In Defence of the Establishment

971753_10151574401276107_283040900_nChristopher Rath outlines why the establishment of the Liberal Party exists, and why change from within is the obvious choice for Classical Liberals, Libertarians, and Small Government Conservatives.

The Liberal Party of Australia today is still the John Howard party. The majority of Federal Liberal MPs and Senators served in his Government, most advisers and apparatchiks worked for his Government, and most Young Liberals were inspired to join the Party because of his Government.


I joined the Young Liberals in 2006 at the very young age of 16 because I believed in the economic reform being pursued by the Howard/Costello era. I was a “dry” before I knew what the term meant. I was also a “dry” before I knew that there were “wets” in the Party. I thought that “dry” was the only game in town and Party divisions only existed on social issues.


This is because by the time the 2000s came along the Liberal Party establishment had become “dry”, with the “wets” a minority of outsiders. The “wets” had been the establishment in the 1970s under Fraser but they lost the long bitter war that was waged in the 1980s and 90s. In fact you could say that Fightback! was the final nail in the “wets” coffin; certainly Howard led a thoroughly “dry” government for over eleven years. If the Party establishment was not “dry” perhaps I would have never joined. After all it was Hawke and Keating rather than Fraser who reduced tariff protection, floated the dollar, and began privatising government assets.


I love the Liberal Party establishment because I am bone dry, not in spite of it. My critics in the Young Liberals may call me an “establicon” or establishment conservative as a pejorative, but I wear it as a badge of honour. Being an “establicon” means being “dry”, it means supporting the Premier and Prime Minister, campaigning, raising money, supporting branches to grow, pre-selecting talented men and women, and fostering our best future leaders. It means loving the Liberal Party and our greatest living Australian, John Howard.


Howard was also an “establicon”, from being NSW Young Liberal President in the 1960s to seeking a parliamentary career as quickly as possible. He loved the Party and the establishment more than anyone, perhaps even more than his mentor John Carrick. When he lost the 2007 election and his seat of Bennelong he could have blamed his Treasurer, Cabinet, Parliamentary colleagues or Party machine. Instead, even after he had given 40 years of his life to the Party, 16 years as leader and over eleven years as Prime Minister, he humbly took complete blame for the election loss. In fact he defended and praised the Party on election night 2007- “I owe more to the Liberal Party than the Liberal Party owes to me”.


The people I’ll never understand are those who attack the Party or threaten to resign or somehow think that they’re above the Party. They are not. Not even a Prime Minister of eleven and a half years is above the Party. Similarly I’ll never understand those who claim ideological purity as a reason for preventing their party membership. If you don’t like the Party leadership or policies, you should join the party and make a difference or contribution towards promoting your deeply held beliefs. You’re going to have more influence inside the Party than from the sidelines. You’re not going to change the fact that the Liberal Party is the natural Party of government, being in power two thirds of the time since WWII.


The Liberal Party establishment is not perfect. Not every Liberal Party policy is perfect. But isn’t it better to get 80% of something than 100% of nothing? Isn’t it better to be pragmatic and win an election than being a purist and let Bill Shorten and the trade unions run the nation? All great right-wing leaders understand the importance of pragmatism and the broad church, but again Howard is the master:

“The Liberal Party of Australia is not a party of the hard Right, nor does it occupy the soft centre of Australian politics. It is a party of the centre Right. It is the custodian of two great traditions in Australia’s political experience. It represents both the classical liberal tradition and the conservative tradition.”


Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher understood this and similarly they turned their parties into “dry” pragmatic parties built in their own image. Even Turnbull understands the importance of pragmatism and has neutralised the issues of climate change and same sex marriage early on. But he also understands that the establishment today, unlike the establishment under the other Malcolm in the 1970s, is inherently “dry”. This is why he went out of his way in his victory speech to prove his “dry” credentials, careful not to scare away people like me- “This will be a thoroughly liberal government. It will be a thoroughly liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”


Turnbull’s Ministry is also packed to the rafters with establishment dries, including Mathias Cormann, Paul Fletcher, Arthur Sinodinos, Andrew Robb and Josh Frydenberg. Andrew Robb, the archetypical establishment dry, was an economist, staffer, government relations professional, and the federal director of the Liberal Party responsible for the 1996 campaign that brought the Howard Government to power. As Minister for Trade and Investment he has successfully negotiated three free trade agreements. Similarly Josh Frydenberg is an establishment dry, securing the safe seat of Kooyong after being an adviser to Alexander Downer and John Howard and a Director of Global Banking with Deutsche Bank.


So to all of the libertarians, classical liberals and small government conservatives out there, my plea to you is to join the Liberal Party, support the inherently “dry” establishment which now exists, try to make a difference by pushing for your agenda and philosophy within the natural party of government, and understand that in politics a level of pragmatism is required.


