enacted in the name of the environment...

I wonder how he explains the lack of water due to the lack of rain and warmer temperatures in Perth these days?