QED

Why I’m Done With the Faux Centre

In July this year, Jack Snelling and Tom Kenyon, both former ministers in South Australian Labor governments, resurrected the defunct Family First Party (FFP). The party intends to contest the next state election (to be held on March 13, 2022) and, possibly, the subsequent federal election. For me, at any rate, the idea of traditionalists emancipating themselves from the PC strictures of the ALP and joining forces with conservatives more generally aligned with the Liberal Party was compelling. Though I have never joined a political party, I signed up for this new incarnation of Family First without a moment’s hesitation.

The assumption that erstwhile Labor and Liberal stalwarts working together would result in an opportunistic compromise of a party could not be further from the truth. The FFP’s social platform is conservative through and through, while its economic policies – as articulated by Tom Kenyon at its first public forums – are textbook centre-right: the wages and living conditions of ordinary Australians should not be undermined but, at the same time, spiralling government debt is irresponsible beyond measure. The FFP is not even attempting to position itself as a party of the centre and so some deride it as the radical right and yet authentically conservative would be nearer the mark.       

Besides, the so-called centre has become the political playground or every kind of modern-day fraud. Take, for instance, Simon Holmes à Court, “cleantech investor” and convenor of the Climate 200 enviro-activist pressure group, who claims to be an enthusiast for “the sensible centre”. In a recent opinion piece for the Australian, Holmes a Court asserted that the Liberal Party had “systematically abandoned the sensible centre, leaving the space wide open for independents”. His solution? Funnel money through his lobby group to “cleanskin” independent candidates at the 2022 Federal election.

Readers were not fooled by Holmes à Court’s ruse if the hundreds and hundreds of witty and acerbic responses to his piece are anything to go by. Why only bankroll candidates standing against Liberal incumbents? Why not Labor ones? Holmes à Court’s explanation was disingenuous: “The independents we’re backing have been animated by the failures of this government, so it’s not surprising they are stepping up in government-held seats.”

The reality is that Holmes à Court happens to be a fellow traveller of the Greens/Labor Left and Climate 200 is his dishonest – and, I would add, anti-democratic – way of reducing Scott Morrison’s chances of re-election. We need only link to Holmes à Court’s twenty-four anti-Coalition and enviro-activist contributions to the Guardian newspaper over the past three years to see that the connection between Holmes à Court and “the sensible centre” is, to put it delicately, tenuous.

I say anti-democratic because if Simon Holmes à Court feels so strongly about affecting the political make-up of the next government of Australia why not join the Greens or run for parliament himself? Simon the Rich scorns a character such as Clive Palmer spending millions “helping re-elect the Coalition” and yet they are both in the same inequitable game of buying political influence. Holmes à Court might argue that Climate 200’s political investment will “save the planet” but Palmer could just as easily respond that his millions of political dollars will “save Australia”. Both, ironically, claim to be representing the “sensible centre”.

The sensible centre delusion existed long before the advent of Kevin Rudd, but his contribution to the politics of ostensible moderation is noteworthy. Kevin 07 presented himself to Australian voters as a kind of John Howard Lite. He promised “to get the balance right” but then abandoned Howard’s “Pacific Solution” and leaving Australia vulnerable to the perilous people-smuggling business. Likewise, Rudd’s supposedly sensible approach to Christianity during the 2007 campaign won him the electoral backing of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), in part at least for his allusions to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor. However, only this year, in an article for the Guardian (where else?), Rudd insisted that his liberal or, we might say, sensible interpretation of the Bible (“garden-variety theology”) is alone the appropriate one for Australia and Scott Morrison’s more literal reading should be rejected as “radical political theology”. The ACL, I am supposing, would not today endorse the likes of Kevin Rudd.

But the deception and self-deception of the sensible centre also finds its place in the Liberal Party in the form of self-ascribed Moderates. How unsurprising that, according to onetime insider Chris Kenny, the policy differences between a Labor “centrist” such as Kevin Rudd and a Liberal moderate such as Malcolm Turnbull were minimal and, we might add, remain so to this day. They are “frenemies”, in the terminology of Kenny. Back in 2009, for example, they could have achieved a Labor-Liberal agreement on the government’s key policy, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), had not the “fatal flaw” in Rudd’s personality intruded. Today the two make similar pronouncements on any number of issues, the merit of diesel-powered French submarines, Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warning (CAGW), the perfidy of the Murdoch press and so on.