“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” (Otto Von Bismarck)

Christopher Rath is a Young Liberal Branch President and currently works in the private sector. He previously worked as an adviser to state and federal Liberal Parliamentarians and has degrees in economics and management.


After what can be aptly described as the most self-destructive episode in the history of the Australian Labor Party – and yes, I say this even considering the splits of 1917, the 1930s, and 1950s – Labor is now electing its new parliamentary leader writes Michael Smyth  

However for the first time in its history it is allowing its rank-and-file members a direct vote. 50% of the vote will be comprised of the caucus, and the other 50% will be comprised of rank-and-file members. The reforms that led to this may be referred to as a parting shot at the ALP, or mischief, by a nihilistic Kevin Rudd, intent on making them pay for his humiliation at the hands of Julia Gillard.

This may also be cynically called for what it is; window dressing designed to shield the fact that the ALP rank-and-file do not have direct preselections, and are still beholden to the factions. It does provide the ALP with a rare chance to return to its roots and begin being a party that stands for something other than professional hacks with little or no real life experience outside a staffer’s office, or the union movement.

For too long, many would say since the 1990s, the rank-and-file have been neglected, and that Labor had turned its back on its values after the 1996 federal election.  Some might even say that they did so at an earlier juncture, but whatever the case, the fact stands that the ALP is no longer a party of mass appeal, but a catch-all machine designed to win at all costs.

To promise whatever it needs to promise in order to win power, and then maintain it, without letting those promises get in the way of governing.  However, it seems that despite Rudd’s mischief, the bloodletting in the aftermath of the 2013 federal election has been relatively civilised.  

Rudd stepped down with a grace that was absent after his removal by Gillard, albeit after gloating that the ALP had not been utterly destroyed in a Coalition landslide. The men most likely to contest, duly put their hands up to nominate for the leadership.

What is relatively civilised about this is that neither of the men has attacked the other, although the same cannot be said about certain supporters of each nominee, both inside caucus and among the community at large.  Let’s look at each of the nominees for the ALP leadership.

Bill Shorten, a former Secretary of the AWU holds a BA/LLB, came to prominence during the Beaconsfield mine collapse and upon election to Parliament in 2007, was immediately appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services and subsequently pushed for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.  

In 2010, he urged Julia Gillard to replace Rudd as Prime Minister, and shortly after he was promoted to the Ministry, further cementing his power base within the caucus and the ALP at large.

Anthony Albanese, a former staffer to Tom Uren (a one-time deputy leader of the ALP), who holds an Economics degree from Sydney University, professed a devout commitment to progressivism in his maiden speech. He has enjoyed a gradual rise to prominence, eventually becoming Leader of the House after Labor’s victory in 2007.  

Due to his relentless attacks on Tony Abbott, and his admission in 2012 that he likes “… fighting Tories.  That’s what I do”, he became popular within the ALP as a headkicker.

There is plenty more written about these two nominees elsewhere online and in print, but what is important to note is that both of these nominees are strong performers, and whoever wins the leadership will probably provide a strong challenge to the Coalition government.  However, the dangers for each are as follows.

If Shorten is elected as Leader, he will have to overcome the perception that he is dishonest, untrustworthy, and – in the words of a Left-wing friend – “poison”.  If Albanese is elected as Leader, he could face the same relentless negativity that he directed towards Abbott, ironically while referring to Abbott as nothing but negative.

Shorten has the ALP establishment behind him, but Albanese has the rank-and-file backing him.  For this reason, some on the Right have dismissed Albanese as a credible leader for the ALP, but they forget that Abbott was also once dismissed as ever being a potential party leader. This was despite the fact he was appointed by John Howard as Leader of the House.  

Albanese and Abbott are, in a perverse way, similar in terms of their pugilism in regards to political opposition, and in a mature way, similar in terms of their passion and beliefs.  The differences between the two are about values first, ideology second.  Were they outside politics they’d probably be good friends, but politics is a battle of ideas that leaves no quarter in terms of its engagement.

Shorten is a machine man, lacking the passion to invigorate a demoralised and dysfunctional Labor Party, but he knows how to manipulate the media.  Albanese is a vulgar man, who prefers brawl to brainstorm, but he has a passion and genuine belief in his causes, and should be noted and respected as a credible threat to the prospective hegemony of the Centre-Right in Australia for the next decade.  

If Shorten wins, and in the first term that is highly unlikely, barring a Great Depression style event, he will be burned by defeat at the next federal election, and forced to step down.  If Albanese wins, however, he could end up going the same way as Beazley in 1998; winning the popular vote, but not enough seats in the House of Representatives.  

Who will win the contest for the leadership? The prize of which is to drink from Labor’s cup of sorrows, a poisoned chalice the likes of which are rarely seen in the democratic world. It must be noted that neither of the nominees should be underestimated, whoever wins.

