Flat White

Why Australian Conservatives will not split the centre-right

23 February 2018

9:32 AM

23 February 2018

9:32 AM

Go or stay? That is the question for disenchanted Liberals pondered by The Spectator earlier this month.

Nationals’ supporters may well also be pondering this question following the tragic personal-but-public Canberra soap opera embroiling the government.

But if good people leave the Coalition parties for the likes of Australian Conservatives, does that just leave the bad guys in charge? That is, in essence, the conundrum.

Watching in disbelief the PC-driven drift to the Left, many conservatives are worried that the barbarians are at the gates of the Liberal and National Parties.

There is a case that the barbarians have actually been running the show for some time.

The real issue is not whether conservatives are leaving the Coalition parties but that the power brokers in the Coalition parties have left conservatives.

In the post-Howard years, it is clear to me that conservatives within the Liberal and National parties are marginalised more and more.

It is generally the Christopher Pyne “winners’ circle” types who call the shots.

It might be a Michael Photios in New South Wales, a George Brandis in Queensland or a Julie Bishop in WA.

Conservatives more often than not yield and make compromises. They accept pre-selection results which send anti-conservatives to Canberra.

This acquiescence is rewarded when “moderates” like Christopher Pyne advocate for “Safe Schools” or five “rebel” MPs threaten to cross the floor unless the government breaks its election promise on marriage.


If conservatives acted like this, there would be hell to pay. But Coalition moderates get away with bad behaviour without even such as a wet lettuce leaf across the knuckles.

As The Spectator itself noted, the Liberals have drifted from the Centre-Right to the soggy centre under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

As The Spectator also noted, Australian Conservatives does not intend to win by making Coalition governments lose.

One Nation tried this and succeeded at the Queensland election.

The Democratic Labor Party succeeded in its quest to punish Labor by keeping it off the treasury benches for 23 years.

So won’t Australian Conservatives simply do the same to the Liberals?

This is where it is worth looking at what has been occurring on the Left of politics for the past 30 years.

Despite Labor’s faux attempts to distance itself from them, the Greens have never cost Labor government.

And while Labor has demanded that the Coalition preference One Nation last as a point of principle, Labor has never taken this position with the Greens.

So toxic are the Greens to the national interest, the moral case for always preferencing them last is overwhelming.

Yet this never happens.

While it is unlikely Australian Conservatives will ever preference a Trent Zimmerman or Warren Entsch, we will preference conservative-leaning candidates who will overwhelmingly be Coalition candidates.

Conservative voters can use the preference system to vote conservative without bringing the house down. The Greens have never kept Labor from winning government. But they have had disproportionate influence.

On many issues now, the Greens and Labor are joined at the hip. That would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

Maybe the day will come when this happens on the centre-right.

Australian Conservatives is not a populist party or a protest party. It can shape Coalition Governments and help stop the mission drift.

We may well be the only thing that saves the Coalition from itself.

So conservatives can go or stay in the confidence that the existence of a better way will not deliver government to Labor.

Australian Conservatives is the leaven needed to ensure common sense does not perish from the earth.

Lyle Shelton is federal communications director for the Australian Conservatives.

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