Having resumed counting last Tuesday, we can now say the first term Abbott-Turnbull government will be returned to power. Albeit with less skin than Malcolm Turnbull would care for. The rule that elections are lost rather than won still holds. Bill Shorten’s attempt to differentiate Labor from the barely distinguishable Coalition with the “Mediscare” campaign didn’t win Labor the election but it minimally contributed to the Coalition near loss. The biggest loser of the election, however, has been the de facto two-party system.
The post-1980s politicians’ Settlement of benefiting political insiders and not much else is in peril with the populist revival underway. The most boring election campaign in living memory has now become the most important and exciting.
Achieving some of their worst primary votes ought to be impetus enough for sincere soul searching by the major parties and their mouthpieces in the media. In the week since the election it has proved otherwise.
Although “not a friend of the Liberal Party”, the Fairfax press has been analysing the causes of the result and the true feelings of the electorate. Apparently there is a mandate for a government with the Liberals’ economic sense preaching from Labor’s social gospel. We could be on our way to living it up in this bourgeois paradise had Turnbull been given further space to destroy the image of the Liberal Party its base holds dear.
The Murdoch press too is clutching at straws. In an attempt to spare Turnbull and sympathisers a dark night of the soul we are to believe that leftwing activist group GetUp! shoulders the responsibility for the loss of seats. GetUp! targeted the seats of Abbott loyalists with 3700 volunteers spending 15,000 hours calling voters selling them on leftist politics.
These have about as much explanatory power as a libertarian on the housing crisis — enjoying those shoebox apartments, ladyboys?
They betray either wilful ignorance or a malicious attempt to mislead people. Turnbull cannot both humour the Party room and actively court his non-existent progressive voter base. The Liberal base would not punish Abbott loyalists, let alone be convinced by a retired public school teacher yammering on about runaway climate change. A left-leaning swing voter might.
The facts of the matter are simple. The major parties lost significant numbers of their primary votes to minor parties, particularly populists of the left and right. Perhaps the Liberal loss of Mayo to Rebekha Sharkie of the Nick Xenophon Team is the extent of the centrist mandate. But the NXT could just as easily be associated with this populist wave. Xenophon is more of a demagogue than a genuine populist but he is regarded by South Australians as something of a Robin Hood, taking from the Commonwealth and giving to SA.
700,000 disillusioned conservatives voted for non-Liberal candidates in the House of Representatives and over one million did in the Senate. The largest benefactor being Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. The anti-Islamic civic nationalist parties the Australian Liberty Alliance and Rise Up Australia performed poorly and the Liberal Democratic Party lost their seat in the Senate with David Leyonhjelm. Leyonhjelm was a mixed bag but was a much needed voice regarding freedom of speech and gun rights. Good night sweet prince.
@TextorMark Hey Tex, I'm thinking that Conservatives actually do matter.— Cory Bernardi (@corybernardi) July 2, 2016
As you’d expect, this seems to suggest nothing the mainstream press would have you think. Regardless of how the LDP got in the Senate in 2013, they have had over two years to present the libertarian case as a viable alternative. It was rejected at the ballot box. The ALA had an inordinate amount of exposure from the time of their launch under the auspices of Geert Wilders right up to the election. It too was rejected. Hanson as a media commentator had adopted the anti-Islamic routine but it was the public’s association of her with ethnonationalism that won the day. She has not spoken on such a platform in years. Speaking about her supporters, Hanson said:
You go and ask a lot of people in Sydney, at Hurstville or some of the other suburbs. They feel they have been swamped by Asians and, regardless of that now, a lot of Australians feel that Asians are buying up prime agricultural land, housing.
If what passes for the conservative movement in this country were more attune to the concerns of middle Australia this would be all rather obvious. Instead — it could be interpreted — the doyens of the conservative media have been actively protecting their status in the hierarchy. From Malcolm and Tony’s lips to their ears, and theirs to The Base™, informing them whether our Habsburgs are wearing any clothes on that particular day. One, both, neither?
During this election cycle they have overlooked the real fault lines and have stamped their feet trying to create their own, between the so called del-cons and Party establishment. In an April 6 column in The Daily Telegraph Miranda Devine coined the term “delusional conservative” or del-con to describe those initiated into the Abbott cult of personality.
These cultists would rather the Liberal Party in the political wilderness than have Turnbull at the helm. Admirable sentiments to be sure. This war of words was largely confined to the Telegraph but had been simmering throughout the right-commentariat since Turnbull stabbed Abbott in the back. For instance, the Speccie remained pro-Abbott while The Australian fell in line with the Turnbull coup.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this well-manicured division has had a retarding effect on the radicalisation of middle Australia. The aim of the game has been to punish but by no means destroy the Liberal Party. Keep them delusional conservatives and not disaffected ones who might find a permanent home elsewhere.
It gives weight to the view that politics has become a team sport. Team Turnbull vs Team Abbott. To the extent that now Peta Credlin is seen as the Mother of Del-Cons. The same Credlin who as chief of staff to Abbott played a significant part in making conservatism under his stewardship synonymous with being squeamish at the thought of itself.