For the Coalition to take for granted the idea that they have at least six years in power would be extremely unwise. Labor did that in 2007, and they failed to win the election in their own right in 2010. The following three years of minority government were amongst the most polarising in living memory and looked back on with bitterness by the majority of Australians.  

The next three years, for both Labor and the Coalition, must be years of healing, but the task for Labor is much greater, as they are yet to start.

Michael F Smyth writes from Brisbane, Queensland 

MUST READ: A Health Warning For Liberals

Medicine is pressured by a radical socialist transformation

Medicine is pressured by a radical socialist transformation. Some of this is top down. Much of it is bottom up, writes Dr Grant N Ross

2 years I was the Melbourne University Liberal Club’s token doctor.
Turning up late, or never, I would always be out of kilter with JSM,
political theories and fights of the day and somewhat under the
impression that Kroger was a kind of cheese. 
being a stereotype got me over the line.

would like to redeem my standing by attempting to write about the
direction of health under Labor and the alternative policy direction
the Liberal Party should choose when in Government.

feel that there is a need f
or a Liberal establishment to take note of
the direction of health under Roxon and Plibersek and to hear the
story I am about to tell about the pressures within medicine that
will come to change the way doctors do politics for the next 20
years. All is not well, and I want to tell you why.

we speak, Medicine is pressured by a radical socialist
of this is top down. Much of it is bottom up.

The Top Down 

the top down, there have been a series of reforms that:

  • Create
    a greater role for government in health

  • Are
    mostly anti-doctor

  • Occurred
    without significant consultation with the medical profession

  • Involved
    the creation of enormous layers of bureaucracy to centrally manage
    an existing private industry

  • Prioritised
    special interests and unions rather than the front line service

reforms include the creation of many different councils to
micromanage various health care aims instead of directly funding
practitioners; and by doing so orchestrate a transfer of power away
from practitioners and patients towards bureaucrats and their

quick list of the agencies and bureaucracies created by federal Labor
include the following:

  • Australian
    commission on safety and quality of healthcare

  • National
    Health performance authority

  • Independent
    Hospital Pricing Authority

  • The
    Administrator and funding body

  • Medicare

  • Australian
    Medical Locals Network

  • Australian
    national preventative health agency

  • Local
    Hospital Networks

  • Health
    Workforce Australia

  • Aged
    Care Reform Implementation Council

  • Mental
    Health Commission

  • Aged
    Care Financing Authority

are three cardinal reforms by Labor that have made things worse in
health; national registration, Prescribing and Medicare Locals.


2010 we have had the imposition of a massive tax on doctors by way of
a National Registration reform by Nicola Roxon.
Previously, doctors were registered to a state body but are now
registered to the Australian Health Practitioners Registration
Agency; a centralised national authority.

formed by Labor to ‘facilitate’ national registration, imposes a
$680 ‘Doctor Tax’ on doctors every year; much higher than
previously imposed. The agency’s role, it seems, is to run a police
check once a year, keep names on a register and then deal with a
doctor if they do something wrong by threatening or taking away the
legal right to practice Medicine.

most doctors agree on the need for professional regulation, nobody
accepted the AHPRA model being imposed in the face of a functioning
previous system.

is an overwhelming sentiment among the medical community that the
AHPRA reforms are decidedly anti-doctor. Firstly, they removed
semi-autonomy from the previous state based QUANGOs. Secondly, the
AHPRA came about against the wishes of the AMA and the medical
profession at large. Thirdly, doctors have to pay extraordinarily
higher registration fees. Fourthly, AHPRA lumps doctors together with
other health professionals in an overt breach of professional


Footnote I – The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law came into effect in 2010. Whilst it was a COAG agreement, AHPRA was a cornerstone commitment of Labor and driven largely by their political agenda and under mostly government influence.

is most worrying is that the registration reforms are a direct step
towards the complete Federal take over of health; via monopolising
the licensing of ALL health professionals in the country to one
federally controlled agency. This should be interpreted as a step
towards government socialisation of the entire health workforce. 

is quite sure what will happen in the future with AHPRA. I would look
at it as a dysfunctional way of registering doctors and a target for
reform under a Liberal government.

under Labor

Labor reforms have particularly offended the medical profession by
allowing nurses and other non-doctors to prescribe medications.
Prescribing has long been the privilege of the physician, a deeply
difficult and precise business and the Government have legislated for
non doctors to prescribe dangerous medications.

still do not agree with this. Below is an example of a lethal
medication that should not be given to people in a range of
circumstances ranging from addiction to intra cranial conditions that
is available from a nurse with no medical training. 


