Doomed Planet

The ‘Broad Church’ and its Termites

church burningThe Liberals are proving themselves unable to differentiate their product from that of the ALP and even veering close to the Greens.  The rot started with John Howard and his “broad church” approach which welcomed soft socialism into the Liberal Party in an attempt to maroon the ALP with the hard left policies.

Howard was fortunate in this approach in having a strong-willed Treasurer who could make use of Treasury without being engulfed by the men and women led and nurtured by Ken Henry, the Keynesian global warmist. But other ministers and Howard’s own policy choices started processes that caused economic harm, moving the party closer to the ALP.

Most notorious among these was Howard’s 2001 decision on renewable energy subsidies, initially to bring these inherently high cost, low reliability wind/solar sources to comprise “two per cent additional energy”.  As such interventions inevitably do, this started permanent pressure for additional renewable subsidies (which Howard, to his credit, resisted while in office).  Subsidies to renewables will bring their share in electricity supply in 2020 to 24% (with commercial hydro another 8%).  These policies have converted the nation with world’s cheapest electricity into one with the most expensive.

Howard also embarked on a process of buying up water from farmers in Australia’s most productive agricultural province, the Murray-Darling, to give to environmental uses.  Reversing a 100-year history of the nation’s major river system as a “working river”, half of whose flow was diverted to irrigation, Howard (perhaps to outflank a possible rival in Malcolm Turnbull) determined that 450 gigalitres out of 11,000 were to be taken back for unnecessary environmental flows. This started a process that today has one-fifth, 2,700 gigalitres, formerly earmarked for agriculture poured into environmental flows.

And, though Howard refused to ratify the Kyoto Agreement, forerunner of the 2015 Paris accords, he took steps to implement the reduction in emissions that Australia had agreed when we signed the protocol in 1997.  Among these was a coordinated policy approach to prevent land clearing in Queensland and New South Wales, a measure masterminded by federal Environment Minister David Kemp, that effectively took farmers’ property without compensation.  This policy was instrumental in reducing emissions[am1] [am2]  by 21% of the level that they would otherwise have been, allowing Australia to crow that it had met its Kyoto targets (Canada, a major promoter of the Kyoto Agreement, decided that taking such actions against its landowners was unconscionable and thus reneged on its Kyoto targets).

The broad-church policy paved the way for Rudd’s victory, which he facilitated by proclaiming himself a deregulator – a political chimera that fused the Liberal’s fiscal conservatism with Labor’s more human face. Chimeras are, of course, mythical creatures, as the resulting Rudd/Gillard/Rudd debacle established beyond doubt.  Tony Abbott tried to shift a few degrees to the right but with the incompetent Joe Hockey in place of Costello as Treasurer, he was carrying greater baggage, further weight to which was added by Abbott being unable to fire Martin Parkinson as Treasury Secretary.

When Turnbull’s white-anting was rewarded by his elevation to leadership, the ingrained conservativism that prevented Howard, moreso Abbott, from surrendering to leftist interventionism evaporated.  Turnbull has a rusted-on faith in government intervention and is a true believer both in the global warming myth and a future where technology will mean cheaper solutions to energy than those which require digging up resources. His policies were and remain alien to those of liberalism, but by that stage the broad church had brought forth and given prominence to a group of Liberal MPs with little faith in free enterprise and less in small government. These were joined by others spooked by Abbott’s poor opinion polls and for whom Turnbull offered plausibility as a saviour.

Continued poor opinion polls and the near loss of the 2016 election proved this wrong.  But the broad church has undermined Liberal Party values by allowing an infiltration of members, some of whom are barely distinguishable from the green left.  This became apparent when forty federal Parliamentarians voted for Turnbull in the recent leadership spill even after it was clear that he was bereft of liberal principles, was ever willing to spend and was obsessed with a Ruddian global warmism that coloured his entire philosophy, even appointing fellow true believer Martin Parkinson as his departmental secretary.

The seat of Wentworth is the latest casualty of these policies.  In the wake of the loss, Trent Zimmerman was not the only NSW politician calling for a more robust attack on fossil fuel-generated electricity.  He would certainly be joined by his patron, Michael Photios, the state powerbroker whose wife, Kristina, is a director of Clean Energy Strategies, which bills itself as “a boutique corporate advisory firm specialising in energy“.  Photios has been trying to replace conservative Liberal MPs, including Craig Kelly, who has converted his seat of Hughes from marginal to safe Liberal. In Kelly’s case the vaunted replacement is a former ALP representative, Kent Johns.

