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June 20th 2016 print

Peter Wales

A Disgusted Delcon’s Deliberations

It is painful to admit, but I simply cannot vote for principle-free Team Turnbull even though a Shorten government would be a worse. So what to do? My solution is to focus on the Senate, where the best hope is that minor parties -- LDP, ALA, Family First etc., -- will gain the balance of power

turnbull selfie smallIt is becoming increasingly clear that there is no prospect of a Liberal Party led by Malcom Turnbull ever returning to the party’s former core values of social conservatism, fiscal responsibility and personal integrity. Being determined to win at any cost, and making any promises to do so, is not a win at all. Certainly not for the Australian people. Unless there are principles, there is no point.

Three years of Shorten and Plibersek is a ghastly prospect, with its certainty of increased energy prices and the costs of doing business, plus higher unemployment and debt and a reopening and refilling of detention centres. But it is more and more likely that many ordinary and loyal Liberal voters will see a Labor victory as the distasteful but only alternative to the destruction from within of conservatism in Australia. Those of us who believe that social conservatism and economic libertarianism offer the best paths for peace and justice and prosperity may well believe that this will only be achieved by sending a clear message that the Liberal Party needs to return to principled conservative leadership. The only way to do that is not to vote for Turnbull & Co.

The real question is, how to do that without the horrendous cost to Australia of three years (at least) of Shorten and Plibersek?

There has already been a substantial member-level backlash against those who voted to replace Tony Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull. Our latest PM is simply not a conservative. He is a big spending, trendy issue, promise anything to get re-elected salesman. This is not what Liberal Party members, or Australians generally, want or need.

No traditional Liberal voter should feel guilty about giving first-preference votes to other conservative candidates. In my electorate of Mayo, for example, Bruce Hicks of Family First will get my first preference. I know Bruce. He is a good guy — hard-working, a successful businessman in a very difficult industry (dairy farming) and a school principal. He knows about balancing budgets and is a person of intelligence and integrity. He won’t be elected though. The seat will likely be retained by Liberal Jamie Briggs.

There is nothing much wrong with Jamie. The press has been monumentally unfair to him on occasion, but he has generally done a good job for his electorate. Apart from supporting an idiotic $20 million white elephant airport on Kangaroo Island, so that airlines can run routes from capital cities other than Adelaide direct to Kingscote. Except that each of the major airlines has already said it has no interest in such routes nor any intention of flying them.

Then there is Briggs’ refusal to get behind the Kangaroo Island water gap/ferry as part of the national highway network. This is the single change that would do more than anything else to boost the island’s economy, make King Island the jewel of South Australian tourism, and help reverse the state’s declining appeal to overseas and interstate visitors. Depending on the deals being offerred, it is often cheaper to fly from Adelaide to Bali for the weekend than to take a family and car from Adelaide to KI for the weekend. Absurd. Jamie’s reason for refusing to support making the ferry part of the highway network (thus equalising transport and freight costs) is that it would give an unfair advantage to Kangaroo Island producers. This is equally absurd. How does partially removing a substantial disadvantage suddenly amount to an unfair advantage?

In addition, Jamie has given his support to what is surely the biggest pork barrel project in Australia’s history: the construction of submarines in Adelaide. Never mind that the contract is to build submarines whose extensive re-design, required to convert a nuclear vessel to an untested diesel-electric version, has not yet begun. Never mind that the planned subs will be so much slower than surface navy vessels, they will be unable to carry out escort duties, or be effective in intercept-and-denial operations. Never mind that it will take fifty years to build a fleet that will be outdated before the first one hits the water. Never mind that we could lease fast and tested Virginia class submarines from the US and have a functional fleet in five years at half the cost. And please don’t tell me we can’t use them because they can’t be serviced in Australia. A fully equipped service centre could easily be set up in Adelaide, with the subs returning to the US every ten to twenty years for an RCOH (Refueling Complex Overhaul).