Holmes à Court’s contention is that the Moderate faction within the Liberal Party might “try to soothe their frustrated electorate, but even if these ‘moderates’ are speaking up in their party room, they haven’t won a fight in living memory”. Here, more than anywhere, we discover that “the sensible centre”, for a partisan like Holmes à Court, is little more than the elemental policies of the Australian Greens. The Greens, of course, have every right to exist and participate in our democratic process, but to insist that they are a middle-of-the-road organisation and that their monomaniacal mantra is the only responsible option for every other party on the political spectrum must be rejected as abhorrent or worse – despotic.

It is much the same for the claims of the Liberal Moderates or Modern Liberals to hold the “sensible centre”. Moreover, Holmes à Court’s assertion that the Moderates “haven’t won a fight in living memory” is risible. In South Australia, as is the case in a number of other states, it is the Moderates who dominate the party on every front, a hardly controversial claim. Caleb Bond, admittedly a conservative, is just one commentator who has noted the obvious: “The South Australian Liberal Party is almost entirely run by moderates. Bit by bit, they have taken control of the party … there are almost no conservatives left in the parliamentary Liberal Party in South Australia.”

The conundrum for the Christian and/or conservative, as articulated by Tom Kenyon, is this: who to support when the ALP does not even try to attain your vote while the Liberal Party assumes you have no alternative but to vote for SA Premier Steven Marshall’s team of self-styled Moderates? We are also again with the linguistic sleight of hand of those who claim to represent “the sensible centre”. After all, an antonym for sensible is moderate. If you oppose the purported sensible centre does that automatically brand you as irrational and fanatical? And if you are an opponent of the policies of the Moderates does that make you extreme?

In truth, it is the Liberal Moderates who have pushed through radical new laws on abortion and euthanasia, radical in the sense of constituting a dramatic departure from traditional Western civilisational norms associated with the sanctity of human life. Five thousand marched in vain through Adelaide in February this year to peacefully protest the Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Though a majority of South Australians opposed the “Abortion-to-Birth” bill, none other than Liberal Attorney-General Vicki Chapman spoke blithely about late-term abortion “giving women choice” after it passed through the Legislative Assembly before preceding to the Legislative Council. The radicalism of the Moderates has also seen the state budget blow out from $11 billion to $33 billion, half of that increase occurring before COVID-19 struck. On the subject of the coronavirus, the Liberal government has still to rescind an emergency law after eighteen months even though it was intended for brief 24-hour or 48-hour periods associated with natural calamities such as bushfires.

The immoderation of the Moderates has its genesis – if from a different political perspective – in the same kind of hubris exhibited by Simon Holmes à Court. We should not be taken in by Liberal Moderates or Kevin Rudd or Holmes à Court that their worldview, whatever its merits or otherwise, corresponds with a fiction known as “the sensible centre”. The Family First Party gives every indication of being an authentic centre-right party with genuine conservative sensibilities. I can stand by that.  

11 comments
  • DougD

    Rudd “then abandoned Howard’s “Pacific Solution” and leaving Australia vulnerable to the perilous people-smuggling business. ” Anyone deluded enough to believe that Labor will be sensitive and welcoming to boat people should read Hal Colebatch’s article at https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2014/06/whitlam-government-betrayal-south-vietnamese/

  • sfw

    I agree with much of what you say, the two main parties are as close in policies as they can possibly be and still remain ‘different’. I don’t know much about SA except that it and Tassie seem to be welfare vacuums. I think you dismiss Clives creation the UAP too easily. Clive has put his own money up to challenge the unconstitutional restraint of interstate trade, he is bankrolling a party of which he has no real control over but will (hopefully) regain our freedom. The UAP is the biggest political party in Australia, without fake memberships etc. I believe that it will play an important role in the next election. The biggest thing going against them will be all the media and the major political parties and the greens. The candidates will be subject to offence archeology, slander, sliming, misrepresentation and anything else that can be thrown at them. I hope they do well.

