As I wrap the presents and savour this year’s egg nog, why is it that thoughts of 12 ago years haunt my Yuletide reveries? Ah, that’s it! There was a Coalition government heading for defeat and a Labor leader assuring one and all that he was moderate, responsible and trustworthy. History repeats itself, as they say
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…2006. A Coalition administration had finally dug us out of a national debt created by a previous Labor government. Time to give this new Labor lot a go? Whatever gambit Prime Minister John Howard tried the following year, he could never dent the electoral popularity of Kevin Rudd. On Election Day, November 24, 2007, the Coalition lost 22 House of Representative seats, including, humiliatingly, Howard’s own seat of Bennelong. Six long years of Labor folly followed.
Perhaps Kevin Rudd’s greatest lie was presenting himself to the public as a John Howard doppelgänger. Rudd was – or so his puffery intimated – as prudent and pragmatic as Howard, but with that extra soupçon of compassion. We would be in safe hands. Rudd’s compassion, nevertheless, saw the dismantling of the Coalition’s strong policy on illegal maritime arrivals and within three years even his deputy, Julia Gillard, knew he needed to be ousted. Prime Minister Gillard proved no more capable of protecting our nation and so, cheekily, Rudd replaced Gillard three years later on the promise he could provide superior border security! It all ended in tears, naturally enough. In retirement, Julia Gillard got to give her account of Kevin Rudd’s breakdown in 2010 and subsequent treachery.
And so here we are in the 2018 Festive Season with another aspirant Labor prime minister promising that he, too, is a tradition-minded fellow and all will be well under his stewardship. Labor is once more united and disciplined; so united and disciplined that current Labor leader Bill Shorten awarded none other than Kevin Rudd a lifetime membership of the ALP at last week’s National Conference in Adelaide. So united and disciplined that all Labor’s major decisions and negotiations took place behind closed doors, including,you guessed it, the party line on “irregular maritime arrivals“. The one public session when delegates might have debated policy was cancelled, making the whole spectacle as transparent as the National Congress for the Communist Party of China.Yes, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2006, and I am not sure what we are going to do about it. The one upside of 2007 – for me, at any rate – was that it forced my hand and I became a political commentator, albeit a writer of letters to the local newspaper. I knew Labor under Kevin Rudd would be a calamity. Bob Hawke might have been a good prime minister. Paul Keating was not a terrible prime minister. Kim Beazley, now the Governor of Western Australia, could have been a good prime minister. Mark Latham, in hindsight, would have been an interesting left-of-centre populist prime minister. Simon Crean, possibly the same. Kevin Rudd – never. The ideology of identity politics or correctism had grown like Topsy by the time Rudd assumed the position of Leader of the Opposition in November 2006. Kevin07, as distinct from the aforementioned, was the kind of unprincipled narcissist who saw PC foolhardiness as an opportunity – the wind beneath his wings – to make his mark as a world leader.
What I find hard to understand is why so many otherwise sensible people did not see Kevin07 for what he was and, in the light of the Australian Labor Party’s 2018 National Conference, still is. One example alone proves my point. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), after carefully evaluatingHoward’s and Rudd’s respective commitments to “Christian values” before the 2007 election came down on the side of Kevin Rudd! I could not believe it then and I cannot believe it now. It is all very well, eleven years later, for the ACL to be worrying about the 2018 ALP National Conference’s support for “genderless birth certificates” but they endorsed Kevin Rudd in 2007.
Peter Smith: Labor’s offerings on the altar of virtue
How, in heaven’s name, was the ACL fooled by Kevin Rudd’s 2006 treatise on Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Dietrich, at least in Lutheran circles, is known for being (a) an indefatigable Christ-inspired foe (and victim) of Hitler’s regime and (b) a liberal Christian who supposedly countenanced orthopraxy over orthodoxy. Conservatives, as a rule, will opt for the former judgement while those who aren’t so old-school – might not even be Christian in any doctrinal sense – lean towards the latter. An informed child should have known what Kevin Rudd – the self-titled “unapologetic Christian” – hoped to achieve with his Bonhoeffer dissertation. Rudd was positioning Labor as “the resistance” and John Howard’s Coalition as “the Nazis” while, at the very same time, passing himself off as John Howard’s clone. Not a bad trick.