Footnote II – accessed 6/11/2012
nobody would wish the loss of political capital by enabling more
practitioners to prescribe, a government should make a principled
stand on prescribing and give that right exclusivity to those who
lead the health system; doctors. Put simply, do not politicize
opiates; morphine is a drug, not an entitlement. We are all better
off without this gray zone.

Practice and the Medicare Locals

Locals are essentially the creation of large bureaucracies all across
Australia to control the delivery of General Practice services.
Marking the greatest shift of power away from the functioning private
sector to yet more bureaucrats, these organizations claim to
‘coordinate resources’, ‘identify gaps in access’ and other
nebulous imperatives.

are really about creating a centralized bureaucracy, more removed
from front line services, to control the allocation of General
Practice visits. Most of these agencies will be run by non-doctors
with political agendas. This
redirect front line funding.

most left leaning elitists and pundits would label a move against
Medicare Locals as ‘protectionism’ for doctors, it should be a
Liberal priority for several reasons.

for service, rather than centralized allocation, is the most
efficient form of funding for primary care. Doctors alone deliver the
vast majority of primary care via their minute to minute labor.
Direct funding is clearly superior.

reinforcing private practice builds trust within the medical
profession and empowers doctors to deliver good care for their

it builds on the only model that can safely deliver cost effective
health care in a flexible and dynamic way. There is pragmatism within
the medical profession that is unrivaled in history. Pragmatism
requires individual liberty. It is the antithesis of bureaucracy.

should be allowed to govern how they arrange their practice and the
market is the best way to ensure that each patient finds the doctor
they prefer. We all know that we would prefer to choose our doctor
when we need them; not when the government tells us.

have written about three big players in the health reform agenda of
the last 5 years. National Registration and the step towards
socialist health system, widening of prescribing rights and finally
the complete government takeover of General Practice. These are just
a few example of the top down socialist pressures on health that I
have noticed. 
they are not the most worrying change ahead of us.

for us, Peter Dutton, Shadow Minister for Health, has already
demonstrated his capacity for reform by pledging to scrap the
Medicare Locals and GP super clinics.

is an ex policemen, successful businessman, ex-Minister in the Howard
Government and assistant treasurer to the great Peter Costello. He is
clearly a man who understands health and has a distinct policy vision
to restore the health system to a position of strength, rather than
interference and bureaucratization. I believe he will be warmly
welcomed by the medical community and be one of the best advocates
for the restoration of a sensible health system.

The Bottom Up 


have spoken about some of the top down pressures in a socialist
direction on the health system. I would like to talk briefly about
some of the pressures from the bottom up, that only a doctor can see,
that are still pertinent to the Liberal agenda.

the fantasia reforms of the Roxon/Plibersek era are anything to lose
sleep over, they are nothing on the bottom up forces plaguing
medicine at a much more sinister level.

my entry into medicine as a first year student in 2006, the values
underpinning medicine have been rampantly veering towards the left.
The pressures mounting from the bottom, aka medical school
environments, are horrendously aligned with ALP and Greens stigmata.
For those who thought that foaming at the mouth socialism and
bureaucratic elitism were limited to the confines of the Arts
departments, you are wrong.

Medical schools themselves have pursued a long march style reform
into the medical degree; especially in the selection of candidates.
Traditionally, school leavers were selected based on ENTER/ATAR score
and the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Tests. No test is perfect,
but the principle was that admission was based on objective academic
capacity; with a view to selecting bright school leavers (whether
advantaged or otherwise).

principle cemented medicine as being about academic capacity,
something worth its salt in any market, rather than ‘social
equity’. This is the right way for things to be.

courses almost universally select via interview. You can dress up how
‘official’ and ‘standardized’ your interviews are, but they
remain the quintessence of subjective selection. That is the purpose
of interviews. They are effectively a mechanism to allow people to
form a personal opinion on a candidate. And exercise bias. 


a background of the inherent socialist tendencies of education at
both secondary and tertiary level, the reforms to selection have
outright enabled the medical schools to pursue a political agenda
that aims to expand the role of government in healthcare, involve
medicine into a nexus of government social equality agendas and
further the promotion of minority special interests to any particular
degree. This is the definition of long-marching.


results of these efforts are now coming to fruition. Medicine is
becoming overtaken by special interest group after special interest
group, all vying to dictate the rules of medical practice and
employment, values and principles in an ever growing mountain of
elitist control. The effects of this can be seen via organizations
such as the Australian Medical Students Association, the Post
Graduate Medical Council of Victoria and even the Medical Journal of
Australia and the Australian Medical Association; a nexus of
bureaucratic woe:


Footnote III –

organizations are replete with bureaucratic choke holds and
indecisive post modern ‘collaboration tactics. The result,
obviously, is what we have seen under Kevin Rudd: Power from the
people to their overlords in an ever growing unholy alliance of
bureaucrats, red tape and pathetic backyard politicians who would
rather do anything to promote themselves rather than a good idea. It
promotes ‘sellout politics’ and betrays the individuals who
together make medicine what it is and what gives individuals the
right to be free in this country. 
long as this framework persists, doctors will be worse off and
patients will be worse off. 

