Australian Notes

Australian notes

4 November 2017

9:00 AM

4 November 2017

9:00 AM

John Howard and the black hand

It is not particularly far-fetched to claim that the Liberal Party is in big strife. Some would say it’s nearing an existential crisis, particularly at the national level. Party membership over the last three or four years has fallen precipitously. The numbers aren’t made public but some guess it’s about half what it was. And many of those who on election day manned (to use a word no doubt banned in today’s ultra- PC Australian military) the polling precincts and handed out the ‘how to vote’ cards – to say nothing of knocking on doors earlier – well, they simply refuse to do so under this Team Turnbull/Black Hand manifestation of the Liberal Party. I speak from personal experience on that front from the last election and can assure you that the party base is even angrier now than then and that volunteers will be even thinner on the ground next federal election if the leadership remains as it is.

How motivated would you be to give of your time to help the prospects of a Liberal party that has taken a Labor-like blow torch to superannuation and the pro-thrift and self-reliance incentives a small government party is supposed to believe in? Or one that spends $50 billion (probably more in reality) on a submarine purchase plan that can only remotely make sense when understood as some sort of cross between a government ‘make work policy’ and an attempt to save a few South Australian seats? Or one that has overseen no real attempts to cut government spending (preferring the Wayne Swan prevarications about ‘budget savings’, or in English ‘more taxes’)? Or one that won’t even try to close down the cancerous Human Rights Commission or the Green-Left propaganda machine that is the ABC, but is happy to appoint to senior positions on such bodies people that Labor or even the Greens could appoint – think Ed Santow to the HRC as Freedom Commissioner, Michelle Guthrie and Justin Milne (both of ‘see no bias here folks’ renown) to our billion dollar a year taxpayer-funded public broadcaster, and Rosalind Croucher to head up the HRC (because apparently Malcolm Turnbull and George ‘he is the worst Liberal Attorney-General in the country’s history’ Brandis don’t know any conservatives, or at least not any they can stomach being in the same room with or appointing to anything important). I suppose that’s not terribly surprising when ex-Greens are picked to work in the PM’s office. But as I said, that sort of track record, of which I’ve only scratched the surface, is not designed to fire up the party’s base to get out and do the volunteer work or to open their wallets and donate.

Put in basic terms that even Kelly O’Dwyer might understand and that Christopher Pyne has more or less openly admitted, this is a Liberal Party that is being held hostage by its Black Hand (or pseudo-Green, ultra Progressive or in the vocabulary of the ABC ‘moderate’) faction.

Over the next year or two there looks likely to be a fight for the future of the party. I’ve seen something broadly similar back in my native Canada when the then ‘Progressive Conservative’ party basically imploded after being destroyed at an election (down to 2, yes 2, seats out of a 295 seat Parliament) after which a much more conservative and non-elitist Reform Party led by Stephen Harper arose and eventually reverse-engineered a takeover of the Tories, the merged two then called today’s ‘Conservatives’. That sort of path is one our evermore left-leaning Liberal party might end up tracing. It’s the sort of thing that would follow an election debacle under Turnbull. And be clear, bad as that is it is better than the present trajectory the party is on.

Of course the much better option than either of those would be for the Liberal partyroom to ditch Turnbull and replace him with someone with non-Black Hand sympathies and no bedwetting ‘defenestrated Abbott’ guilt.

If the replacement is Julie Bishop, or even Scott Morrison, then we conservatives are better off in the long-term seeing Turnbull stay in place and the party go over the cliff, with the eventual Stephen Harper-like rebuild that would follow. But if an Angus Taylor, Peter Dutton, Andrew Hastie or Tony Abbott were chosen to replace Turnbull – someone who now realised you have to call out the ABC’s patent bias and do something about it, and about the renewables boondoggle, and debt, and having one of the world’s highest per capita immigration rates, and the list goes on – well, we know how quickly polls can turn around. We’ve seen it directly and recently in New Zealand, Canada and France, and indirectly with Brexit and Trump.

Which brings me to former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard. Wouldn’t it be bloody useful if one of Australia’s greatest PMs came out and said something that pointed to his concern about the future of the Liberal Party, and his worries about its now being held hostage by the Black Hand faction? That would help a lot, not least by perhaps injecting a bit of backbone into the invertebrates who are presently the conservatives in caucus. It would also go some way to helping Mr Howard protect his own legacy, which can’t help but be battered by a Liberal party implosion. (Recall, for instance, who urged Herr Turnbull to stay in parliament and remember what the GST was supposed to do and what it’s now doing, including to the career prospects of every Liberal from Western Australia.)

So here’s hoping the great former PM John Howard comes out openly and if nothing else at least distances himself from Malcolm Turnbull, with maybe a soupçon of insinuated support for Tony Abbott and for the conservatives in the partyroom.

Right now the broad church that is the Liberal party is just too broad; the so-called Liberal party ‘moderate’ MPs sometimes seem better described as ‘big government, high taxing, social engineering, Green Party sympathisers’.

Come on Mr Howard. You can do it. In fact, it may be that only you can do it. So just do it. Please.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments