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September 16th 2015 print

Merv Bendle

Turnbull and Conservatism’s Rekindling

After Abbott's disappointments, a list that begins with his repudiation of the promise to erase Section 18C, Liberals have placed themselves at the disposal of a wind-vane sensitive to every self-righteous gust howling out of the inner city. Core principles and the courage to advance them are the antidote

matches burningThe path forward for conservatives is clear, now that the coup executed by Malcolm Turnbull has eradicated any illusions that the Liberal Party led by Tony Abbott could be an effective bulwark against the evermore intrusive power of the state as it seeks completely to colonize civil society and dominate every aspect of life.

Abbott had his chance right at the start of his prime ministership to make manifestly clear where he stood philosophically on the liberal-conservative continuum of political theory and principle. He had only to fulfil one election promise: repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act to restore free speech and expression of opinion – and he chose quite deliberately to break that promise. Apparently he was seeking to curry favour with various lobby groups anxious to retain their state-endorsed shield from all criticism or negative opinion (and, of course, notoriously, he failed in this demeaning aspiration). It was a defining moment. If he couldn’t be relied upon to do that one iconic thing then what else was he good for?

Now he has been swept unceremoniously aside, as Liberal MPs had their minds focused by an impending election wipe-out and, clutching at straws, turned to Malcolm Turnbull, whose political philosophy is even more bankrupt than Abbott’s. Despite airy-fairy motherhood statements about exciting economic and technological challenges, etc., this consists of little more than a fierce desire to snatch the prime ministership by appealing to inner-city progressives and trendoids, who are themselves driven by an insatiable narcissistic lust to assert their moral purity and remake the world in their own effete image.

Like Abbott, Turnbull is associated with political positions that reveal his ultimate allegiances. He was (and apparently still is) a proponent of an emissions trading scheme that would set up an entirely new market in carbon dioxide. This would engulf all of the world’s industries and would be ruthlessly manipulated and exploited by financial institutions, merchant bankers and their associates to make vast fortunes while posturing about saving the planet from a trace gas that constitutes a mere 0.04 percent (400 ppm) by volume of the Earth’s atmosphere, and is also, just  incidentally, the very building block of life.

In another area of progressivist policy, Turnbull is also a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage or so-called ‘marriage equality’. This is a legislative Trojan Horse that would allow LGBTI folk of various and divergent sexual proclivities to mobilize the power of the state against any persons or institutions (especially religious ones) that they could claim were discriminating against them in terms of employment, education, training, ‘hate speech’, religious ceremony, etc. It would be a legislative Pandora’s Box, so to speak.

All of these areas of public policy share one crucial characteristic – they involve the mobilization of state power to impose vast new structures of tightly regulated behaviour upon society that would not otherwise have evolved of their own accord. They also necessitate massive bureaucracies based on the Promethean assumption that the almost infinite intricacies of social, economic, and ecological life can be grasped, modelled, manipulated, and directed by the apparatus of the state (in which, of course, much of Turnbull’s progressivist constituency would be employed).

And let there be no doubt about it, this is the progressivist agenda: systematically to erode the power and autonomy of the individual, the family, the community and civil society, and to replace them with the Leviathan State, with its great tangled mass of bureaucratic tentacles reaching down to surveil, regulate and ultimately strangle the most intimate of personal and social relationships, covering every area of life.

It has become common to call this Leviathan the ‘Nanny State’, but that is far too kind a label and obscures the deadening and stultifying effect this multi-layered monstrosity has on everyday life. It suggests that the state can play a nurturing and empowering role in peoples’ lives, when in fact it plays a deadening and exploitative role, destroying initiative and draining money and resources from the productive sectors of society to fund its unquenchable appetite for power and domination.

It is far better to call the progressivist Leviathan for what it is – Left Fascism or what Jonah Goldberg called (in the American context) ‘liberal fascism’. In Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (2008) Goldberg explored H. G. Wells’ elitist conception of Fabian socialism (which is a prominent force on the Australian left) as a form of ‘enlightened Nazism’, and how this this and other variants of this fundamentally anti-liberal Statist ideology have unfolded since the New Deal.  Goldberg’s focus was on ‘the Totalitarian Temptation’ towards total statist control. This is an ideological tendency that has successfully seduced the Western intelligentsia and political class, especially over the past fifty years, since classical liberalism was delegitimized by the cultural revolution of the Sixties.

So the path forward for conservatives must be to confront and confound the ever-growing Leviathan State. In doing so they will converge with libertarians on a range of issues where cooperation could be very effective, while in other areas libertarianism’s apparent lack of a coherent theory of society and the role of tradition might require some theoretical and philosophical engagement between conservatives and libertarians, e.g., over the concept of ‘marriage equality’.

Ultimately, the conservative path forward reiterates a very clear political agenda that had currency in the Thatcher-Reagan years and some impact in Australia under Hawke, Keating, and Howard, before the progressivist reaction of the past few decades led the political class to succumb to the Totalitarian Temptation. It is an agenda that can be succinctly communicated: wind back the state and let society evolve in its own good time; free up the markets; subject all government programs to a rigorous and ruthless evaluation; demand accountability for every public expenditure and activity; reduce taxes and reward initiative; leave peoples’ wealth in their own hands, along for responsibility for their lives; resist the siren call of vocal, well-resourced lobby groups anxious to exploit state power to remake society to suit themselves.

