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August 22nd 2017 print

Christopher Carr

Turnbull and the Alternative

Before Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals became what they are today -- a party without principle, discipline or nous -- the platform now being codified by Cory Bernardi's upstarts would have gladdened the hearts of most Coalition voters. Those defectors will make the coming thrashing even more severe

bernardiThe latest opinion poll in The Australian is the most recent landmark in the long soap opera of decline and fall that is Malcolm Turnbull’s hapless Labor-lite government. After all, on the issues which should sharply differentiate the Coalition from the Left, in which I group the Labor Party and the Greens, any difference is these days one of degree, not kind.

Take energy policy. The Turnbull government, afflicted by the same global warming alarmism so enthusiastically embraced by the Left, is committed to a renewal energy target which guarantees electricity will be an unaffordable luxury for a growing number of Australians. It is feeble indeed for the Coalition to attack Labor’s truly insane 50% target when, under the Finkel plan largely accepted by the Turnbull government, the eventual renewal energy target is around 42%. In other words, the only real difference between the Coalition and Labor is that under the former the road to ruin is more circuitous.

The more the Turnbull Government concedes the Left’s narrative on climate alarmism and other issues, the more voters will opt for the real deal, rather than a pale imitation. In the absence of a clear counter-narrative from the Coalition, who can blame the voters? In a way, we end up with a competition between negatives, with feelings about Labor slightly less negative than about the Coalition.

The latest poll figures show the Coalition on 35%, down 1%; Labor on 38%, up 2%; The Greens on 9%, down 2%, One Nation on 9%, up 1%, and what is described as Others, steady on 9%. No further information is available on this last category.

Earlier this year, the Australian Conservatives was formally registered as a political party. What had started as a relatively informal online movement now has a rapidly growing formal membership in all states. I have heard quoted a national membership of around 15,000, although this figure may already have been exceeded. Although the media focus has been on the highly articulate Cory Bernardi, this new party is very much a bottom-up grassroots movement.

Meeting halls have been filled to capacity. In addition, local meetings are being held on a regular basis. A typical local meeting will have thirty members or more in attendance, all ages, professionals and business people. The typical attendee is down to earth, mainstream, and interested in common sense solutions. At one meeting, ladies with school- and university-age children expressed concern about the ideological corruption of our educational system, eliciting general agreement from others in attendance. Attendees ranged from former Liberals who not longer want any truck with a party they feel has betrayed them to those who have never belonged to any political party. Until recently, all would have been typical Coalition voters.

That the Australian Conservatives have grow so rapidly and while largely being ignored by the mainstream media is both astonishing and edifying. Just a few days ago, for example, my wife’s cousin confessed that she had never heard of the new party. I suspect that a wide swathe of the population is in a similar state of awareness.

Part of the problem is that with one senator, two members of the South Australian upper house and one member of the Victorian upper house, the Australian Conservatives do not yet enjoy the status of being a parliamentary party. Nevertheless, I suspect that there are undercurrents of change. Costing only $25 to join, members have the right to a say on policies within the broad framework of philosophical principles which underlie the Australian Conservatives, and will have a direct vote on the selection of candidates. One cannot help but observe what a contrast that makes with with the shenanigans and spivs of  the New South Wales Liberal Party, which relegates a candidate of the undoubted ability of Jim Molan to the near-bottom of its Senate ticket while simultaneously elevating apparatchiks and factional favourites.

Already, the Australian Conservatives have started releasing their policy platform.  What strikes one immediately is that its thrust is something the pre-Turnbull Liberal Party could have espoused with enthusiasm. As an example, I will quote the party’s energy policy:

Key Points:

  • Australians deserve the most reliable and affordable energy in the world.
  • With electricity generation, we are technology-agnostic but subsidy-averse.
  • We support nuclear power and a nuclear fuel cycle industry.
  • We support all forms of electricity generation and will provide them with legislative certainty and legal protection.
  • We do not support any renewable energy targets.
  • We will remove all taxpayer and cross subsidies to electricity generation.
  • We will require all electricity supplied to the grid to be useable – that is, predictable and consistent in output (kWhrs) and synchronous (at the required 50 Hz range). 
  • We will allow market forces to provide the most efficient power generation available.
  • We will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

This is a model of clarity and common sense, compared with what passes for the policy of the Turnbull government and, sadly, state Liberal governments. The polls tell a consistent story: the Liberal Party under Malcolm Turnbull is heading for a monumental thrashing. We should hardly be surprised if hitherto solid Coalition voters  defect to the Australian Conservatives and make the pain for a party with no principles even more severe.

Comments [15]

  1. Peter says:

    “With electricity generation, we are technology-agnostic but subsidy-averse.”

    Unfortunately this kind of policy position is meaningless. We need cheap coal power in Australia and the only way to get that in the current environment is for the government to offer iron-clad long-term contracts to coal power companies. Being just neutral won’t do it. It is pie in the sky – which is one reason I haven’t joined Bernardi’s mob.

    • RobK says:

      Peter,
      You have a point, as does AC policy. In order to reassure long term investment in electricity both the fed and state governments will need to issue guarantees of unhindered market access for a period. This can be equally applied to all players, worked in such a way as to be compensatory if subsequently rolled back.

