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Tuesday, 30 June 2020 11:12

The Australian Right's Big Mistake

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Australia's battle of ideas - the culture war - seems lost, to the forces of progressive liberalism.  Those who would fight this battle seem preoccupied with getting the Liberal party into office, and keeping it there.  While the bigger battles go by, without a fight.  Understanding where we are going wrong is the first task in understanding the war we are in.

The Australian “right” – to the extent that such a term means anything in these days of strange new political alliances, a largely non-performing and factionalised Liberal Party with at most a third or so of members who could be described even loosely as conservative, a National Party that is beyond a joke and which has all but eschewed its own former conservative ideology, and a shared woke globalist ideology that spans the ruling elites of all the major parties – is a mess.

There are many little mistakes made on the right of Australian politics.  And one big one.  And here I speak largely of (and to) those on the right who are outside the LNP tent, or who are tentatively in it, but strictly on sufferance and without the remotest enthusiasm.

The little mistakes are legion. 

They include putting up with disunity, indeed perpetuating it; backing wrong horses – think Cory Bernardi – not presenting coherent, easily grasped philosophies to voters and potential supporters; not turning political principles into appealing, concrete policies that resonate with voters’ day-to-day concerns; and refusing to accept Trumpian populism, aka national conservatism, as the smart way ahead.  You know – preserving Australian jobs, not selling off the farm, putting Australia first, respecting tradition and family values, pushing back against politically correct madness.  Dare one say it – making Australia great again.  The Americans have cottoned onto this.  We have not.

https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2019/07/the-accelerating-rise-of-nationalist-conservatism/

The big mistake is fatal. 

It is to mistake the battle for political office between the traditional parties for the real battle, the battle of ideas, remembering that culture is upstream from politics, and, as a result, to place all the strategic and tactical effort in party political games and elections.  Backing the Liberal Party at all costs.  Winning elections.

https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2019/05/we-already-know-the-election-winner/

Having placed all the chips on this battle, certain consequential mistakes follow.  Primarily, thinking that the main game is getting “conservative” parties into office and getting left-of centre parties or coalitions out of office.  Hence those who mistakenly choose this course support the Coalition reflexively and to attack the ALP reflexively, without any reference to the bigger canvas.  In summary, the Big Mistake is to keep backing the Liberal Party, absent strategic thinking about what ultimately matters.

The goal becomes winning office, at all costs and with all other things parked while we pursue the main game.  Except that it isn’t the main game.  This is the essential folly of the right.  Getting strategies and policies in place to effect genuine change in society, to reverse engineer the take-over by the progressive left of the key institutions of society, simply never gets prime attention.  Having clueless, non-ideological twenty something apparatchiks from marketing and public relations running the main parties seals the fate of the conservative hopefuls.  Apparatchiks for whom “political management” is all.  Messaging.  This is all they know.  The short term will ALWAYS out-do the long-term, and these young guns are mostly only there to get their career going anyway.  Through the usual, seedy factional channels.

When you hear someone say, “I only vote for the Coalition because the other mob are worse”, which you will hear every other day, then you have lost the real battle.  Every time, you hear – “but this election is more important than all the others.  We CANNOT have Bill Shorten”.

This is the Liberal Party’s get-out-of-gaol-free card.  They have been living off this since 1944.  In other words, their entire life.  Yes, it is difficult when you have a compulsory preferential voting system.  You end up having to decide whether the Coalition comes in front of Labor, whoever you put first or last.  Those bits are the easy part.  Are you forced to vote informal?

This form of argument and its attendant voting behaviour is simply a race to the bottom.  We all lose.  Big time.

Or they say, “I vote Liberal in the House of Representatives and for a real right wing party in the Senate” to “keep the Libs honest”.  Well, clearly that hasn’t worked.  We have a rag tag mob of log-rollers in the Senate who have their own policy peccadillos but scant philosophical sense or big picture focus.  Or they are merely chancers looking for their fifteen minutes of glory.  Think Clive Palmer and his acolytes.

The people who speak and act in this way do not get it. 