  • ianl

    Simon HaC is responsible for the “doxxing” of Brian Fisher in the leadup to the 2019 election. HaC has admited this, with a nausea-inducing “apology” for that despicable act.

    Brian Fisher, a well-regarded Canberra economist, released a detailed and verifiable report on the actual costs of this insane decarbonisation. The result of HaC then publishing Fisher’s home address in a Facebook post was that Fisher and his family were subjected to 3am thuggery while at home – hammerings on the doors, stones thrown against walls, heavy breath phone calls etc.

    The entire dragged out episode so frightened the Fisher family that he (Fisher) decided not to publish any further articles in public. Only then did HaC issue his lip-service apology.

  • Michael

    We have no major political party defending democratic, capitalist societies based on traditional Western virtues. Thatcher did it in the UK; Howard here to some extent; Trump tried but and was torn down. Morrison just lets the cultural issues go through to the keeper, except when he’s pushing back on China. But the absence of a philosophical defence shows the left that the door is wide open to any and all of their ideological putsches, which mere managerialism is powerless to resist.

  • Ian MacKenzie

    What has the Morrison government done for conservatives? Discounting nuclear subs which will only be ready for WW4 or 5, the answer is not much at all. Ministers Dutton and Tudge are the only rays of light from the last few years until the fix was put in on Tudge. The National curriculum is now the criteria for where I’ll place next year’s vote. If the identity politics and cultural Marxism is not removed, I’ll vote elsewhere.

  • Lawrie Ayres

    Thank you Doug for reminding us of Gough Whitlam’s despicable treatment of the Vietnamese who wanted to save their lives. Clyde Cameron’s admission is also noteworthy as both he and Gough have been elevated to the status of socialist sainthood by the ALP thus proving that despite the faux sympathy for refugees it is reserved only for those who might vote Labor. The Vietnamese are generally conservative thinking respecting family and hard work the antithesis of the Labor Party who, like the Democrats in the US, would like to see all Australians on the dole or working as public servants. It was Frazer and the Liberals that permitted the many Vietnamese to call Australia home and they should be reminded at every election.

  • Bernie Masters

    This was a good article until the author began his anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia comments. While I am uncomfortable with the idea that someone can choose to abort a foetus, nonetheless the most important ‘private property right’ is the right to decide what happens with and to your own body. I have no right to tell a woman that she must take her pregnancy through to birth, just as I have no right to tell a person that they can be denied the right to end pain, suffering or severe incapacity. To me, abortion and euthanasia are the ultimate private property rights that everyone, especially conservatives, should respect, no matter how reluctantly.

  • Biggles

    As I recall, the hierarchy in the old family First Party were young Earth creationists. Will the new party follow the same line?

  • Ian MacKenzie

    How is it that closet Greens like Simon Holmes à Court and NSW Treasurer Matt Keen can pose as Liberals? Has the “broad church” got too broad?

  • aco44409

    What happens when you mix green with blue? You get yellow, of course, which is why the true Libs have all but disappeared in the last decade.
    ……….
    What happens when you mix green with red? Well, you get the colour of the stuff that exudes from all the orifices of those under labour in what was once the mighty Workers’ Party.
    …………
    Now, the reason that there’s absolutely no distinction between Libs and labs, it’s because the mixing of those mixtures looks like the colour of the (verbal) diarrhea, for which we’ll need all the paper we can muster at the next election to wipe them away and start afresh.

  • Peter Marriott

    Good piece Daryl. You could do worse than Family First, that’s for sure but the main problem with our federal electoral system, in my view, still remains the same…two party preferred, compulsory preferential voting. Until we are prepared to open up the system so that our number one primary vote actually stays where it is, and we are prepared to accept that 50% + 1 is not always going to be achieved then I’m afraid when you vote for what is probably a minority party, you should always keep your eye on where you place the two parties preferred in your numbers list on your ballot paper. Also with the attempts to get the callow, ever younger, allowed to vote, the only check that I can see to maintain some sort of balance is to make voting non-compulsory.

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