Geoffrey Luck on the submarine deal: Le Fix was In

Of course every Australian should mind all these things. Defence personnel take enough risks and make enough sacrifices without having to worry about slow, second-rate equipment. Taxpayers make enough sacrifices and should not be burdened by paying an extra $20 billion for second-rate French submarines, just so they can be built in Adelaide. The argument is that this will create jobs in Australia, but that is  hogwash. The wages and on-costs paid to those employees will be money taken from other businesses and wage earners.  Does it need repeating that government is vastly less efficient than private enterprise at almost everything? That costs money and productivity. Then there is the weight of tax collection and compliance costs, and layers of bureaucracy on top of that. Every job the government “creates” comes at a cost of 2.2 jobs in private enterprise.

What the “build the subs in Adelaide” boondoggle will do is create about 5,000 jobs in key marginal Liberal seats, at a cost of 12,000 jobs elsewhere. That is appallingly bad behaviour by a government that has placed its partisan self-interest ahead of the national interest. For this alone no Liberal member should be rewarded with a conservative’s vote.

In the Senate, the options for conservatives are fairly clear. We need to give Turnbull and his cronies a good thump, while not risking a balance of power held by Xenophon or the Greens. Xenophon is a charismatic character with absolutely nothing to say. He is, like Turnbull, a principle-free, headline-seeking, big-spending populist. Vote for such a creature? No thanks.

And The Greens? Well, if you could run steel factories on unicorn farts, the world would be a lovely place. Until then, we live in a real world, with real profits and losses and vital energy needs. So again, no thanks.

My advice would be to vote under the line. The Liberal Democrats, the Australian Liberty Alliance and Family First are all thoughtful, well-rounded and principled conservative parties. They may get up one candidate each in each state. Two would be brilliant. Then give the rest to the LNP. The result, fingers, arms and ankles crossed, should be a Senate where the balance of power is held by real conservatives whose principles fill the vacuum created by the Turnbullians’ electoral venality.

The above is one voter’s summation of the dilemma facing all conservatives. If Miranda Devine wishes to brand me and so many others delcons, her contraction of delusional conservatives, let her continue with the ridicule. At the end of the day it is principle that matters. Indeed, has to matter most of all.

Peter Wales is a former Anglican clergyman who now runs an IT consultancy business on Kangaroo Island in South Australia

Comments [15]

  1. Geoffrey Luck says:

    Delcons? No – Trucons!

    • I would prefer ‘realcon’ as in realistic and conservative. I respect only politicians who have principles, preferably principles which promote civilisation and prosperity as espoused by Adam Smith. I have no respect for tribal warriors such as Donald Trump or semi-socialist con men such as MT or socialists such as BS, Hillary or Bernie Sanders.

  2. Peter says:

    “At the end of the day it is principle that matters.” Depends on the principle. Most times I vote I compromise my principles by helping into office someone who simply does not reflect my values. Voting is usually a least worst alternative proposition. Sure it is in stark relief this time around but I don’t believe Australia can afford Shorten and Plibersek just as I don’t believe America can afford Hillary.

  3. Lo says:

    I’ve put off contributing, until the next pay, but after reading this article I have the cheque book on the desk. I’ve been agonising on what to do when I get to the polling booth, now I have a plan. Thank you Quadrant for all you provide.

  4. BOB HAY says:

    Faced with the same fate in WA with Free Spending Barnett and Co and hopeless Labour, the only way to go is with the Independents. It will be ALA for me. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a return to a Conservative Government with principals.

  5. Bill Martin says:

    A very practical, thoughtful and timely article. Yes, the thought of Shorten and co. taking the reigns is terrifying. The question is, would the Turnbull alternative be any better? Doubtful, at best. The positive aspect of a Labour victory would be the final and permanent destruction of Turnbull’s political career, together with that of at least many of his spineless supporters. That would seem to be the only way to rescue the Liberal Party from becoming totally irrelevant. What a horrible choice we are facing!