They have yet to realise the basic Breitbartian principle about the ordering of culture and politics mentioned above. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM4eEBfEKts

They do not understand that the ruling elite, the political class, is the enemy of the people.  That the new war is between the people and the ruling class.  They fail to see that the odd rhetorical, even policy, victory over the left counts for nought in a polity where the left occupies ALL the commanding heights institutions, and where half to two thirds of the Liberal Party agree with the core positions of that left.  And they believe, utterly naively, that the Liberal Party can be “reformed” and that simply getting more of “our people” into the Liberal Party will sort things out.  They probably believe the “broad church” nonsense still peddled by John Howard and, astonishingly, by Tony Abbott, who was thrown onto the scrap heap of political history by his own beloved Party. 

And they – “Discons” once but seemingly no longer – probably think, again, without any semblance of recognition of reality, that now that Turnbull has gone, all will be well.  Getting Jim Molan up in a factional pre-selection battle is seen as a major win.  Really?  Just look at New South Wales, where the Liberal Party is an embarrassing mob of seedy, factionalised developer-buddies who roger the punters royally and line their own political pockets as part of a totally corrupt system of crony capitalism.  This is, incidentally, the state that has produced every one of the last four Liberal Prime Ministers.

The “big mistake” has consequences for the right. 

It means that the right loses every fight going.  Certainly all the big ones.  It means that resources are wasted, are mis-deployed.  It means that a little more political capital, and trust, are blown, as great numbers of “silent Australians” who now are beginning to realise, for example, that the Covid pandemic is a giant con.  It means that yet more opportunities are lost.  The leftist revolutionaries, under the cover of “Black Lives Matter” who are currently running amok in the streets are merely critiqued for being “irresponsible” for health reasons, not for their bald faced challenge to our way of life and our previously tightly held traditions.  These rabid ratbags get a pass, without pushback from the leaders of the so-called right establishment.

We have a Liberal led coalition that doesn’t have the three things needed by “the base”.  First, they are not right wing.  They are mostly left-leaning liberals, not at all conservative, or populist for that matter.  Look at who gets pre-selected.  Folks who are as socially liberal and as woke as anyone.  They are genuine leftists who are allowed to take seats at the high table.

https://www.spectator.com.au/2019/08/litmus-test-for-the-libs/

Second, they do not in any way represent or reward the “club sensible” folks who are on the right, the men and women of struggle street so much-better-represented by Alan Jones, the “silent Australians” much referred to but little considered by those in power.  They HATE politicians.  As well they might.  For them, politicians always disappoint.

Third, the Liberals have no spine for the fights that matter, if they were somehow able to disentangle themselves from their endless, debilitating internal battles for sufficient time to see what the big war is.  They are content to do all the party-political things that will help them attain “office” – never power.  They are, ultimately, not remotely interested in wielding power in the cause of bigger goals, or in pushing back against what their base considers to be the enemy.

The current Covid malaise provides a classic case study in the right’s big mistake. 

The Andrews Government provides a hideous example, yes, of incompetence, but also of being on the wrong side of the Covid issue.  But here is the thing.  Andrews is merely a marginally worse example of the same mistake made by ALL Australian governments, of all political persuasions.  That is, to have been spooked into thinking that they need to do anything much about Covid, a mostly mild, if unusual, virus that affects most people, including those it infects, not at all.  The big mistake is to take Covid seriously, as a pandemic that means all societal bets are off, and that requires brutalising freedom, jobs, businesses, indeed, the whole freakin’ economy.  The little mistakes include hypocrisy, bungles, and so on.

So what does the “official right” do? 

It bags Andrews in a party political way for the little mistakes he has made.  It can’t attack him over the big mistake – because they made it too!  All the Liberal led governments have signed up fully for the Covid scare.  They have decided – “we are all in this together” – and so Andrews, being part of the egregious “National Cabinet”, can’t be attacked for being a Covid fascist.  The only form of attack permissible is related to incompetence.  Not to making the big Covid mistake, a category error, in mistaking a mild “epidemic” for a world shattering “PANdemic”.

The Australian right doesn’t have a clue about Covid, and what it means.  They have missed the big story.  And the big philosophical opportunity to create space for its own, once followed, core business – that of freedom, rights and prosperity.  That is, to support the silent Australians who will be absolutely stuffed by their own craven,  political decisions about this virus.

I often refer to the Australian right-of-centre in-group.  These are the well-networked, impeccably connected, media performing cadre of slightly conservative, slightly disgruntled-with-the-Libs types whose main focus is on the longevity and security of their careers.  They are never too edgy, and always prioritise bagging their party political opponents over seeking policy truth.  Consider here the Think Tanks, impeccably connected and configured to provide a source of personnel for future Liberal Party pre-selection.  Fingers in all the right (in both senses of the word) pies.  They are the Australian equivalent of the US GOP (Republican) establishment, aka the Washington DC swamp.  They are the insiders.  Even the “outsiders” – think the Sky News program of the same name – are really “insiders”.  In fact, Sky might be regarded right-of-centre insiders central.  Whatever they might think of ScoMo privately, they remain religiously on message and signed up to the political and electoral welfare of the Liberal Party.

The comfortable persistence of the RoCIG (right-of-centre-in-group) is actually a bulwark to forward progress on the right.  It preserves the establishment.

The authentic, people-centred Australian “right”, again, noting “whatever that means”, has a series of urgent tasks if it is to break free of the consequences of its big mistake.

One, the rightist groups need to talk to one another.  To recognise the problem, and to discuss it.  To form serious power groups interested in The Fight as I have described it.  Use the Liberal Party, by all means, but don’t obsess over its electoral welfare.  Getting good people into the Liberal Party, indeed into all parties, is not without merit as one part of the strategy.  Just do not expect miracles, or a quick pay off.  And the task IS rather urgent. 

Focus on culture, ever upstream from party politics.  Speak boldly, like the original Apostles and Church Fathers once did, counter culturally and in the face of existing power structures, all those centuries ago.  Meet in secret.  Pressure groups like Advance Australia to get with the program and be way more visible.  Engage Mark Latham, Australia’s only current politician who is focused on the main game and who thinks clearly about the things that count for those of us in struggle street.  And the folks struggling are our friends.  The working class has been abandoned by the New Class.  The Marxists and progressive liberals absolutely HATE the workers.  Make peace with One Nation, and collude with it, where this makes sense.

And – remember Reagan! Yes, we on the right were at times critical of him during his time in office.  And critics since, like Christopher Caldwell in his minor masterpiece The Age of Entitlement, have pointed out BIG mistakes.  But Reagan was the complete conservative, with utter belief, sunny optimism, rhetorical skills, masterly communications skills, a unerring connect with the folks, common sense and a nuanced understanding of the big picture.  Lessons remain.

There IS one group in Australia, to date well under the radar, led by Glenn O’Rourke, starting a process along these lines.  It is called the Australian Federation Party.  It has emerged out of the failure that was the Australian Conservatives.  It is attempting to at least get the Club Sensible people talking to one another, and beginning to act in a coherent, strategic, political manner.

https://australianfederationparty.org.au/

It may or may not be the answer to the questions I have raised above.  But it is worth our attention, in crazy and, for the right, sadly non-productive, times.  In times where the main game is – speak truth to power.

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Paul Collits

Paul Collits is a freelance writer and independent researcher who lives in Lismore New South Wales.  
 
He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines - politics, geography and planning and business studies.  He spent over 25 years working in economic development and has published widely in Australian and international peer reviewed and other journals.  He has been a keynote speaker internationally on topics such as rural development, regional policy, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Much of his academic writing is available at https://independent.academia.edu/PaulCollits
 
His recent writings on ideology, conservatism, politics, religion, culture, education and police corruption have been published in such journals as Quadrant, News Weekly and The Spectator Australia.
 
He has BA Hons and MA degrees in political science from the Australian National University and a PhD in geography and planning from the University of New England.  He currently has an adjunct Associate Professor position at a New Zealand Polytechnic.