Features Australia

Litmus test for the Libs

24 August 2019

9:00 AM

24 August 2019

9:00 AM

Despite ScoMo’s ‘miracle’ victory over the now almost forgotten Bill Shorten, and much Liberal party celebrating over the apparent return to the fold of the ‘Dis-Cons’, a more sober assessment of the current state of play with the Liberal party base would suggest that the party’s parliamentarians should tread very warily, and rein in its increasingly cocky left faction.

Yet what do we have instead? We have the party’s yawn over Tony Abbott’s exit, the merely token inclusion of conservatives on the frontbench in Canberra, the silence of ScoMo on issues that ignite conservative rage, the shovelling of taxpayer money to non-sinking Pacific Islands to win green cred, and, worst of all, the party’s grubby involvement in the passage-by-stealth of radical new abortion laws in New South Wales. The last has the conservative wing of the party  ‘hot’ with anger, to quote one NSW MP.  A senior NSW Minister has called the whole episode ‘disgraceful’.

So it is with some interest that conservatives, both within the party and outside it, will observe the outcomes of two upcoming Senate pre-selections. While much of the attention has focused on New South Wales and the Liberal Senate disruptor-in-chief, the widely respected and extremely popular Jim Molan, there is another, more imminent pre-selection coming up in Victoria.

There, the frontrunner is one Sarah Henderson, the recently defeated Member for the Geelong-based seat of Corangamite. Henderson has strong support from the Liberal party powers-that-be, who are pressing pre-selectors to vote for her in the ballot on 8 September.

Should conservatives be pleased with a Henderson victory?

Well, first of all, she was a rare electoral loser for the Coalition at the 18 May election. Despite their fears, the Liberals in Victoria generally contained the swings against the Government. But that didn’t save Sarah, notwithstanding much largesse pushed Geelong’s way. This included a ten year $355m Geelong City Deal to ‘turbo charge’ the region’s economy, announced on 11 March this year ahead of the election.

Second, Henderson voted for what one celebrated conservative visitor to these shores recently termed the ‘snake’, Malcolm Turnbull, in the infamous leadership spill in September 2015. The appalling defenestration of Tony Abbott was an event that, for Dis-Cons, will forever live in infamy. Disagreeing with the majority of her colleagues who came to see that the whole Turnbull experiment had been an unmitigated disaster, Henderson doggedly stuck with Turnbull in 2018.

Third, Henderson also continued to support that flagship Turnbull-Morrison policy disaster, the National Energy Guarantee, when others with more sense saw that it should be quietly discarded.    The ‘disastrously self-imploding’ NEG, built on ‘global warming lunacy’, to quote Terry McCrann, was a non-solution to rocketing power prices, a mark of support for the mindless emissions reduction cult, and a signal failure of the Turnbull government.

Perhaps Henderson’s support for the NEG should not be surprising, given her previous vocal cheer-squadding for the great wind-farm scam, a scam described by the estimable Maurice Newman as ‘a crime against the people’. Unkind observers in Victoria have referred to Henderson as a ‘closet green’ in Liberal clothing.

What about the lightning rod issue of same-sex marriage, with associated conservative fears over the freedom of conscience ramifications of the progressivist turn? Well, Henderson was quite a presence amid the ruckus which upended traditional marriage in 2017. She was, indeed, outspoken, with her words actually used in the Yes campaign’s promotional material. Vote Yes was co-led by one Alex Greenwich, now, alas, a household name in New South Wales.

In 2015, Henderson’s stated support for a move away from Liberal support for traditional marriage (then party policy) and towards a conscience vote, was seen as critical to the gay lobby’s push in the party room.

A local Christian pastor in Corangamite spoke of Henderson’s  ‘capitulation to the gay lobby’. The latter was thrilled at Henderson’s key role.

Geelong for Marriage Equality is extremely happy that through Sarah Henderson the Corangamite LGBTI community and their families and friends will now have a voice in parliament. Those who are now fearful of the future in regard to freedom of conscience, post-Folau, may be alarmed at Ms Henderson’s record in the parliament on this issue.

In the vote on the gay marriage legislation in 2017, Henderson had a bet each way. She supported two Coalition amendments, indeed moving one, that appeared to apply the brakes a little on the same-sex marriage legislation. Yet, of the seven amendments making explicit conscience protections that actually went to a vote, Henderson voted against the most significant five. Her claims since to have been a champion of religious freedom – clearly an attempt to curry favour with conservatives – are therefore both hollow and misleading. Her each-way bet should fool no one. It merely provided her with useful cover. An insurance policy.

Given the policy positions taken by Ms Henderson and her unfailing support of the ‘Malchurian Candidate’ to the bitter end, one thing is very clear. Sarah Henderson is no conservative, but rather the woke Liberal leftist from central casting.  This is despite her apparent recent overtures towards the right in Victoria.

The high level support for her in the Liberal party and the pushing of the line that 8 September is a ‘done deal’, may also grate with pre-selectors, who can get very cranky in the face of done deals.  Remember Mundine and Gilmore.

The party of Photios should not forget that the Coalition only won in May because its opponent was that rare combination of stupid and dangerous, a happy circumstance not likely to be repeated.  And its majority is wafer thin. There is a growing fear on the right in Australia that the Morrison government will simply continue to disappoint. There is also a sense of impatience, even anger, at the failure of so-called conservative governments in Australia to address the issues that matter to ‘silent Australians’, in ways that international conservative leaders are. And at the failure here to push back against the drumming march of the progressive Left. The NSW Liberal government now knows just what this conservative anger can look like.

We will all be watching the Victorian pre-selection, then, with great interest.

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