This newly founded hero cult of Credlin has grown out of her role as an election commentator on Sky News. She made it a “no-go zone” for Turnbull, and used her position to score some political points. Or were they personal? We will never know which is the case or what truly goes on in this insiders’ world. If nothing else, it speaks to the necessarily incestuous relationship of the commentariat and the political elite. Del-cons evolving into dis-cons could prove a little too problematic.
The reaction on the right is unsure of itself — there are still those in thrall to officialdom and those breaking free. The demographics of the latter contains a good cross-section of society. One Nation did its best in central Queensland and northern NSW. Amongst the last remnants of the old Australia. There is an urbanite element to this reaction, many of whom were lighting up the switchboards in the 2UE and 2GB studios this past week calling for a new conservative party to be established.
A new electoral force arising from the right of the Liberal Party could be a necessary step to transition the del-cons to dis-cons. Jacqueline Maley jumped the gun in dubbing Cory Bernardi’s inchoate cross-party grassroots Australian Conservatives a political party. Yet, it becoming a party is a distinct possibility in the future. Australian Conservatives could be Bernardi’s way of signalling to the base that party politics is an unviable vehicle to advance a conservative counter-revolution. It could also be a way to put pressure on the Party establishment not to neglect the base who have have a voice with this movement. Whatever the plan this is a welcome development.
More welcome still is the news that the resurgent One Nation is a veritable rogues’ gallery from the glory days. Brian Burston is confidently placed for one of the 12 seats in the Senate for NSW. With just under 4% of the primary vote, preferences could edge him over the line to the requisite double dissolution half-quota of 7.7%. Burston was once a national director of the party. Party co-founder South Australian businessman David Ettridge who was unjustly gaoled alongside Hanson for electoral fraud in 2003 has remained in contact with her. The decades old acrimony seems forgotten — she has reconnected with the man who wrote her maiden speech, John Pasquarelli. David Oldfield has given Hanson some unsolicited PR. These old connections give one hope that the party’s association with ethnonationalism will be justified.
Perhaps what differentiates these movements is that Bernardi’s will appeal to the inert middle class while One Nation will be vastly rural and working class. These two faces of the brewing reaction against the dispossession of Australia need not be enemies or mutually exclusive. There could be significant overlap. It will be a job for Dingoes to engage with both and see to it they march towards the same goal.
Oldfield sees Hanson as someone who “speaks for people who feel strongly about things without necessarily being able to explain why, or even wanting to explain why.” The rejection of the libertarian and civic nationalist alternatives will have been based on nothing more than a vague feeling for many voters. It will fall to Dingoes to supply these people with the reasons they need. To turn the disaffected right into a truly dissident right.
The worst nightmare of the left is having to face such a unified front. This goes a long way explaining the more perceptive analysis from the left rather than the right-commentariat. Jason Wilson saw through the beat up on del-cons as the realisation of what he termed the “conservative crack-up”. Which is to say the inability of mainstream conservatism to police its margins. Waleed Aly understands the gravity of such a Bernardi-Hanson axis. Malcolm Farr quotes a young female Hansonite as saying “I like her policies. It’s a pity she’s the leader because she’s a bit of a bogan.” It is a cheap dig at Hanson but it cannot mask the palpable fear of an articulate ethnonationalism with broad appeal.
The stakes are too high for the left. Since the implosion of One Nation in the early 2000s and the absorption of its momentum into John Howard’s Liberal Party the left has gone unopposed. In this time a younger non-White left has developed. One not motivated by class war but by ethnic animus directed at White Australia. Jarni Blakkarly is typical of their view. For them there is to be no discussion on immigration, on the erasure of Australian identity. This could hurt their feelings.
This left is currently at war with the traditional Australian left. Those older leftists like Mago Kingston who share the bonds of blood with this emerging dissident right want to civilly address the concerns of middle Australia. The non-White left has zero desire to do so as their goal is the radical transformation of Australia. Case in point, Muslim agitator Ruby Hamad’s response to Kingston oozes with hatred for White Australia — especially those who cuck for her kind. Reflective of his position as Australia’s premier anti-White activist Tim Soutphommasane presents the case at its most sophistic. It boils down to the attempt to silence White Australia from speaking out about its dispossession all the same.
Students of Carl Schmitt know that politics is fundamentally predicated on the friend/enemy distinction. Sometimes you do not choose your enemy; it chooses you. The non-White left has declared war on White Australia and is doing its best to alienate White leftists and push middle class, working class, and rural Middle Australian Radicals into the same camp.
For every twenty-something the 1998 federal election hasn’t happened yet. Their eight or ten-year old selves have been given the opportunity to avenge the old Australia their teachers had denigrated when they hysterically lied about the evils of One Nation. This time it’s different, the unforced errors have been reversed. Hanson has taken heed of Pasquarelli’s original advice and has contested the Senate. John Howard’s tactless switching of old Australia’s ethnic consciousness for bloodless civic nationalism is far from inevitable. We are back to the future.