Dear Mr Abbott,
Prior to the election I was a fervent Malcolm Turnbull supporter. I cheered as he took the prime ministership, watched starry eyed as he waxed lyrical about technological disruption, and I volunteered for the first time to distribute Liberal Party paraphernalia on Election Day. However, I have come to realise he is not be the leader for our times. I am writing as a member of the silent majority and to call for your urgent return to the office of prime minister. The country needs you more than ever before, so we can preserve the things we constantly take for granted.
With the rise of One Nation, I think our country’s social fabric is fraying at the edges. I myself, being of Indian origin, find it uncomfortable to travel through the suburbs of Western Sydney, feeling as though I am a foreigner in my own country. These places are dotted with men who, from their appearance and attitudes, are clearly making no effort to integrate into either the Australian economy or society. This is the same sentiment driving people to support Donald Trump in the US and prompting ever-escalating tensions in Europe. However, the full outcome of One Nation is a country whose current social order is thrown into chaos as people of all ethnicities — people like me, who have successfully blended into Australia — lose their sense of security and certainty inherent in their expectations from life.
It is Mr Turnbull’s arrogance and aloofness that has delivered us to this place. In repeating the mantra of multiculturalism, innovation and an agile economy, he was talking only to those few of us who live in the inner city and work in a narrow range of professional services jobs. Meanwhile, he was alienating the majority of Australians in outer suburban and regional areas, people who are feeling ever more insecure in a rapidly changing world. We wouldn’t be in this current situation were it not for an ill-conceived and poorly fought double dissolution.
What we need now is leadership which brings constancy and certainty against the backdrop of constant cultural and social instability. True conservatism. Not economic liberalism, but a true Burkean conservatism, protecting the status quo, where all productive social classes can be being reassured that they can achieve to their stations in life.
In practical terms, in my opinion, this may mean curbing the growth in migration for some time, retaining some industry protection and sustaining the current level of welfare.
All of this I feel only you can provide. The fundamental disenchantment people had with your previous leadership was that your first budget grew from an economic reform agenda — deregulating university fees, Medicare and other changes — that was not taken to an election and came as a surprise. These were radical proposals being made before the community was ready to absorb them. The role of the conservative, now more than ever, is to protect the status quo and only concede change, economic or otherwise, when there is an overwhelming readiness in the community for it.
To say Pauline Hanson is not a welcome, as you did after being elected, only emboldens her support base, which will hear your words as proof that you really are an aloof silvertail uncomfortable with “little people”.
To combat Hanson we need real conservative leadership to take the ground from beneath her, much as John Howard did. Splintering from the Liberal Party, as some of your colleagues are muttering, would only reflect the uncertainty we are all feeling in the community, not addressing it through stable leadership.
The Liberal Party needs what we all need in this uncertain age, and what we need now like never before is is a strong dose of conservatism.
Please, Mr Abbott, when parliamentary colleagues come to you and suggest a challenge to Turnbull, listen to them and agree. It is nothing less than your duty.
J. C. Gopal is a Sydney economist