And, of course, break up and sell off the ABC, thus decapitating the progressivist media monster.

Comments [6]

  1. en passant says:

    ” Merv,
    Your essay is like a shaft of sunlight shining through the bars of a Progressive dungeon window.
    My (lengthy) comment at Quadrant Online at: https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2015/09/wont-get-vote-mr-turnbull/ echoed your article and opinion. The point is: freedom. reason and prosperity are now lost for generations because my grandsons Kindergarten report is straight from the Green Nightmare Manifesto. It glowingly reports that he was able to repeat without prompting the daily thank you to the aboriginal tribe from whom we stole the land his kindy is on.
    He also understands ‘sustainability’. recycling and the need to combat climate change. It does not mention that he remains illiterate and innumerate, but then it is only kindy (though it is little different from a university degree report). Of course, filling his mind with such tosh is the core of the Liberal designated curriculum and much more important than learning anything worthwhile.
    Now at Primary Prep things have not improved as his school is a designated ‘safe place’ so rough and tumble is seriously frowned on. Fortunately, both his grandfathers have independently decided that any time we babysit there will be blood, skinned knees, falling off bikes, scooters and out of trees and other seriously unsafe games.
    As for the revival of conservatism? There is a huge following who would rather fight (and if necessary, lose on principle) than support the pale blue, light green fascists and political class that currently rule from almost all sides of politics. There is no difference between them all. No vision, no principles, no ‘Oz first’ policies, no honour, no ethics, no price they are not willing (for us to pay) for their benefit, no class and no hope. The revival will not come from the current crop of low-life liberals. You might think I am quoting from Orwell’s ’1984′, but No, just commenting on Oz politics today since the rise of Richard III and Lady Macbeth to their thrones, put there by the cretins of conservatism. There were still 43 Ronin who voted as required by ethical morality – and they still live to fight another day.
    I suppose the King will be rushing over to the West to help Andrew Hastie win/retain the seat of Canning. Just my little joke, but if I were Andrew I would ask the Leader to stay away and say nothing. Then I would invite a prominent backbencher to visit.
    Win or lose, Andrew is a man of ethical honour who I would like to see start as he means to continue by putting his constituents before loyalty to a party without any.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    Tony Abbott, with all his shortcomings and even cowardice when dealing with noisy minorities, is a thoroughly decent, honourable man. To appreciate the directly opposite character of Malcolm Turnbull, one only needs to go to “stopturnbull.com”, dedicated to chronologically detailing his career. Thus enlightened, one could be forgiven for wishing that the Turnbull-led coalition fail to retain government next year, thus irredeemably humiliating the egomaniac before he could damage the Liberal party beyond repair. The ideal corollary to that would be the emergence of a genuinely conservative party, led by Cory Bernardy, taking with him like-minded members of the now seriously compromised Liberal party.

  3. Jody says:

    “Noisy minorities” have always been a feature of democratic political life; it’s dealing with them which is the trick. The difference today is that (oxymoronic) social media is the ultimate enabler for them, together with a compliant mainstream media which participates in the news rather than reports same; it was much more problematic in the past.

    Cory Bernardi is an extremist and is just ‘anti’ anything you can name. One cannot build a party on what one is actually against; there have to be positives.

    For some years now there has been little of differentiation between Labor and Liberal; Tony Abbott seemed to be the new ‘brand discriminator’ and people didn’t like it, which only showed me they actually DO want parties which are identical.

    Don’t start me on the propaganda which passes for education in schools these days; I guess it has trickled down from the Humanities departments of most universities. As a retired English teacher I can assure you I fought ideology and propaganda in classrooms in my own way – all of this despite the system. My grandson brings home propaganda from primary school about aboriginal rights and issues and my son has gone straight to the Principal saying it won’t be tolerated!!

    • Bill Martin says:

      Your reading of Cory Bernardi is way off the mark. Everything he is against is what every true conservative should be against. Such as the islamisation of Australia, political correctness, climate change alarmism, multiculturalism, gay marriage, the recognition of race in the constitution, republicanism, the curtailing of free speech, the thrashing of western values and culture, the nanny state, the sponging off of welfare and just about anything that is concern to the vast majority of Australians. Just us importantly, he has the courage to publicly declare such attitude with calm dignity.

  4. Perhaps there is a role for Abbott as the new “modest member”. Bert Kelly did a great job along with others to lay the groundwork on public policy in relation to protectionist policies.Abbott has the writing skills to create a new movement in parliament on free speech, anti-authoritarian tendencies and exposure of the foolishness of much that is espoused by the politically correct authoritarian left!

  5. Richard H says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with everything in this article except the very last point.

    The ABC shouldn’t be broken up and sold off; rather it should be shut down and all trace of its malign existence should be expunged from public life. To modify Cato the Elder: Corporatio delenda est.