The current PC worldview of the ALP, though Roman Catholics and Methodists were important in the party’s founding, is opposed to the tenets of traditional Christianity. This radical ideology, a kind of Christian heresy, has initiated an out-of-control social revolution that is Utopian in its attempt to create equality – though not in a Marxist sense – between self-identified, latter-day tribes. Its negative cohesion comes from a common desire to overthrow the white, male, heteronormative patriarchy. Whatever happened to Senator Penny Wong’s contention – “On the issue on marriage, I think the reality is there is a cultural, religious, historical view that we have to respect” – issued on the eve of the 2007 election? It is not so much that Wong changed her tune after the Rudd government won 87 seats in the House of Representatives but that cultural, religious and historical views on
traditional marriage have been banished from public discourse. Every victory is a victory, every setback is a postponed victory. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice – except we are no longer talking about Martin Luther King’s “moral universe” but PC Utopia.
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2006 because today’s Bill Shorten is yesterday’s Kevin Rudd.
Somewhere in the past, no doubt, Shorten convinced himself he was a comparatively sensible fellow who might protect Australians from the bastards on the Left and the crazies on the Right. And yet he has pledged to rescind Prime Minister Morrison’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Shorten, an ostensible Labor moderate on Israel, spurned the Jerusalem decision since it allegedly suggested political opportunism on the eve of the Wentworth byelection. But we know the real story. What, exactly, does it mean to be a Labor moderate these days when so-called “right winger” Tony Burke led the move at the 2018 National Conference to embrace “Palestinian statehood”? At least our Comrades were not brandishing hundreds of PLO flags during the convention finale, as did their counterparts at British Labour’s Annual Conference did in September this year. Have no fear – our day will come.
Politically correct zealotry reminds me more and more of Lin Biao’s injunction, in the feverish days of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, “to smash up the four olds” – old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits. Correctism’s flaw – in addition to its obvious madness – is a totalitarian impulse “to smash up” everything in the pursuit of a Quixotic mission. Genderless birth certificates and the preposterous notion that the terrorists-cum-statesmen of the Palestine Liberation Organisation/Palestinian Authority might be interested in a two-state solution are constituent parts of an ideological whole, all in the service of creating a global people’s community. But if correctism and its creed of white-hatred continues to advance on all fronts, from changing Australia Day to championing Nakba Day, it can also be fought on all fronts. And, in the case of the Liberal Party, any front would be an improvement on Malcolm Turnbull.
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2006. Unfairly, some would say, the Morrison government cannot win the 2019 election on fiscal responsibility alone. Voters – even Labor ones – actually expect Coalition meanies to achieve a budgetary surplus so the kind-hearted ALP can blow it all on social justice concerns. Moreover, Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (2013-14), will not get the public acknowledgment he deserves for managing Operation Sovereign Borders during the period of the Abbott administration because, ironically, he closed down the people-smuggling business almost too efficaciously. Six years later, as a consequence, Shorten is free to hoodwink voters (and possibly himself) into believing he will never meddle with the Coalition’s border protection policy. Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, has Labor’s number, and recently appointed Major General Craig Furini the new commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, but Labor – whose policies in government were responsible for the death of some 1,200 people on the high seas between 2008-13 – will run a tight ship until after Election Day. Tight lips, in this case, sink ships.
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 2006, and yet there is one thing that could save the day – and it is Prime Minister Scott Morrison. John Howard had few arrows left in his quiver in 2007 as the federal election approached; it was, most likely, a case of one campaign too many. Howard had lost an election in 1987 but circumstances gave him a second chance in 1996, which he grabbed with both hands, repeating the feat in 1998, 2001 and 2004. Morrison, however, can expect only one shot at winning a federal election. Is it at all possible? Though many acknowledge that Morrison is a nice enough bloke, what he actually stands for is less clear. He was PM Abbott’s right-hand man and then, without much of a hullabaloo, transitioned into being PM Turnbull’s left-hand man, and then again without really trying – okay, he must have had some kind of understanding with the moderate/“left-wing” NSW Liberals – beat Peter Dutton in the party room vote to replace Malcolm Turnbull. He knows how to be in the right place at the right time, but does that make him the right person at the right time?