  6. Colin S says:

    I have done my homework and have the list to take on voting day. This will be the first time I will not be watching TV on election night. It’s just a case of bad or worse, as far as I am concerned. My hopes are that the coalition scraps in in the Reps thus putting pressure on Turnbull, and the senate dominated by conservative senators. However, I realise it could all end up in tears.

  7. en passant says:

    As I applied for a postal vote I already have the ‘basis of democracy [Oz style]‘ sitting on my desk. As I must number all boxes for the Reps my sitting Liberal Member comes in fourth, below FF, ALA and LDP, but above two loony Left, Labor and the other Loony Green-Reds. I believe the booklet accompanying my Reps Ballot Paper is incorrect as it says I MUST complete every box. As I understand it I do not have to and can stop at my No. 4 selection. If two of the loonies take an unassailable lead then my ballot would become informal when my fourth selection is invalidated. A call to the Helpline tomorrow is essential as I would prefer to be rated informal than be either a helper of Stalin or Mao.

    However, that raises the interesting question of what happens if more than 50% of all votes cast are invalid! Mr/Mrs ‘Informal’ should represent me. Another stuffed dummy in Parliament will not be noticed.

    For the Senate, I have 116 boxes to choose from, but this time the pamphlet may be clearer as it says (about below-the-line voting) that “You must select at least 12-boxes. You can continue to place numbers in the order of your choice in as many boxes as you like.’ This (incorrectly) implies that 1 – 11 choices makes my vote invalid, but 1 – 69, or 1 – 110 would be valid.

    I am so glad Malcolm sorted that out and simplified the format of the ballot for the proles before the election.

    Fortunately there are enough choices for me to reach a reasonable number and Balkanise the Senate, and with luck the parliament without having to sell my soul, or stain my hands by going as far down the list as any Liberal, Labor, Green or other numpty candidate.

  8. Stuart says:

    One huge problem that I have encountered is that the media blackout on parties like the Australian Liberty alliance etc is working. Many people have not heard of and have no clue what they represent, this is an enormous obstacle I do not see them being able to overcome.

  9. Rob Ellison says:

    Shouldn’t that be socially progressive and fiscally conservative? That being the creed of the true libertarian?

    The rational management of economies requires interest rates to be managed through the overnight cash market to restrain inflation to a 2 to 3% target. Markets need fair, transparent and accessible laws. Including on open and fair markets. Optimal tax take is some 23% of GDP and budgets are balanced. Markets operate best in a robust democracy. These nuts and bolts of market management – mainstream market theory pioneered by F. A. Hayek – keep economies on a stable growth trajectory. We may cite the success of the Australian economy since 1993 – or on the minus side the more recent K Rudd meltdown during the GFC that kicked of the current fiscal imbalance.

    Socially progressive – for a classic liberal – is more a matter of principle than a libertine inclination. ‘What I mean is that he (the conservative) has no political principles which enable him to work with people whose moral values differ from his own for a political order in which both can obey their convictions. It is the recognition of such principles that permits the coexistence of different sets of values that makes it possible to build a peaceful society with a minimum of force. The acceptance of such principles means that we agree to tolerate much that we dislike. There are many values of the conservative which appeal to me more than those of the socialists; yet for a liberal the importance he personally
    attaches to specific goals is no sufficient justification for forcing others to serve them. I have little doubt that some of my conservative friends will be shocked by what they will
    regard as “concessions” to modern views that I have made in Part III of this book. But, though I may dislike some of the measures concerned as much as they do and might vote
    against them, I know of no general principles to which I could appeal to persuade those of a different view that those measures are not permissible in the general kind of society
    which we both desire.’ http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/articles/hayek-why-i-am-not-conservative.pdf

    Hayek’s view is that neither conservative or socialist shared a liberal’s unswerving commitment to personal and religious freedom. It is as true today as it was then.