the moment, the AMA can be proud of the leadership it has had.
Brendan Nelson went on to become Liberal Party Leader. Rosanna
Capolingua was clearly Liberal, Michael Wooldridge kept General
Practice sustainable and independent. Steve Hambleton, current AMA
leader, stands for sensible restraint and genuinely aims to protect
autonomy for doctors. We have been lucky. But I am not so sure about
our future. Just look at what the ever growing Australian Medical
Association calls for on Climate Change:


Footnote IV –
  • Australian
    Medical Student Association


    Footnote V – Australian Medical Students 2010 Policy Document Climate Change and Health see website
  • The
    Australian Medical Association’s is little better than the student
    body in this regard:

Footnote VI –

think I have made my case. 
anybody in the Coalition did have a silver bullet to stop the long
march, they’d immediately be preselected for a golden safe seat. I
am not that man.

if we were to theoretically look at reversing the political bias
pressuring medicine in Australia, I would start with reforms that
target medical selection, medical training, the de-bureaucratisation
of medical registration at the junior level and aim to move the
governance of medical training away from University bureaucrats and
elitist back to grassroots doctor groups.

would help. 
is an argument for such change on the basis that it restores
efficiency and principles of autonomy to the medical profession and
by extension of that, to patients. It would be one hell of an effort,
but I honestly do not believe it to be beyond an Abbott government to
achieve in some capacity.

other issues are perennial for Liberals; especially for those of us
who have campaigned on campus. The fight against bureaucrats, against
elitists and to genuinely reform education in this country in the way
that David Cameron is trying in England. Perhaps some of the above
changes could be caught up in a commission of audit. I would like to
see that. But I don’t know. I am not a politician.


a doctor, I naturally bring more of a background of social sciences
and welfare to the Liberal table than I do tax reform and economics.

However, there is a need for a Liberal establishment to take note of
the direction of health reform that the Roxon and Plibersek ministry
has imposed on health and a need to identify them as inefficient,
retrograde, centralist and to be removed as needed. Equally important
is the message I would like to impart about the need to think about
what is needed to prevent the medical establishment being long
marched into foot soldiers for the ALP.

remember, health accounts for 12-17% of spending and employs 11% of
all Australians. That is one hell of a voter base to lose to the

Dutton has a lot to contribute to health in the next Liberal
Government. Autonomy, efficiency and restraint will serve our country
well. Similarly, I encourage young Liberals in rising positions of
leadership to consider the principles of a sound health system as
they develop their policy directions.

The electorate expect a good
health system and we have no excuse for leaving ourselves weak on
this front from a simple lack of knowledge.

Grant N Ross MBBS B.Med Sci is a medical practitioner and graduate of
Melbourne University.



I – The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law came into effect
in 2010. Whilst it was a COAG agreement, AHPRA was a cornerstone
commitment of Labor and driven largely by their political agenda and
under mostly government influence.

II –

see About AMSA accessed 6/11/2012

IV –

V – Australian Medical Students 2010 Policy Document Climate Change
and Health see website

VI –

Sockpuppet Diaries

Impressions of elections past and present are a mixed bag

Impressions of elections past and present are a mixed bag, writes Tim Humphries.

Labor people remember fondly the 'It's Time' election and Liberal voters fondly remember the 'Dismissal'. I'm tempted to think Mark Latham was correct in reflecting on the 2007 election as the Seinfeld Election 

An interesting aside in this Cirque du Soleil game of politics is the trotting out of 'Infrastructure' as a vote winner. New connection roads and highspeed rail remain the ethereal non-core electoral drug of choice.  

Weirdly enough that particular project is actually progressing! Truth be told I won't believe it until I ride the train from my old digs right into the Brisbane, CBD and see pigs fly out of cannons at the opening ceremony.

To think people talked about that project right back when the horse and cart was still an acceptable mode of transportation. The truth remains there is a disconnect that exists between political meta-narrative and practical reality.

Any current politicians reading this should take careful note of what I'm about to say. The Australian people love the idea of big vision and big ideas for the long term. However they also like seeing a thing called 'deliverables' that communicates how it impacts them.

Deliverables need to be achieved through a budget that is atleast somewhat stable in its composition. Fitting within this is the neat process of politicians standing to a podium, delivering the orthodoxy of a message and then actually delivering through orthopraxy. Julia Gillard has failed on both fronts.

Bill Clinton said 'campaign in poetry, govern in prose'. The future of Australia will depend on the ability of leaders who can campaign on orthodoxy and deliver through orthopraxy.

