Flat White

Election eve thoughts on the least worst of the least worst

17 May 2019

2:00 AM

17 May 2019

2:00 AM

High Commissioner to London George Brandis brings the election day charity sausage sizzle to the largest polling booth of them all, Australia House.

Enough with the depressing Australian election. My wife and I went to vote yesterday in London at Australia House. This was not the first day of early voting but even so the queue was fairly lengthy. All the main political parties had people wandering up and down handing out the ‘how to vote’ bumpf, though those working for the Greens outnumbered the others (this is London afterall). The Liberal volunteers weren’t all that knowledgeable I’m afraid to say. Two or three tried to get me to take their fliers which I declined making it clear that I was a disgruntled apostate who would probably hold his nose and put the Libs ahead of Labor and the Greens but that they’d be third last. I also made clear I thought the party was a mess, that it stood for nothing, and that it had been hijacked by a managerial class that cared for nothing other than the jobs it afforded them.

One Liberal canvasser asked me for an example. ‘Putting Jim Molan in an unwinnable fourth spot on the NSW Senate slot’, I replied. The campaign worker was a tad gobsmacked. ‘Did we do that?’, he asked me. ‘Well, if you open up your “how to vote in NSW” information there in your hand’, I continued, ‘I think you’ll see that Molan has been relegated to a spot below no-name apparatchiks’. The young Lib canvasser then checked and was dumbfounded. ‘Why did we do that?’, he asked. So I gave him my ‘the party’s been taken over by factions, the worst being the Black Hand brigade’ spiel.

Basically the state of Australian politics is awful. I say that irrespective of who wins. On what planet does Scott Morrison think that throwing a ton of money at new house buyers at the lower end of the market A) won’t almost immediately be matched by Labor and B) is a good idea? The Libs are almost as bad as Labor in the big government, high spending stakes. Sure, I agree that Labor is worse. But the main party on our side of politics now looks so bad if you just look at it and not the even worse other team that it could drive you to despair.

Who first attacked superannuation and the core commitment to reward thrift and a lifetime of saving? It was Kelly O’Dwyer and the Libs under Herr Turnbull, with the likely result that Labor can do so with little ability for the Libs’ to object in any effective way. It’s one thing to never touch something and be committed never to doing so. It’s quite another to undermine it this far and then try to say ‘but no further than that’. No one takes you seriously. So there’s the superannuation fiasco.

Then there’s also (under PMs Abbott and Turnbull and Morrison) the giving up on free speech. Why can’t our side of politics unwind any of the initiatives Labor and Greens bring in that undermine a free society? How many moronic Lib MPs said, almost explicitly, ‘free speech is a third order issue’? (Presumably they were busy increasing spending and didn’t think cultural and social issues mattered, as they’d already thrown in the towel on those.) It gets better of course. If and when Labor wins and seeks to extend the inroads into speech that the God-awful s.18C hate speech laws make, what will the Libs say then? ‘Well, we didn’t think we’d bother to do anything about the inroads s.18C already made but these additions are too much for us.’ Will that be their line? Good looking running that sort of line of argument. Basically it’s incoherent. If it matters, fix it. If it doesn’t, then a little more of the Big Government telling you what you can say won’t really matter.

Then there’s the total lack of principle that allows what is supposed to be a small government party to sign up to the monopolistic NBN, to the NDIS, to the renewables rent-seeking industry (just not to the same extent as Electricity Bill), to taking more revenue from taxpayers, to throwing a half billion dollars away over a lunch, the list goes on.

Then there is the total lack of any commitment to federalism emanating from the Coalition. In many ways I believe that Australia’s poor recent performance flows from how federalism in this country has been emasculated. Yes, the main culprits are the top judges on the High Court of Australia. But you know what, when the Libs are in office they virtually never appoint federalist to that court. Brandis’s picks, most of which were awful on a host of criteria, did not contain a single, solitary federalist. Off the top of my head I think you have to go back to Ian Callinan to think of a committed federalist on the High Court of Australia. So the Liberal party on judicial appointments can become devotees of diversity, it just will be a diversity of reproductive organs rather than of outlooks on federalism.

There is also the pathetic surrender of the Libs as regards our universities and the ABC. I couldn’t believe PM Morrison threw a few tens of millions at the ABC just as he was announcing the election. Okay, I could. What I couldn’t believe is that anyone in the Liberal Party thought that might help to buy off an out-of-control and transparently biased public broadcaster.

I could go on but then I’d need more to drink after writing this. Yes, I held my nose and preferenced the Libs (though I did not put them as a first preference because I didn’t want them to get public money that flows with first preference votes won).

Let me put it in these terms to close. I went and read Mark Latham’s recent maiden speech in the NSW parliament. And then it hit me. I have far, far more in common with Latham’s views than with those of 90 percent of federal Liberal Party MPs.   Many are pseudo-professional politicians. Most are likely to adopt different positions after being elected – for one of many examples take a look at Tim Wilson’s views on global warming and renewables before and after winning his seat in Parliament. Others, like Julian Leeser, have been seduced by the idea of giving one group of Australians a special constitutional role and say that others of us won’t get – something that I would have thought would be anathema to a ‘liberal’ party whose name implies its focus is on the individual not what group he or she (or whatever package of pronouns is now added to those by these PC politicos) happens to have been born into.

But listen. Team Morrison is better than Team Shorten. And PM Morrison is undoubtedly better than PM Turnbull. So I held my nose and voted for the Libs. But I wouldn’t blame any of you who didn’t.

Illustration: George Brandis/Facebook.

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