Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave an enormous boost to Cory Bernardi’s burgeoning Australian Conservatives with his July, 2017, Disraeli lecture to the Policy Exchange think tank in London. Turnbull’s address was a very public and aggressive disavowal of conservatism: “In 1944, Menzies went to great pains not to call his new centre-right party a conservative party – rather he described our party as the Liberal Party, which he firmly anchored in the centre of Australian politics.” Take that Tony Abbott and anyone else in the Liberal Party, or in the general public, who does not share Malcolm Turnbull’s “sensible centre” position!
Turnbull’s London speech, titled “In Defence of a Free Society”, made clear references to Karl Popper and characterised Australia as an “open society“, which needed to be safeguarded from the enemies of freedom: “Terrorism is the starkest and most urgent enemy of freedom.” Strong border protection policies, Turnbull informed his British audience, were critical for the defence of a free society, and the Coalition government had delivered on this: “In particular our strong border protection policies have ensured that Australians know once again, as they did in John Howard’s day, that it is only their government which determines who comes to Australia and on what terms they can say.”
The only problem with this is that the record shows Malcolm Turnbull’s “sensible centre” politics originally made him a critic of strong border protection policies. It was all too, well, conservative. We know he opposed the concept of Operation Sovereign Borders when Tony Abbott, as the Leader of the Opposition, first proposed it in 2011.
In other words, Turnbull most likely would not have implemented an effective border strategy in the first place had he been the one to lead the Coalition into power back in August, 2013. In 2015, shortly after his consistent and sustained white-anting of his party’s leader culminated in Abbott’s ousting in a party-room coup, Turnbull let slip that, ideally, he would like to soften Operation Sovereign Borders, especially with regard to those who paid people-smugglers only to end up languishing in detention centres on various islands outside Australia territory.
Malcolm Turnbull’s disclosure caused a firestorm. Within hours rumours were swirling that the people-smuggling industry was considering re-opening its South East Asia-Australia franchise. By that same afternoon PM Turnbull was in full emergency mode, retracting everything he said earlier in the day: “We cannot take a backward step on this issue.” For all his bravado in London, our Prime Minister would have attenuated Operation Sovereign Borders in a heartbeat had it been a politically viable option to do so. Malcolm Turnbull’s “sensible centre” might be better characterised as PC-mindedness.
Turnbull’s Malcolm-in-the-middle routine is a sham. While scorning “conservatism” in favour of the “sensible centre”, the key strategy he recommended to his British audience for defending an Open Society was the conservative border protection policies devised by Tony Abbott (and John Howard before him): “As Europe grapples today with unsustainable inflows of migrants and asylum seekers, the Australian experience offers both a cautionary tale and the seeds of a potential solution.” His audacity was astonishing. None of this would matter so much if all that it required to defend our free society was Operation Sovereign Borders and lining up at an airport for three hours.
This brings us back to the Australian Conservatives, who released their Immigration and Citizenship policy last Wednesday. The five-part programme covers everything from visa reform to the demand that refugee intakes be determined by Australia, as a sovereign state, and not be imposed on us by supranational organisations such as the United Nations. Yet Cory Bernardi’s plan to halve our current net immigration makes sense. Why, as E.R. Drablik recently asked at Quadrant Online, is the Turnbull government running the largest per capita immigration agenda in the world? The ‘Big Australia’ vision of both Labor and Coalition governments has resulted in our population soaring by more than 20 percent between 2003-2015. ‘Big Australia’, in reality, means unmanageable pressure on “services, infrastructure and family incomes”.
The Australian Conservatives are also prepared to call out the family reunion stream. This provision has been a generous way to make it easier for new migrants to begin the path towards integration into Australian society. It was not intended to be exploited by those born in this country. The commitment by the Australian Conservatives to “legislate that family members may only be brought to Australia if those members are declared at the time of the initial visa application” is, therefore, a masterstroke.
The final component of the Australian Conservatives’ immigration policy addresses residency and citizenship, with ten years of crime-free and terror-free residence required before citizenship is granted. In the end, the Australian Conservatives’ Immigration and Citizenship policy asserts that citizenship should have the same meaning for newcomers as it does for those inviting them into our democratic and free country.
There are serious problems ahead for our “immigration nation“, as Malcolm Turnbull described Australia in London. In the real world, the “sensible centre” might not lie between conservativism and the Left, but between One Nation and our PC Establishment.
Daryl McCann has a blog at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au He tweets at @dosakamccann