      • RobK says:

        Unhindered by regulation, but subject to competition.

      • ianl says:

        > … state governments will need to issue guarantees [to coal-fired power stations] of unhindered market access for a period”

        Not a hope.

        This retreat to 3rd world status is deliberate, as Cassandra gently pointed out quite some years ago. When there is tacit agreement on broad policy direction between the major parties (euphemistically called bi-partisanship in order to protect themselves from the voters), the electorate has no de-facto say in it.

        The Enlightment has become a temporary, fragile, shining but doomed period in human history. And Lee Kuan Yew was correct about Aus. NZ looks like going green Labour again with all the economic destruction that entails, so there goes the Southern Hemisphere.

        • Warty says:

          As things stand, well then ‘not a hope’ with regards to state or Federal gov. guarantees regarding the building of coal-fired power stations. Again, as things stand. But as Bill Martin points out, the Libs are likely to be utterly trounced in the coming election (two years hence). Bill Shorten may indeed have a taste of two years of government, though little government will take place, unless the Liberals lick the proverbial and cooperate to pass left wing policy (including Paris Accord approved climate change BS).
          I suspect they’ve picked up a few tactics from Labor and will be as equally uncooperative, and the Australian Conservatives and One Nation will be there to add salt to the wounds. Nevertheless, Labor’s totalitarianism will be there for all to see, along with both Liberal disarray and its mirror-image policies. That is when the change will come. That is when conservatism will be resurrected.

    • Warty says:

      In broad terms, Peter, the policy is not ‘meaningless’ in that it opposes the hidden, high subsidies needed to sustain wind and solar power generation (and battery storage the costs of which nobody is prepared to let on about). The technology-agnostic bit, simply means they are not actually opposed to solar and wind, and that it could be part of the mix (seeing that we have installed countless thousands of home roof panels, state owned solar ‘farms’ and crazy curly whirlies. They are already there, installed, sort of paid for and stupid to remove. But should remain part of the energy mix. If states wish to install more of these things, they will have to pay for themselves, i.e. no subsidies (we are ‘subsidy-adverse’).
      Perhaps I’m missing something, but as a paid up member of the ACs, this is my understanding. There is nothing actually neutral about it.

      • PeterPetrum says:

        Yes, Warty, that is my undersatanding too (as an AC Member). What is being said is that the market, and only the market, will decide the mix. Coal, even HELE, is still cheaper than any other source of power. It is reliable, consistent in supply and able to provide spinning base load power at 50Hz. Under this scenario, intermittent energy from wind and solar will not be able to compete on either price or reliability. However, the policy leaves it open to new innovation, should it ever appear. This is a very sensible policy that could quickly restore our powers and competitiveness.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    Yes, Cory Bernardi and his Australian Conservatives represent the only ray of hope on the horizon. Sadly and alarmingly, things will have to get a whole lot worse before any improvement is likely to come about. To begin with, we will have to endure at least one term of a Labour government, possibly even two. Just how much more damage that will mean to the country does not bear contemplation and seriously jeopardises the prospect of the country recovering from the disaster. Hopefully the now fake Liberal Party will implode after the coming threshing and some of its honourable parliamentary members (if any) will join Bernardi. It’s a great pity that the ALA rejected the opportunity to merge with the Australian Conservatives, although their star attraction, Kirralie Smith, is already in the Bernardi camp. Here is fearing the worst and hoping for the best.

  3. pgang says:

    Defect to what? They’re not running any candidates for govt, just senate totalitarians.

    Bernardi is nothing but a junket king anyway.

    • Jody says:

      I’m sorry to have to agree with those sentiments. Bernardi should have stayed put as the conscience of the Coalition. God, it sure needs one!!!

    • Salome says:

      You don’t half expect them to do everything all at once.

    • PeterPetrum says:

      A very negative comment. The party has only recently formed but already has almost as many paid iup memebers as what is left of the Liberal Party. It has only existed in NSW for a few months. They are working hard behind the scenes and, initially, if they can gain a significant foothold in the Senate they may well, along with Pauline, have a controlling vote. However, I strongly suspect that by the time the election comes around (if the Libs last that long, they may well cave candidates for the lowere house too.

  4. Bran Dee says:

    Remember when the Liberals gained office with a large majority, after previously losing out,with Tony Abbott negotiating, to a minority government under Gillard and much damage to Australia was done by Labor.

    Remember the opportunity we had to reform the ABC, SBS, health and education and retain the debt ceiling. Remember how under good hearted but grossly naive leaders, seminary trained Tony Abbott, and jolly Joe Hockey, we lost every opportunity. Yes, the rare and wonderful opportunity was lost and now self inflicted damage to Australia is being done by the Liberals.

  5. whitelaughter says:

    AC has formally absorbed Family First; absorbed the cream of ALA by getting Kiralee Smith and Bernard Gaynor; gutted the DLP by recruiting Rachel Carling-Jenkins.
    Bernardi has a massive advantage in that Menzies was a member of the UAP before he created the Liberal party; by leaving the Liberals to form the Australian Conservatives, he can appear to be duplicating that feat (even though the situations are wildly different).

    Three months ago I would not have believed that Cory could do as well as he has; will be interesting to see just how well he will do.