What this country needs isn't mealy-mouthed promises and childish game playing around revealing all just before the election. This country needs throaty pronouncements, chest beating, soap box ranting and more importantly a vision that is easily accessible for those making the decision. 

The sort of word picture stuff you see in historical film archives. A time and place when curly Air Force style moustaches were all the rage.

The problem with modern politics is the microcosmic compressed reality of polling data, followed by panic, followed by polling data, followed by unceremonious removal of a leader. If we're honest with ourselves the horse race mentality isn't sustainable.

Hopefully election 2013 instead of delivering sockpuppet tomfoolery will instead deliver serious reform that can be communicated not just as possible, but deliverable. 

Timothy W. Humphries is Assistant Managing Editor of Menzies House. Tim is currently working on developing a television comedy.

Union progression towards White Australia

Major Karnage notes that "progressives" are taking us back

I recently had a long conversation with a Union representative who was trying to convince me that I was wrong about the Australian Union movement. As I explained, my thoughts are generally that I am theoretically in favour of an organised workforce and I have no qualms with workers coming together to demand certain rights – but this is no longer what the Union movement is (which is the reason I capitalise the “u”).

From my perspective, Australian Unions are mostly opaque, bloated, entrenched organisations that represent a very small portion of the workforce. Their institutionalisation and the extend to which they are favoured by successive Labor governments have given them hubris, to the point where they seem to care more about perpetuating their own existence than actually doing anything in the interest of Australia’s workforce and spend a lot of time playing political games instead of concentrating on their nominal mission.

What bothers me the most is the dogmatic adherence to certain anachronistic principles because these used to be good for “workers”. I see absolutely no self-reflection and no desire to reevaluate the policies of the movement in light of the world that we live in. As I have noted before, this has resulted in Australia having ridiculous penalty rates and bad teachers.

Well here’s yet another example, which follows this post:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told: migrants or the mine | The Australian.

In an increasingly bitter dispute over the management of the mining boom, ministerial splits are emerging within the Gillard government and unions have started a racist campaign to hound West Australian-based minister Gary Gray from his seat. …

Yesterday, five unions ran a full-page newspaper advertisement in Mr Gray’s seat of Brand, south of Perth, alluding to high levels of indigenous unemployment and accusing the Special Minister of State and former ALP national secretary of not standing up for “Aussie jobs”.

Joe McDonald, the assistant secretary of the West Australian branch of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, accused Mr Gray last night of betraying Australians and vowed to run a union campaign to get rid of him.

“He’s betrayed the people of his constituency,” Mr McDonald told The Weekend Australian. “He’s betrayed them. He should pack up and piss off. If the union movement puts a politician in, they shouldn’t forget where they came from and if they do then we should piss them off and put someone else in.”

Last night Mr Gray, who won his seat with a margin of just 3 per cent in 2010, said EMAs, for which projects with more than $2bn in investment and 1500 jobs are eligible, would create “many, many mining jobs for Australians”.

Note that the story calls the campaign against Gray “racist”. I don’t like when a news story editorialises like this, but in this case I don’t see a lot of other ways to describe it.

The CFMEU is notionally a “progressive” Union, yet its officials are spouting rhetoric that would not have been out of place during the days of the White Australia Policy. I am also disgusted by the way that McDonald is threatening to remove Gray from Parliament if he doesn’t “play ball”.

This is the tragedy of Australia’s major social democrat party being beholden to these groups; it is also a problem that the Union rep in the conversation that I mentioned above did not seem to understand. The current system of preselection means that we get exactly the wrong people into Parliament. A few conversations between key people within the Union movement or the ALP can be enough to get someone a safe seat for life – the process is completely opaque and prone to corruption and abuse. Once there, do/say the wrong thing and upset the wrong people and goodbye – no matter what the public may want. (Incidentally, this is not a partisan issue. Union movement aside, the same principle holds for the Liberal party.)

So now we have a situation where the Government is being pressured from inside to bow to xenophobic demands and prevent people who want to come to Australia and contribute to the country’s economy from doing so. They are also using arguments like this gem from Senator Doug Cameron:

Good jobs for Aussies is not a miner matter |

Since when was it unreasonable to expect that highly profitable mining companies should provide Australian workers with the skill upgrading, training, travel support and accommodation to ensure they have genuine access to employment opportunities?

I am constantly amazed by the Union mentality that the way to achieve these demands is for the Government to force mining companies to provide them. What is preventing the Unions from doing something useful like developing their own training programs and apprenticeships, investing in the development of mining towns to allow workers’ families to move there, or forming recruitment initiatives to connect their members with the mining companies to fill employment vacancies? (Note: I’m aware that some do this already, but obviously not very well, or else there wouldn’t be an issue.)

Why do they think that playing the political system to force the mining companies to do it would be a better idea?