    I have quite recently reviewed the platform of the ALA and the DLP. The ALA is almost entirely focused on Islam and the DLP on ideological purity at the expense of practicality and electoral appeal. These parties are about as ready for responsible government as Pauline Hanson. I am much closer to the pragmatism of Gary Johnson and the American Libertarian Party.

    I’m voting Liberal for their economic management credentials and pragmatism – and despite the pork barrelling that is a feature of electioneering. Townsville gets a stadium and Rockhampton asks where’s ours. And yes – nuclear subs seem a much better idea. I’d go even further and suggest that they grab hold of the narrative on gay marriage, religious freedom, environmental conservation and social security as well.

  10. Bushranger71 says:

    Am coming up 78 and was formerly a member of the National Party. Began voting informally in 1996 because I feared what John Howard would do to the nation and was sadly proven correct.

    He did enormous damage on the economic front and especially with his misguided unaffordable big spend on defence from about Year 2000 onwards, predicated on an unrealistic futuristic Force 2030 vision which both of the major political parties are still permitting to roll onwards.

    The informal vote has been increasing over recent elections and the pundits seem to be overlooking that in their projections for Election 2016, when it is likely to be significant.

  11. Tallaijohn says:

    You put forward some very sensible arguments. I have the same thoughts.

  12. msimm says:

    Will give libs lower house and pref the lib senators that voted for tony abbott along with ff, ala and cdp. Dont know what order yet. Let those senators who deposed abbott get exactly what they feared, wilderness and seeking new employment.

  13. Ian MacDougall says:

    An important principle: any political party is itself a microcosm of the society it will create if it gets into power. Policies can be easily changed, abandoned, ratted on etc by the party’s leaders. In many instances, they are merely voter bait.

    With this in mind, I downloaded the ALA constitution (link below). and spent a fascinating hour going through it. It looks to me like John Singleton’s ‘Workers Party’ from the 1970s, rebadged.
    There is the usual Thatcherite right-wing line: free enterprise; small government; encourage self-reliance all round. Not that I don’t agree with a fair bit of it: eg “Australian Liberty Alliance believes the current UN Charter on Refugees is out-dated and compromised. We would remove Australia from this charter and take sovereign control of our borders.” [BIG TICK]
    A few jokes on the way through. For example: “We are neither ‘believers’ nor ‘deniers’ when it comes to climate change. A number of recent claims made about potential future variations of our planet’s climate are not based on scientific facts, but on computerised speculations and consent amongst special interest groups. A rational approach to demographics [?] combined with economic realism will change the driving force behind the debate about climate change. “
    I wonder where that might lead….

    ” …We will phase-out unsustainable subsidies for uneconomical and unreliable energy sources connected to our power grid. However, we will continue to assist Australians in remote and rural off-grid locations with sensible wind and solar technology.” I wonder in turn how they define ‘sensible’ there. Coal mines and rural CSG wells are presumably ‘sustainable’ and problem-free.

    “… we shall lower child benefit payments from the third child on, while providing a considerable income tax credit for one parent to ensure a young family on a single wage can cope with the cost of living. [While maintaining a ‘small government’, lightly staffed Taxation Department to prevent rorting of this???]

    The special interest pleaders have as usual got their oars in early: “Australia must have access to healthy and affordable local seafood. We are committed to a sensible re-opening of our fishery grounds and effective protection from illegal foreign fishing.” So presumably, those who have to date fished unsustainably can have marine parks thrown open to them, and as those parks collapse, the whole process can begin again, to infinity. QED.

    The ALA constitution is one Joe Stalin would have approved, with a top-down pyramid structure and various membership levels. These I assume are designed to frustrate the rise of any internal democracy. The whole thing is set up as a company, and appears to be totally bullet-proof as far as hostile takeovers are concerned.
    .
    As that wise old Arab said long ago: “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”
    .
    .
    http://australianlibertyalliance.org/downloads/ALA_MANIFESTO_OG14001R1.pdf