The recent NSW election presented the grim spectacle of both the Liberal and National parties trashing the fledgling political careers of two of their young, earnest and thoughtful candidates for public office. Watching the National Party dump Ash Barnham in Cessnock and the the Liberals abandon Matthew Squires in Wyong did, however, give us a deep insight into the extent to which both parties are in the thrall of the Left and will dutifully execute their own at the urging of the media.
Barnham, only 21 and still at university, was brave enough to put up his hand to run for the Nationals in the safe Labor seat of Cessnock. While the seat was unwinnable, the Nationals needed someone on the ballot to pick up the public funding that comes with each primary vote above the 4 per cent threshold. Beyond that, it would have been good political blooding for Barnham while elevating his profile in the local community.
Just to prove no good deed goes unpunished in Australian politics, media reports immediately pointed to allegedly “racist” and “sexist” tweets from two years earlier, triggering a deluge of shock-horror hit pieces across a range of media outlets. Barnham is Jewish and apparently one example of his purported anti-semitism was a self-referential joke! The contents of the tweets weren’t outlined in the reporting, which, given the mendacity of the press, must surely mean they weren’t actually that transgressive. But that proved beside the point. The fact the media deemed the tweets unacceptable was enough for the Nationals’ gormless executive to disendorse Barnham.
Just days later, the Liberal’s Matthew Squires in Wyong was subject to a similar attack by an alleged journalist who trawled Facebook and Twitter for comments posted many years ago. Apparently, a conservative candidate for office describing homosexuality as a “perversion” and calling for strong leadership after the 2017 Islamic terror attack on London Bridge that killed eleven people was enough to light him up in the press. Emphasising the bad faith involved in the reporting, his comments were super imposed on an image of Squires in fancy dress.
Dominic Perrottet was characteristically spineless in response, immediately denouncing the expression of the conservative and biblically aligned views even though they typify those of many — indeed, I suspect, most — long-suffering rank-and-file members of his party. Compare and contrast: as a youngman, Perrottet admitted having attended a party in Nazi drag, but judging by his comments during the Squires imboglio, his indicretion was in no way comparable. The controversy that erupted over Perrottet’s fancy dress was equally vacuous and no less manufactured but it made the hypocrisy of his response palpable and underscored his weakness as a politician, as did his grovelling apology.
While inconceivable, it was certainly open to Perrottet to take a principled stance on the issue of either or both bounced candidates. He very consciously chose not to, and it seems reasonable to suppose he never seriously entertained the notion. Career politicians like Perrottet have been so inculcated with the values of the Left that they have internalised their own oppression. If you are reduced to a festering morass of anxiety about what you can say publicly because reporters might disapprove, you are actually their puppet rather than a functioning statesman with an intelligence of your own and the courage of your convictions.
All of this craven folding under the slightest pressure brings home that while the press and the Left are the instigators of cancel culture, it is important to recognise that the Left doesn’t actually cancel anyone. So-called conservatives do that while the Left sneers as the threshold for dismissal and abandonment becomes trivial to the point of being effectively arbitrary. The effect of all this is to empower conservatives’ enemies and ensure these patterns of public attack grow ever broader and more vicious, just as they have over the past decade.
Anyone entering, or having anything to do with politics – or policy for that matter – has to realise they’re not engaged in a constructive civil discourse about the best means of crafting policy and achieving objectives. No, they are stepping into a propaganda war where the goal of the Left and the media, largely one and the same, is to destroy you on a personal level by any means necessary. It is little wonder that genuinely pressing matters of policy are swept aside as public attention is drawn to character assassination intended to generate click-bait headlines.
As dispiriting as it was to watch the Coalition torch its future generation and signal once again its impotence, it wasn’t entirely unsurprising. Not so long ago we witnessed the Morrison government allow the media to feed publicly on Christian Porter and effectively end his political career. If the press can take out a cabinet minister by running a vicious smear campaign for weeks on end, there’s no real hope for minor players.
The message that voters should take from all this is obvious. If the Coalition won’t defend its own candidates and MPs from the predations of the Left, then voters can have absolutely no hope that they will protect them, their families, their values and their interests. Essentially, there’s no point voting for the Coalition, all they represent now are the careers of cheap, transactional politicians, their staffers and lobbyists.
As to core principles and the courage to defend them, don’t make me laugh.
Burchell Wilson was the Liberal Democrats candidate for the Bathurst at the NSW election