I am also shocked by the silence from people I know who are generally pro-immigration and usually speak-out against xenophobic rhetoric like this. Even the Greens are behind the migrant workers idea – and they think that Australia is overpopulated and the world is ending.

Clearly, there is something wrong here. I could go on, but plummeting membership figures speak for themselves.

It is paramount that we introduce stronger requirements for Union transparency and accountability and remove the disgraceful Rudd/Gillard industrial relations reforms that force workers to be represented by organisations that they have no intention of joining. Otherwise, backwards thinking may just win the day yet again.

Major Karnage is a Sydney-based blogger and can be followed onFacebook or Twitter.

Leadership & Character: The Fatal Flaws of Malcolm Bligh Turnbull

Tim-AndrewsTim Andrews on how Malcolm Turnbull misunderstood the true nature political leadership

Five months
have now elapsed since the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal
Party. Since then, in  a dramatic
turnaround, polls have gone from showing a  60-40 2PP Labor
electoral landslide in December, to Newspoll
and Neilson
both showing a Coalition lead.

With Mr.
Turnbull deciding to re-contest the seat of Wentworth, the time has come to pen
a few words of sober reflection on his downfall, in the sincere hope that as he
continues his political career he shall learn from his mistakes, and chart a new course for the future.

In my
humble opinion, all of Mr. Turnbull’s mistakes can be distilled into two fatal
flaws: a failure to understand the relationship between voters and politics,
and a failure to understand the nature of leadership. These are flaws that go
deeper than simply incorrect policy, or making a wrong decision. Rather, they
go to the very root of the man, and his character.

The first is
a mistake often made by “conservatives” in opposition: they see a poll that the
public support something, and so refuse to fight this for fear of electoral
loss. This cowardice was the reason Mr. Turnbull primarily gave the partyroom for supporting the ETS: we would
lose in a landslide if we opposed it. And, indeed, in December, 60% of
Australians did
support governmental action against “climate change”.

Rather than
this being evidence of Australian support for an ETS, however, it was merely
evidence for the fact that they were not shown the other side. How do we know
this? Because since Mr. Abbott has taken a strong stance against it, now, just
six months later, two-thirds
of Australians doubt the existence of anthropogenic global warming

This is the fundamental point Mr. Turnbull failed
to grasp: good politicians don’t merely respond to opinion, they help shape it.
A strong, concerted, principle-based campaign against bad policy will triumph,
irrespective of what initial polls say

No-where is
this more evident than in the United States in what has occurred in the last
year, where President Obama’s net approval rating has plummeted from +28,
to a staggering -21 just after Obamacare was passed
; a whopping 50 point
turnaround. Indeed, healthcare is an instructive example: Initially, 72%
of Americans supported President Obama’s
healthcare takeover, after a
concerted Republican campaign against it, 59%
oppose it
. But the same occurred with the so-called “stimulus”, and with cap
& trade in the US: initial public support, a concerted conservative
opposition, and then strong public opposition.

Having a
backbone, and not being afraid of debate, or pushing unpopular views, is vital.
And Mr. Turnbull – not just on the ETS, but on so much else, did not have the mettle
to do so.

The second fatal
flaw is even more fundamental, and is what ultimately cost him the leadership: his
failure to realise that a leader is
first and foremost a servant. Throughout the ETS debate, Mr. Turnbull
demonstrated his complete, total, and utter misunderstanding of leadership, and
the nature of The Party.

To be
elected to any position of office is not a mark granting you dictatorial power.
To the contrary, it is a position of servitude. The bonds of party loyalty that
bind all members do not evaporate once you become leader, rather, they
constrict you tighter.
The key lesson to be learned: as you progress in an
organisation, you gain not more freedom, but rather less. You become bound by the
intangible forces of duty and loyalty.

In the
weeks leading up to his downfall, Mr. Turnbull’s line was “I’m the leader, the
party does what I tell it to”. Such a simplified – and indeed arrogant – view of
leadership might work at Goldman Sachs, but not in the political sphere. To the
contrary, it is the very antithesis of what makes a good leader. But it got
even worse when Mr. Turnbull threatened a veritable Samson act, and effectively
stated that if he was defeated, he would drag the Liberal Party down with him.
In doing so, Mr. Turnbull committed the ultimate crime – that of treason. He
demonstrated that his loyalty was not to the party, but rather only to himself.
And when he walked out of a partyroom meeting that overwhelmingly
opposed the ETS
, declaring he did not care what the partyroom thought, that
was the final straw. For in doing so he demonstrated himself not as a great
leader, but rather, as little more than a petulant child.

Again, a
failure of character.

