“A strong conservative with genuine conviction could deliver the government Australia now sorely needs” - Piers Ackerman

March 13, 2018

Paul Kelly wrote in The Weekend Australian last Saturday about the challenges conservatives face.

Kelly implies that conservatism's custodians are mainly within the Coalition, making only passing mention of the Australian Conservatives.

Senator Cory Bernardi addressed many of Kelly's concerns last Saturday with his opinion piece in The Spectator Australia.

Paul Kelly wrote:

“In Australia there is not a single leader among the six premiers and Prime Minister who is a self-declared conservative. The triumph conservatives enjoyed with Tony Abbott’s 2013 victory has surrendered to frustration under Malcolm Turnbull, who is not a conservative and shuns the label.”

True conservatives do not believe in massive public deficits and debt, they believe in governments that pay their way.

True conservatives want a US president capable of extolling the values of democracy and freedom against the rival Chinese model of state capitalism and dictatorial repression.

Kelly continued:

"Conservatives in Australia, far more than in the US or Britain, have almost no cultural power, little institutional power and have suffered near-annihilation in schools and universities."

"The cultural ascendancy of the progressives has been a long and turbulent 40-year story originating with Gough Whitlam. The personal success of Howard as PM for 11 years merely disguised the extent to which progressives were taking control of institutions."

"In the US and Australia today the idea of a common culture is eroding. Ultimately, this threatens both sides of both politics, since their ability to hold together a majority coalition of voters across shared values becomes harder if not impossible."

"The failure of conservatism today in the Liberal party is on vivid display when contrasted with the Government of John Howard. He surprised his opponents and the progressive class by turning his interpretation of conservatism into a weapon of  political attack and electoral gain — yes, electoral gain."

"The grounds on which he fought told the story — gun laws, national sovereignty by halting unauthorised arrivals, national security, social conservatism, mutual obligation and individual responsibility, consumer choice and middle-class self-improvement, and a cultural agenda that spanned the patriotism of the Anzac legend, the bush ethos and monarchical stability."

"There are three lessons from the Howard era that remain highly relevant. First, conservatism, like all movements, is lost without a leader whose task is to reinterpret the movement for the times and who delivers by exercising power. Second, it is a mistake to present conservatism as a rigid ideology, since that triggers the scepticism of the Australian public, but rather to frame initiatives as being practical, based in common sense, values and in the public interest."

"Third, conservatism’s success depends on tactical political judgement. Howard, for example, never restored knighthoods as PM nor would he have given a knighthood to the Duke of Edinburgh."

"On the other hand, Howard as PM would have launched a high-profile national campaign against the Safe Schools program promoting gender and sexual diversity in schools, a campaign the current Liberal government declined to launch while insisting on reforms."

"In short, don’t fight battles you are destined to lose. By picking battles you can win, your cause wins traction, prestige and more followers. Too many conservatives today break the Howard rules — they run on the wrong issues with implausible arguments, fail to persuade, delude themselves into thinking the silent majority is with them, and get shot down when the contest becomes serious."

"The Liberal Party will not succeed while conservatism remains in crisis. Conservatism is too integral to the heart and soul of the party."

As The Sunday Telegraph's columnist Piers Ackerman wrote last weekend, “A strong conservative with genuine conviction could deliver the government Australia now sorely needs.”

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