It is becoming increasingly clear that there is no prospect of a Liberal party led by Malcom Turnbull ever returning to the party’s former core values of social conservatism, fiscal responsibility and personal integrity.
Being determined to win at any cost, and make any promises to do so, is not a win at all. Certainly not for the Australian people. Unless there are principles, there is no point.
Three years of Shorten and Plibersek is a ghastly prospect, with its certainty of increased energy costs and costs of doing business, higher unemployment and debt, and a reopening and refilling of detention centres.
But it is more and more likely that ordinary and loyal Liberal voters will see this as the only alternative to the destruction from within of conservatism in Australian politics.
Those of us who believe that social conservatism and economic libertarianism offer the best path for peace and justice and prosperity for Australia may well believe that this will only be achieved, and with it, a sound future for Australia, by sending a clear message that the Liberal Party needs to return to principled conservative leadership.
The real question is, how to do that without the horrendous cost to Australia of three years (at least) of Shorten and Plibersek?
There has already been a substantial member level backlash against elected members who voted to replace Tony Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull is simply not a conservative. He is a big spending, trendy issue, promise anything to get re-elected salesman. This is not what Liberal Party members, or ordinary Australians, want or need.
No conservative or traditional Liberal voter should feel guilty about giving first preference votes to other, conservative, candidates. In my electorate of Mayo, for example, Bruce Hicks of Family First will get my first preference. I know Bruce. He is a good guy; hard-working, a successful businessman in a very difficult industry (dairy farming) and a school principal. He knows about balancing budgets, and is a person of intelligence and integrity. He won’t be elected though. The seat will be retained by Jamie Briggs.
There is nothing much wrong with Jamie. The press has been monumentally unfair to him on occasion, but he has generally done a good job for his electorate. Apart from supporting an idiotic $20 million white elephant airport development on Kangaroo Island, so that airlines can run routes from capital cities other than Adelaide direct to Kingscote. Except that every major airline has already said they have no interest in such routes and no intention of flying them.
Then there is his refusal to get behind the Kangaroo Island water gap/ferry as part of the national highway network. This is the single change that would do more than anything else to boost the island’s economy, make KI the jewel of South Australian tourism, and help to reverse SA’s declining attractiveness to overseas and inter-state tourists. At the moment it is often cheaper to fly from Adelaide to Bali for the weekend, than to take a family and car from Adelaide to KI for the weekend. Absurd. Jamie’s reason for refusing to support making the ferry part of the highway network (thus equalising transport and freight costs) is that it would give an unfair advantage to Kangaroo Island producers. This is equally absurd. How does partially removing a substantial disadvantage suddenly amount to an unfair advantage?
In addition, Jamie has given his support to what is surely the biggest pork barrel project in Australia’s history; the construction of submarines in Adelaide. Never mind the fact that the contract is to build submarines that haven’t been designed yet, using software that hasn’t been written yet. Never mind that the planned subs will be so much slower than surface navy vessels they will be unable to carry out escort duties, or effective intercept and denial. Never mind that it will take fifty years to build a fleet that will be outdated before the first one hits the water. Never mind that we could lease fast and tested Virginia class submarines from the US and have a functional fleet in five years at half the cost. And please don’t tell me we can’t use them because they can’t be serviced in Australia. A fully equipped service centre could easily be set up in Adelaide, with the subs returning to the US every ten to twenty years for an RCOH (Refueling Complex Overhaul).
Of course every Australian should mind all these things. Our defence focus is rightly on our navy. Defence personnel take enough risks and make enough sacrifices without having to worry about slow, second rate equipment. Tax payers make enough sacrifices that they should not have to worry about paying an extra $20 billion for submarines, even second rate French submarines, just so they can be built in Adelaide. The argument is that this will create jobs in Australia.
The argument is hogwash. The wages and on-costs paid to those employees is money taken from other businesses and wage earners. The government is simply vastly less efficient than private enterprise at almost everything. That costs money and productivity. Then there is the weight of tax collection and compliance costs, and layers of bureaucracy on top. Every job the government “creates” comes at a cost of 2.2 jobs in private enterprise.
What the “build the subs in Adelaide” boondoggle will do is create about 5,000 jobs in key marginal Liberal seats in Adelaide, at a cost of 12,000 jobs elsewhere. That is behaviour by government, which means the elected members, which should not be rewarded.
In the Senate, the options for conservatives are fairly clear. We need to give Turnbull and his cronies a good thump, while not risking a balance of power held by Xenophon or the Greens. Xenophon is a charismatic character with absolutely nothing to say. He is simply, like Malcolm, a principle-less, headline seeking, big-spending populist. No thanks. The Greens, well, if you could run steel factories on unicorn farts, the world would be a lovely place. Until then, we live in a real world, with real profits and losses and energy needs. So again, no thanks.
My advice would be, vote under the line. The Liberal Democrats, the Australian Liberty Alliance, Family First, are all thoughtful, well-rounded, principled conservative parties. They may get one candidate each in each state. Two would be brilliant. Then give the rest to the LNP. The result, fingers, arms and ankles crossed, should be a Senate where the balance of power is held by real conservatives, while still giving the LNP room to govern effectively.
So, pace Miranda, it is entirely possible to be a deliberate, delectable, delicious conservative, determined to deliver without delay while deleting de louses, and not be at all delusional.