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
The 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:
- 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.