It’s a good time to be a Conservative in Australia

by on 17 July, 2012

Rath Pic

Christopher Rath celebrates the successes of conservatism in Australia – and proposes a benchmark on how a future Abbott Government could be judged: 

It’s a good time to be a Conservative in Australia…. And when I say conservative, I refer to contemporary conservatism that is still rooted in the socially conservative tradition of Edmund Burke and the economic liberalism as espoused by Adam Smith. Previously this conservatism had been the driving force behind the Thatcherites, the Reaganites and the Howardites (if such a word hasn't been used then I would be its founder and strongest adherent). 

Obviously I don't mean that Australia is more conservative today than in the 1800s, nor do I live in hope that we can return to 17th century Britain, despite my High Tory ideals at times. However, the culture war seems to have shifted in our favour compared to 2007 and certainly since the dark days of the Keating era.   

Many of my conservative friends are pessimistic about Australia’s future and people that know me would attest that I am certainly not a utopian either. However, of late I have found seven reasons to be optimistic about our great nation.

1. Support for Australia's Constitutional Monarchy is at a 25 year high according to a Roy Morgan poll in June this year. Support for a Republic is now at only 35% and I am sure that the 35% in question all have different preferred models of their République in mind.

2. Non-Government School Students as a proportion of Australian students has increased from approximately 20% in the 1970s to almost 35% today.  Around 90% of these non-Government schools are Catholic or from other Christian denominations.  There is no greater unifying issue amongst conservatives and libertarians than choice in education.     

3. Trade Union membership has collapsed. Trade union membership rates of over 50% of the workforce in the 1950s/60s/ 70s has now declined to a mere 18%. Trade unions not only create unemployment and inefficiency through unrealistic wage demands, they are also the arch nemesis of the Liberal Party and conservatism.    

4. The Catholic Church has largely improved since the 1990s, especially under the guidance of Cardinal Pell. Orthodoxy is slowly supplanting the liberal secular catholicism of the 1970s and 80s. Furthermore, Pentecostalism is on the rise with an explosion in adherents at places like Hillsong. Out of the 238,000 Pentecostals in Australia, three-quarters of them attend church every Sunday, far superseding the poor attendance of other denominations.  The first time that I went to a Pentecostal church in Wollongong they played a 5 minute video clip in defence of marriage by the Australian Christian Lobby. It was very refreshing to be amongst friends.

5. Victory on the climate change debate is now in sight. During the dark days of 2006-2009 conservatives were clearly losing the climate change debate. We were told that our damns would dry up, our crops would die and our seas would displace most of Sydney. We had a Liberal Party under Turnbull that supported an ETS, a Labor Party under a then very popular Kevin Rudd that supported an ETS, the Greens at the pinnacle of their power advocating a virtual return to the stone age with 80% reductions in emissions, 66% of Australians who supported an ETS with only 25% opposing, and if you even hinted at possible inaccuracies in climate change ‘science’ you were censored out of existence or called a ‘climate denier’ as if you were comparable to a war criminal. We can now rejoice that the carbon tax is slowly killing the Gillard Government just as the ETS killed Rudd.     

6. The rise of ANZAC Day, Australia Day and Australian patriotism. The assault on our flag, our history and our public holidays has subsided since the Keating days. 95% of Australians support the statement “The spirit of ANZAC Day (with its human qualities of courage, mateship and sacrifice) continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity”.  We should give John Howard most of the credit here.

7. Tony Abbott and the Liberals have won the last 27 newspolls (2PP) and election victory seems almost imminent. Malcolm Turnbull did not win a single newspoll under his leadership; in fact he was so far behind that the Liberal Party would have been reduced to a mere rump in Parliament had he not been replaced as leader and the ETS opposed. 

The future of Australian Conservatism rests largely with Tony Abbott. The Abbott Government needs to be reformist in the tradition of the Howard years and not a squandered opportunity in the mould of the Fraser Government. The following nine indicators and policies would have to be the litmus test issues in determining whether conservatism has succeeded or failed within 5 years- we should view them as our performance indicators:

1. The protection of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. This is the single most important contemporary issue that conservatives face in Australia today. It is an institution that pre-dates the founding of Australia, the British monarchy and even Christianity itself. If marriage and the family unit are redefined, despite existing for thousands of years and responsible for so much good in society, then conservatives will never be able to credibly argue that they are winning the culture war.

2. Reduction in the size of government.  Most importantly the abolition of government debt together with the carbon tax, mining tax and the student services amenities fee. 

3. A restoration of Howard style immigration policy, similar to the ‘Pacific Solution’. Off shore processing at Nauru and Temporary Protection Visas would have to be reinstated together with a stronger citizenship test not stronger “multiculturalism” (as the left defines it).  

4. The preservation of Australia’s Constitutional Monarchy. This is the tried and tested system that has made Australian democracy the envy of the western world. It isn’t just about defending our history; it’s also about preserving a system of checks and balances that avoids both tyranny and revolution.   

5. Labour market deregulation and the abolition of Fair Work Australia. The Rudd/Gillard system is taking Australia back to a pre-1996 labour market with the sole aim of re-empowering the trade unions. 

6. Victory on the climate change debate and the reduction of the influence, power and votes of the Greens, hopefully to the point where they are as irrelevant as the Australian Democrats. Conservatives who have an environmental conscience need to remember Margaret Thatcher’s words, that global warming is a "marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism".

7. Restoring freedom of speech, which has eroded over recent years on the deplorable grounds of ‘the right not to be offended’. Andrew Bolt, Mark Steyn and the Institute of Public Affairs are doing great work on this.  

8. The abolition of the National Curriculum and tackling the Teacher’s Federation and their indoctrinating agenda head on. The cross-curriculum priorities are Indigenous Australians' histories and culture; Asia and Australia's Engagement with Asia; and Sustainability. There is severe hostility to capitalism and the western world, and such a level of bias that “schools might as well tell students who to vote for”- the title of a recent article by Chris Berg.

9. At least a second term of an Abbott Government with Senator Eric Abetz as Leader of the Government in the Senate. A single term will not be sufficient enough to fix Labor’s mistakes, contain the left and drive a conservative agenda.

It would have been ideal to write extensively on each of the nine performance indicators for success of a new Abbott Government and certainly essays could be written on any individual point mentioned above. However, I though that it was important to start the debate on what conservatives would like to see a new Abbott Government implement or preserve. Only so many articles can be written about the evils of the carbon tax; however, I think that I have been quite realistic in balancing the policies that conservatives would like to see with the pragmatism necessary for any government to stay in power.

We should never compromise our conservative principles, however, we must also not be policy purists, because as Edmund Burke realised, “all government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter”.

Christopher Rath has just completed a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney and has commenced a Masters of Management. He is President of the Throsby Young Liberal Branch and sits on the Federal Young Liberal Executive.   

Christopher Rath has just completed a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney and has commenced a Masters of Management. He is President of the Throsby Young Liberal Branch and sits on the Federal Young Liberal Executive.   


One thought on “It’s a good time to be a Conservative in Australia

  1. Stop trying to use my name to promote your cuckoldry agenda, trying to mask it as conservatism by referring to me.

    And, implying you still have conservative friends you shitlord…

Leave a Reply