The naysayers will argue that the Christians faith he holds at Sydney’s Pentecostal Horizon Church do not get much of a public airing. Although he supported the ‘No’ campaign in Turnbull’s 2017 gay-marriage postal survey, he abstained from the vote taken in Parliament to ratify the ‘Yes’ outcome. Tony Abbott, we might note, did the same. I would add that few on the conservative side of politics have ever demonstrated the intellectual capacity to mount a cultural, religious or historical argument against homosexual matrimony. Senator Wong, helpfully, even explained to her political adversaries, as long ago as 2007 election, how they might frame their case for traditional marriage, but Liberal politicians – and not just Scott Morrison – have rarely proven capable of intelligently defending a traditionalist point of view on anything except fiscal rectitude. Penny Wong is the conceptual kingpin of the ALP and not front man Bill Shorten. Recall her confected rage only a few weeks ago when the Coalition timidly proposed, by delaying her PC-inspired legislation, that maybe a Christian school might be allowed to be, well, Christian: “The dirty tricks displayed today demonstrate Scott Morrison’s willingness to play games with the lives of LGBTQ+ people.”
Where is anyone in the Coalition who can mount the obvious case that Senator Wong is exploiting the vulnerability of young people, not to mention betraying a despotic understanding of education, to pursue identity politics and her ideology of tyrannical correctism? Who will stop this brilliant but dangerous political operator before the Good Book itself is proscribed as hate speech?
It will not be Bill Shorten – whether or not anything traditional or old-fashioned remains in this personable but hollow man who was raised in a Catholic household – since he wants to be prime minister too badly. It was never going to Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Julia Banks et al because they believed the Liberal Party’s best hope was to be Penny Wong Lite. (I am thinking Zhou Enlai and his disputed role in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, if that is not too obscure an allusion.) It was not going to Tony Abbott – in the longer term, anyway – because his political enemies worked out how to demonise him a little too easily; although, to be fair, they did toil 24/7 in that task. It is, I submit, none other than Scott Morrison who might have the wherewithal to put a break on our very own version of the Great Bohemian Cultural Revolution. I could, of course, be wrong and maybe we will have to wait until a political organisation connected with Cory Bernardi takes power in Canberra.
But indulge me for a moment, at this Christmastide, and imagine – if you will – that today is not a reprise of Christmas 2006.
The Left, through no want of trying, has not been able to vilify Morrison as per Tony Abbott. Moreover, as a member of the Horizon Church, he has no desire, presumably, to be Penny Wong Lite. What if he decides to take the bull by the horns in 2019? There are so many PC postulations he could challenge – indeed, there is an infinity of PC postulations he could challenge! – but let us focus on Jerusalem, since it is a subject I know a little about and something Prime Minister Morrison himself brought into the public domain. There are those, understandably, who will argue that the decision to recognise “West Jerusalem” represents an embarrassing backdown because his original proposal of “Jerusalem” – eternal and united capital of the Jewish people – was rescinded. Nonsense! The recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel is a reproach to Bill Shorten who subsequently revealed himself to be on the same side as Mahmoud Abbas, the BDS protesters and Jeremy Corbyn, and I say that as a fellow participant in the 2015 Australia-Israel-UK Leadership Dialogue.
Prime Minister Morrison, “West Jerusalem” was not a setback for you but your first tentative step towards victory in the 2019 federal election or, at least, the redemption of the Liberal Party. Let us, as we clink our glasses of champagne (or Coopers), acknowledge that Penny Wong is a forceful foe, and commence the long struggle to save Western civilisation from her millenialist PC creed. As we enjoy our Christmas pudding and sparkling burgundy, dear readers, I offer this toast:
O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel