I confess that my expectations when it comes to Liberal Party MPs are pretty low these days. Many of them are quite content with keeping 18c in existence and some have said so in print. So basically these exemplars of liberalism are on the same basic side of that issue as Labor and Greens MPs. Ditto getting rid of the Human Rights Commission. Ditto tearing up our idiotic and impoverishing Renewable Energy Targets, the ones in place right now that are causing all the grief actually having been brought to you by the Libs, not Labor. (The Laborites just want to increase the insanely stupid Liberal set-up, neither wants to get rid of the whole thing.) The list of left-wing Liberal policies goes on and depressingly on.
What you’d like to observe are a few MPs on the right side of the political spectrum who appeared to go into politics on the basis of principles they held rather than perks they’d be afforded. Instead you get the sense watching the Liberal Party caucus that many of them misheard President John F. Kennedy and thought he said ‘Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you – chartered flights you can pilot, yummy expense accounts, ministerial chauffeurs, knowing in your heart you deserve the Gold Pass and the extra beneficial pension.’
By way of contrast just think of two of the most influential British politicians of the last 50 years other than Maggie Thatcher. Nigel Farage and Daniel Hannan easily fall into that category. Both went into politics on the basis of trying to advance a basic principled view of the world, that the UK would be better off outside the EU. Both asked voters to vote ‘Leave’ in the referendum last year and more explicitly asked to be voted out of a job in the EU Parliament – a job that came with the whole panoply of massive perks, big pay cheques and uber-generous allowances of the sort you’d expect out of anything run by the EU.
Can any of you readers of this wonderful publication honestly imagine more than a handful of our current Liberal Party caucus going to the wall on the basis of principle? For instance, how many Cabinet Ministers have left Cabinet and gone to the backbench over the issue of the government’s not repealing s.18C – that free speech principle that lies at the heart of the Enlightenment and, yes, Western civilisation itself? The answer rhymes with the Roman Emperor, the fifth one, the pyromaniac. (And you can’t count this Yes Minister bogus enquiry set up by Malcolm to take the issue off the front pages that has seen endless pro 18C submissions from government funded bodies and NGOs – yes, your taxes are paying for their anti-free speech jobs and submissions – and whose members include a couple of Liberal MPs who don’t want to get rid of 18C. What a sham is that joint parliamentary enquiry! We’ll be lucky if they recommend getting rid of ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ which is basically worthless. What’s the difference between ‘offending’ and ‘humiliating’, the latter of which would still be there?)
Where was I? Ah yes, the forlorn hope that right-leaning politicians in this country might occasionally be motivated by principle and not so relentlessly kowtow to the inner Sydney, latte-luvvies, ABC worldview.
And that takes me to the question of stabbing in the back (sorry Malcolm, I know you don’t like it put that way so ‘removing’) Liberal Prime Ministers. With all of the current hopelessness of the Libs when it comes to free speech, to increasing taxes on superannuation under the Labor Orwellian guise of ‘budget savings’, to impoverishing climate change policies (the Liberal Party motto being ‘ours are only 67 percent insane’), not to mention the terrible polls what do we hear all of a sudden from Liberal MPs? We hear talk of principle. I kid you not. They talk about how it’s unprincipled for caucus to remove a sitting Prime Minister. They say the voters wouldn’t like it. ‘Sorry’, they mutter, ‘principle means we’re stuck with Herr Turnbull even if (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) we think it’s now clear he’s not the man for the job’.
Leave aside the total lack of principle eighteen months ago when nothing other than (misguided) self-interest and too much tuning into the ABC drove them to ditch a first-term Prime Minister who had led them to a huge majority win. No concern about principle a year and a half ago, was there?
‘Ah’, goes the response, ‘but we’ve learned our lesson. We’ve found religion. We see the error of our ways. It’s the principle of the thing that’s holding us back.’ If you’re like me you’ll find hearing Liberal MPs talk that way about how they’re now motivated by principle a bit like former ABC managing director Mark Scott assuring us that the wall-to-wall lefties working in Ultimo could and did put aside their personal political views and preferences to give us all a wholly disinterested, impartial end product. As a listener you can’t decide if the speaker actually believes the nonsense being spouted, or is looking for some fig leaf to hide behind.
But put that all aside and just notice that any claim to principle here as the basis on which they can’t now stab (oops, defenestrate, no sorry ‘remove’) Turnbull is pathetically implausible. Here’s why.
If the principle is that voters should have the final say, at least as regards PMs early in their tenure, well that principle was jettisoned in September 2015. You can’t get it back now any more than you can get your virginity back.
Worse, the argument here works only one way, in favour of the Turnbullites and against the Abbottites. The chunk of the Liberal voting population who preferred Tony were told ‘it’s the polls, not principle’ back then but now are being told ‘it’s the principle not the polls’ today. So disloyalty was rewarded then but is being demanded now. Come off it. Not only are humans not hard-wired to accept such self-serving guff, the core point is that it takes time to win back voter trust that relatively newly elected sitting PMs won’t be axed by caucus. And any principle to that effect will always be trumped by the principle that ‘he who breaches the principle can never be its beneficiary’. No one can ever claim this principle on behalf of Malcolm (and I would add any of the other Abbott defenestrating coup plotters).
Sure, get in new Liberal MPs and work to building up voter trust that you won’t stab your own PMs, as Labor did. But that’s for the future. Meantime all you pusillanimous Lib MPs just use the same standards now that you did in late 2015. And get rid of Malcolm while you still have a chance at the next election.
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