Although Scott Morrison has said there will be no change in the policy, pressures from the Wentworth election outcome, the left of the Party are moving to kill suggestions of a shift to a harder core anti- Paris and pro-low cost energy stance.  This leaves the electorate with little to distinguish the ALP from the Coalition, except the gentler, rosier patina that the ALP will supply.

Could a Liberal leader do a “full Trump” and offer the liberal and conservative policy blend that has proven so successful in North America?  Many would argue that Australia’s mandatory voting system means there is no possibility of energising otherwise non-voting supporters in the way Trump has done. Perhaps so, but the drift to the centre-left that characterises the Liberal Party today makes it difficult to discern a path that will prevent its defeat in a general election.




12 thoughts on “The ‘Broad Church’ and its Termites

  • ChrisPer says:

    Malcolm’s debt to Howard for his ability to do so much harm to Australia and the Liberal Party is great.
    With hindsight, Howard’s worst mistakes were greater than acknowledged to date. Just look at Howard’s ‘statesmanlike’ gun laws, crafted by leaping to the head of a lynch-mob of activists and their partner journalists (especially the ABC) and turning their rambling fantasies into black-letter law. Now they oppress not criminals, but the lawfully compliant. And even after 20 years we cannot re-examine (a) the mechanisms of mass shootings and how the laws might have resulted in the effect they appear to have had! Or (b) the benefit and cost and wasted time of all the tedious compliance activities that the Police and their exploited victims, the vetted, compliant and legal owners of firearms must pay.
    If only there had been responsible government after Howard!
    Now the debt mountain on the backs of us employed people, the strangling of enterprise and small business in red and green tape, and the social changes that both parties just throw crazy money at without strategy, are washing us closer and closer to the toilet that Greece, Venezuela and Zimbabwe became.

  • ianl says:

    I was discussing demographic trends with a LINO colleague of mine, who while indelibly stamped with Centre-Left is well able to appreciate and contribute to analytical, critical thinking.

    My point was that Wentworth, while quite eccentric within the area south of the Parramatta River, has a lot in common with the northside demographics. Trends within these areas have been clear for over 5 years now; the current NSW State Cabinet convincingly demonstrates them. Essentially, those groups who are financially secure or quite expect to be, have no qualms in voting 1) Lib; 2) Green – or even without much perturbation, 1) Green; 2) Lib. They will not vote ALP (at least in my lifetime) because they do not like unions. Green appeals to these people now on a number of grounds: conceit, noble cause, the snobbery of the well-off, but underlying the appeal is the comforting view that they can afford it.

    And so with Wentworth: 1) Green; 2) Lib. Ahh but, I hear, Phelps is not of the Greens, she is Independent. Nonsense. Her juvenile rhetoric is all Green, typically with no detail and even less responsibility. As an MD, she appeals to the conceit and snobbery of a majority of the electorate. So green is she that the Greens themselves refused to preference her despite the mirror image of her rhetoric, because she represents such a threat to them.

    So, given this now undeniable demographic trend – the financially secure voting Green – my suggestion is that the Libs simply no longer field a candidate in Wentworth. Leave the field to the various toxic Green factions. Win Longworth back instead.

  • whitelaughter says:

    With the informal vote at 13% in many safe Labor seats, there is clearly a large, disgruntled voter base for a local Trump to tap into.
    just from NSW –
    Banks 1990: 3.6% 2013: 10%
    Barton 1990: 3.4% 2013: 12.0%
    Blaxland 1990: 5.5% 2013: 13.7%
    Chifley 1990: 4.1% 2013: 13.4%
    Fowler 1990 6.8% 2013: 13.9%
    Greenway 1990 4.6% 2013: 10%
    Parramatta 1990 3.5% 2013: 10.5%
    Werriwa: 1990 3.7% 2013 12.9%

    Watson (14%) and McMahon (11.4%) did not exist in 1990.

    So it is definitely possible.

  • says:

    The entry of so many LINO’s into the Liberal party has happened with head office approval and directives. The hand of Michael Photios and his political Green wife is everywhere promoting intermittent renewable energy no doubt for companies that have engaged him as a lobbyist. I read also that he is a lobbyist for Acciona the Spanish company putting the trams back in narrow George St to satisfy, against much good advice, the dream of NSW Premier Gladys. Gladys is herself said to have her position through the approval of Photios. The Greens have engineered a controversial tram for Canberra but Gladys could have had a dam for the hugely increasing Sydney population and it would have been more in line with free enterprise values.

