In Thursday’s Australian, Paul Everingham, former NT Chief Minister and CLP member fulminates about the distressing tendency of some members of the purported conservative party to be, well, conservative:
There were some admirable qualities on display in your story about Liberal senator Amanda Stoker, but why does she train her guns on Liberal moderates?
Just like Tony Abbott, she is not at all concerned at casualties from (not so) friendly fire. Can’t these people learn to turn their guns on the Labor Party? Why would I go out and spend a day handing out how-to-vote cards for someone who regards moderates like me as morons?
Conservatives such as Stoker are strong on freedom of speech but that’s where freedom ends in the conservative lexicon. There’s no freedom for people to choose whether they wish assisted dying; there’s no freedom for women to make a choice. As a moderate — the irony of being a conservative in the Liberal Party continues to escape them — I think it best that freedom only be restrained when it would harm others. Stoker and the others named in her activities are anachronisms. They are marching backwards to oblivion. Sadly, with their bullying ways, they’re taking the Liberal Party with them.
On the same day, also in The Australian:
Julia Banks says she was “devastated” when Scott Morrison emerged victorious from August’s leadership spill.
In an interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly, Ms Banks said knew she couldn’t stay with the Coalition when the party line moved to the right.
“It was all driven from Tony Abbott’s opposition,” says Julia. “Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt — that whole program to knife Malcolm was driven by and led by them.”
Ms Banks said the bullying that went on during the coup made people fearful.
“I said no, I’m voting for Julie in the first round, and then I had people sent to me and phone calls, trying to move my vote. The thing that happens with bullying is people were afraid. They started becoming really concerned that Peter Dutton was seriously going to win. I thought if it loses by one vote and it’s Peter Dutton then I’ll quit straight away.”
Ms Banks said when Mr Morrison became PM she was shocked.
John Howard famously described the Liberal Party as a ‘broad church’. These two examples above clearly show that the broad church concept is dead.
Let me deal with Everingham first. He has clearly jumped on the burgeoning bandwagon of bespoke new ‘freedoms’ and ‘human rights’. Everingham lumps freedom of speech with freedom to choose assisted dying. In the Western democratic tradition ‘freedom of speech’ is an immutable right, albeit often observed in the breach. You either have it or you don’t. Freedom to choose assisted dying or freedom to abort a foetus or freedom to marry someone of the same sex are moral or social questions upon which there are valid opposing views. But the Left, which Everingham appears to channelling, refuses to give legitimacy to even the existence of the opposing view on any of its cause celebres. They believe that freedom of speech not only allows them the unfettered right to propose any departure from traditional norms or mores but also, having made such declarations, to be shielded from argument. Any contra case is an infringement of their right to free speech.
In Everingham’s view, any conservative position is anachronistic and to defend that position is ‘bullying’. This is the kind of thinking that we now routinely expect from the pampered undergraduate class. Once a Liberal resorts to the use of the term ‘bullying’, you know he has gone over to the dark side. And let me remind Everingham that it was the ‘bullying’ (to use his words) of moderates that brought down the conservative Tony Abbott and led the Coalition to the position in which it now finds itself.
Ms Banks goes even further in her rejection of the ‘broad church’, declaring that a democratic vote to install Peter Dutton as PM would have been unacceptable. With her it’s all or nothing. What sort of a ‘centre right’ party could find the elevation of Scott Morrison, even with all his faults, ‘shocking’? And, even more interestingly, as Andrew Bolt has pointed out, it seems the bullying which so traumatised the frail and delicate Ms Banks during the leadership imbroglio emanated not from the monsters of the Right but from ‘moderates’ scared that a split Morrison/Bishop vote would allow Dutton to scape in.
The broad church concept demands compromise, a bit of give and take. So let’s look at the recent record.
Tony Abbott won a landslide victory, principally by fighting on ground abandoned by Malcolm Turnbull when he was Opposition Leader. Yet Abbott brought Turnbull into Cabinet from which position he immediately commenced his campaign to wrest the prime ministership from the man who had earned it. I was not privy to the private machinations of Turnbull but I well remember that, in those early days of the Abbot government, he was conspicuous by his absence whenever the government needed defending on any matter other than his own portfolio. Indeed, as Communications Minister, he was eager to declare his fealty to the ABC even as his leader was calling for balance at the national broadcaster and banning his ministers appearances on Q&A. He uttered not a word in defence of the Abbott/Hockey economic agenda and contributed not one iota to the economic narrative, the absence of which he used as one of two justifications for his knifing of Abbott.
Abbott was staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage yet it was he who engineered the compromise that eventually allowed Turnbull to bask in the glory of this tawdry victory.
When Turnbull was installed as PM, many conservatives – notably Dutton, Cormann and Hunt – against their own instinctive loyalties, served him loyally, even as he sailed serenely past the 30 negative Newspolls that was the other benchmark for Abbott’s defenestration.
It was only after Turnbull self-destructed over his NEG and his hubristic leadership spill, that these ministers decided enough was enough. That sounds like serious compromise to me. As does the mindless continuing adherence to the Paris Agreement even in the face of overwhelming evidence that, at its most benign, it will be pointless and, at its worst if adopted as demanded by the UN, an economic wrecking ball.
If the broad church has failed, you can fairly sheet the blame home to the so-called moderates.