As Mr.
Turnbull continues his political career, it is my genuine wish he learns these
two valuable lessons. After all, he certainly has the potential to make a
positive contribution (in particular, some of his musings on reducing
income tax are rather solid). But there is more to politics than simply having
a few good ideas. Rather, success means understanding the value of principled
opposition, and of the true nature of leadership. Because, at the end of the day,
Mr. Turnbull’s loss of leadership wasn’t about policy, it was about
character.  Yet until Mr. Turnbull
recognises this, and demonstrates he has changed his ways, I hold out few
prospects for him indeed.

(Tim Andrews is an Editor & Co-founder of Menzies House)

Conservatives, moderates, libertarians & populists

John Humphreys looks at the different groups that make up the Liberal Party.

John_humphreys John Humphreys looks at the different groups that make up the Liberal Party.

While the Liberal Party doesn’t have formal factions, that doesn’t mean that everybody in the party thinks the same. Indeed, internal philosophical debates are a big part of party politics, providing some of the colour and excitement of democracy.

For the casual observer, the most obvious two groups are the “conservatives” and the “moderates”. However, I would suggest that a more complete taxonomy of Liberal Party philosophy included four groups. Of course, any taxonomy of views is going to be imperfect due to some degree of over-simplification, but I think the four philosophies outlined below give a fair overview of the competing views of Party members and supporters.


The Liberals are often described as a “conservative” party and there is no shortage of leftist commentators out there who will lament the strength of the “right-wing” elements inside the party. But the word “conservative” can mean different things. In metaphysics, “conservative” means simply to not like change. (This is what Hayek meant when he wrote “why I’m not a conservative”.) In moral philosophy “conservative” means to be relatively risk averse and follow traditional moral teachings.

But in politics I think the word is more often used to describe somebody who is an economic liberal and a social interventionist. On the economic front they would support free-market capitalism, meaning tax cuts, free trade, competition & choice, flexible labour markets, non-Keynesian macro-economics, and want to shrink the welfare state. On social issues they want the government to intervene to ensure a safe, stable and “proper” social order — perhaps including laws regarding drugs, alcohol, gambling, smoking, IVF, gay marriage & adoption, women in the military, voluntary euthanasia, abortion, R and X-rated material, personal risk-taking, internet censorship, marriage & children, religion, immigration, and multiculturalism.

Of course, most people will have one or two exceptions… but I think the above overview provides a broad overview of the standard “right wing” position. Popular names that come to mind are Reagan, Thatcher and perhaps John Howard (though his economic record was mixed).


Within the Liberals, the opposite of the conservatives has traditionally been the “moderates” who are more economically interventionist and socially liberal. On economic issues they would be less convinced about the virtues of tax cuts, free trade and labour market flexibility. They would have some sympathy with Keynesian policies (like the stimulus package) and maintaining a strong welfare state, including government supply of health and education.

On social issues the moderates would tend to take a less interventionist approach to the above-mentioned issues, perhaps supporting marijuana decriminalisation, legalisation of R-rated computer games, legalisation of voluntary euthanasia, immigration and multiculturalism, separation of church and state, and opposition to internet censorship. For some reason, the social liberalism of moderates doesn’t always extend to smoking and private risk-taking.

Internal battles in the Liberal party are often seen as a conflict between the “conservatives” and the “moderates”, but I think that dichotomy misses two other important groups that exist in the party.


The libertarian (or classical liberal) position is effectively a cross between the conservatives and the moderates. The libertarians agree with the economic liberalism of the conservatives and agree with the social liberalism of the moderates.

The more radical libertarians would go further than the conservatives on economic issues (eg the privatisation of universities and hospitals, abolishing the minimum wage) and go further than the moderates on social issues (eg the legalisation of drugs, defending smokers & risk-takers). However, even the radical libertarians tend to argue for moderate libertarian positions due to political pragmatism.


I apologise for the seemingly pejorative name, but I couldn’t think of what else to call this position. Like the libertarians, the populists are effectively a cross between the conservatives and the moderates — but in the other direction. A populist would agree with the economic interventionism of the moderates and with the social interventionism of the conservatives. This puts them at the opposite end to the libertarians in most debates.

Populists aren’t always interested in the details of the philosophical debates and see themselves as more “practical” people, opposing ideology and using “common sense”. While they will often agree with the libertarians, conservatives and moderates about failures of the government, their instinctive solution is generally more government intervention.

The broad church

The Liberal Party has always been a broad church, including a range of diverse opinions. The broadness of the church does not extend to communism, socialism or fascism… but it is big enough to cover moderates, populists, conservatives and libertarians. These groups don’t always sit comfortably together and the consequent compromises are unlikely to please anybody 100%… but that is the nature of politics.

If you want to look at where you are placed on some political quizes, you can try the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, the Australian Political Quiz or the Political Compass (which I personally think is flawed and clearly written by somebody who doesn’t understand liberalism). Feel free to post your results in the comments below.