    If open plebiscites with a large number of Liberal Party contenders were held in every electorate presenting their platform and convictions then the best Party representative could be chosen by all the Party members in that electorate.

    Also John Ruddick makes a very good case in his recent book ‘Make the Liberal Party Great Again’ for having the Party leader chosen by all the Party members after a Primary campaign as is now done by the conservatives in Canada. This would prevent the overambitious [such as a Turnbull] from promising rewards to those elected members who give backing for a challenge to the incumbent.

  • padraic says:

    The title of this article is spot on in that the various factions in the Liberal Party are whiteanting their opponents by MPs media leaking against the other factions. They have to batten down the hatches between now and the next election, stop fighting in public and promote their policies (when they get some), as well as ignoring the baiting of GetUp, public servant leakers, the LGBTIQA.. lobby et al. They need to get on the front foot and each week have some “shocking” media leak about some whacko social engineering or negative financial aspect of the Green/Labor Party.

  • says:

    The Liberal Party has a structural problem.
    MPs are selected from a very limited pool of political staff who are basically public servants and have little understanding of how a private enterprise economy and a free society should work.
    The number of paid political staff has greatly increased in the last 30 years and at the same time the reward for being a general member and contributing in your leisure time has disappeared. That reward was having a personal say in the selection of your local representative.
    No reward for contribution has reduced the number of general members hugely at the same time as the political staff numbers have increased.
    The ex-political staff MPs cultivate the current political staff and use them to vote in favoured candidates. The current voting rules enable political staff to become voting delegates and their obedient service in voting as the MPs instruct enables them to become MPs in their turn.
    The general members are continually disappointed by the lackluster toadies who are pre-selected and resign their membership. This strengthens the control by political staff which further weakens the the philosophical strength of the Party.
    This is a death spiral unless general members regain control of the Party.
    The various State Constitutions need to be revised to ensure general members vote for their local Representatives and Political Staff have no voting or delegateship rights until they have not worked as Political Staff for more than a year.

  • Bushranger71 says:

    Bravo Alan! Long overdue that somebody really nailed John Howard for the great harm he inflicted on the nation. I began voting informal after he was elected in 1996.

    Can the electorate reasonably assume that the LNP supports One Nation policies and the ALP much of The Greens rat-baggery due to the almost religious assignment of preferences in our voting system? Arguably, political philosophies/platforms are not sufficiently distinctive.

    Almost any political response these days results from the influence of lobbying so the electoral process has just become a procedural sideshow.

    And; the whole higher level process of governance is being revealed as riddled with corrupt dealings benefiting the affluent and powerful.

    Obvious solutions are:

    ● Abolition of preferential and compulsory voting (see:

    ● Purging of lobbying in any form from the whole political realm.

    ● Creation of a National Independent Commission Against Corruption with broad investigative and prosecutory powers to pursue criminal proceedings.

    Julie Bishop has offered some clear thinking:

    ‘Political leaders need to be challenged about whether they are exploiting community unease and promising false albeit populist solutions… populists need to be challenged with four tests – a requirement that all options are explored before landing on a decision, a requirement that costs be articulated, a requirement that policy be evidence based, and there is also a requirement to ask what can possibly go wrong?’

    Yes Julie; but foremost, necessary to fix a broken system.

    Finally; the energy saga.

    I would strongly argue that our flawed Federation model has been an abject failure generating a very fractured nation, many features of which should have been nationalised; but Sovereign States chest beating predominated over national interests.

    Now that an absolute shambles has been created with power generation throughout the country, why not declare intent to establish a nationalised nuclear power industry? The lead time involved would allow the investors in established power resources to capitalise on their investments and phase out their assets as appropriate.

    We need to cease foolishly borrowing from offshore and fund national development from savings resources. Stop the unjustifiable squandering of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on flawed defence projects and get our national priorities better sorted.

  • says:

    Some valuable points here from Bushranger 71 such as removal of compulsory voting and removal of preferential voting. With a million citizens now in Australia who cannot speak English why do we insist under penalty that they enter the voting booth.

    However voting informally since 1996 reflects poorly on #71 because there are other options that value our democratic system.

    Also please recognise the problems with a federal ICAC. These thing are run by lawyers – Lefty lawyers – and they exonerate their own side and penalise the conservatives; recall the problems for Nick Greiner and Barry O’Farrell?

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