In 2040, when I am hauled before the Department for Eradication of Hate, Bigotry and Offending Protected Minority Categories (or DEHBOPMC), and I am asked, “did you, or did you not, join the Australian Conservatives Party in 2017?” I will feel compelled by my conscience, and the fact that they probably have evidence, to say “yes”.
And then I’ll be admitted to some compulsory psychiatric sessions or a reconditioning labour-camp, or have “don’t platform” stamped on my forehead until they can map out the network of phobes and isms that constitute my particular condition. Or maybe I’ll even get shot in the head to end my unrecoverable, defective,fear-entrenched mind, especially if they find out that I also don’t believe that the sea-levels will rise by 2060 on the basis that they haven’t already risen by 2040 and neither have any of the previous 20-year projections been accurate.
Too dystopian? Hopefully. Though just ask Marine Le Pen if she enjoyed her compulsory psychiatric evaluation.
So maybe I did take a long-term risk in joining, but short-term, I’m happy with my decision.
For those who don’t remember, the Aust-Cons is the political party started by Cory Bernardi, the Dis-Con who was insufficiently optimistic to be a Del-Con after the 2016 teeth-skin re-election of Malcolm Turnbull’s government. Cory had enjoyed a significant and growing personal following over the previous years, with his “weekly dose of common sense” newsletter, and his occasional appearances in mainstream media as the homophobe that Bill Shorten couldn’t resist interrupting a press conference to call such, and as the guy who mentioned bestiality in a slippery-slope argument against gay marriage. His personal following was reflected by the fact that in SA he received the highest number of first-preference votes fora candidate who wasn’t first on the party ticket (that’s 2,000 voters who deliberately skipped over Simon Birmingham to preference him).
Despite having a strong membership that is the envy of the other federal parties, there is no doubt that the Australian Conservatives are facing an uphill battle. In one sense, the timing was good for starting the party—an increasing number of “none of the above” votes due to disillusion among voters, and dilution of those votes among a spattering of micro-parties, meant there was a place for a new conservative party.
On the other hand, a change in preference rules has set the bar higher for small parties. I personally think anyone supportive of democracy should approve of the change in preference rules (preference deals were a disgrace, and no-one could command respect who landed a seat by them *cough-Ricky Muir-cough*). Nevertheless, they have their work cut out for them to get a quota – which is now one sixth of the vote – or even to scrape in for the last-man-standing seat, which still probably needs around 8% of the vote.
I don’t know if they will gain any seats, but I do know why I will vote for them. Here are seven reasons:
1. It’s not the Cory Bernardi party
At each election since I turned eighteen I have carefully researched all the senate candidates for the election (What can I say? I’m a politics nerd and I always vote below the line.)
What I find is that all parties have a name, many parties have a policy statement, some parties have a values statement, but it’s a rare party that has all of the above. The Australian Conservatives have a comprehensive values statement and policy statements. That tells me that even when situations come up that they didn’t anticipate with their policies, they can be relied on to act according to their values.
They work on a “no surprises” basis. They are not dog-whistlers, thought bubbles, single-issue, or personality cults. It’s not another case of “what does Pauline think?” or “what does Nick Xenophon think?” The party has a real, defined political position, which is to say it has the right fundamentals for long-term success.
2. They are not aiming to run interference on government
The AustCons know that they are not in a position to form government in the lower house. And that is not their aim; it is not the reasonable entry-level for a new party. When a new government gets in with an election mandate and a coherent agenda, they don’t intend to go all wrecking-ball and carve up that agenda for a bunch of special-interest “favours”.
What they aim to do is sit in the house of review (the senate) and review legislation according to the values they have set out. Standing up for conservative principles and common sense. Standing in the way of nonsense. And hopefully winning a few arguments.
I genuinely hope that ScoMo gets the “fair go” he’s been advocating for us. I genuinely hope that he has some guts, as he has showed on a few isolated issues, and steers the ship of state in a good direction. But it won’t do him any harm to have some AustCons in the upper house.
3. They’re genuinely conservative
The non-left is a broad church. It encompasses the centre, the right-wing, libertarians, and a whole bunch of blends of the above. Now the media and the SJWs will happily call them all “far-right”, but we know differently. The Australian Conservatives are not a far-right party, and they’re not a libertarian party. They are a politically and socially conservative party; they are centre-right. Like the liberals should be.
4. They’re not doing retail politics
The conservative party believes in reducing the size and scope of government, and eliminating government debt. According to conventional political wisdom, no-one can win an election with such a bland platform. It’s not “sexy” enough for the average Australian voter. It doesn’t make click-bait. How can the long-term, fair-minded politician, who believes in stability, ever win out against short-term sound-bites of retail politicians? How can such a person even hold out against the bed-wetters of his own party?
So short-termism has won over politics and if short-term politics has resulted in short-term leaders, why are we surprised?I think, however, that politicians are wrong about Australia with regards to this—we’re really craving long-term thinkers who are more concerned about Australia than they are about retaining power.
If only a major party had the guts to realise that they can lead. Most Australian’s don’t know what they think on every issue – so polls are irrelevant. You can tell the people, and sell your idea, and there’s a chance they might trust you – especially if they see that you have the integrity to swim against the tide. Stop pre-selecting bed-wetters! Grrr.
Anyway, to get back on track, AustCons know that they don’t get votes from common-denominator politics,they get their votes from being principled and conservative. They don’t need to come up with policies that win 50% or more, they only need to win one in six, and they know that those one in six will be won by an agenda of common sense.
5. They’re on the right side of the culture wars
Their favourite phrase has been “common sense”. When it comes to deconstructionism and post-modernism, ideas about gender-fluidity, institutional bias, the white hegemony and the male patriarchy, socialism and all that other juicy nonsense… well, they call it like it is. Dangerous nonsense.
The culture wars are important. Australian Conservatives are acutely aware that their antithesis is the Greens. The greens are a coherent block of far-left voices that have strong influence in parliament. We need a strong block on the other side. On these issues, every vote counts, and you can’t guarantee that all your liberal-party MPs will swing the right way. No pun intended.
6. I like my local candidate
I had the privilege recently of talking with my local senate candidate for the Australian Conservatives, Rikki Lambert (currently head of staff for Cory Bernardi).
We spoke about all of the above and much more. About South Australia’s river communities and the importance of the Murray Darling Basin. About the state of the judiciary with endemic long delays and a system that effectively rewards the wealthy. About Australia’s electricity and their party’s policy to end the nuclear moratorium. About the state of Australia’s media, especially the ABC, the stream of lefty graduates emerging from the journalism schools and the conundrum of competing for an audience with short attention spans. About how economic policy really does affect families, and how he wants his children to have the option of living in SA. About the greens and their assault on nation-building. About education and how it is not served by repeatedly lowering the bar to cover for delusional, post-modern educational theories. About how culture emerges from the cumulative learning of our society and deconstructing culture is a dangerous refusal to learn from history.
In hindsight, I realised we were quite different thinkers. We viewed issues from subtly different angles, but emerged with basically same opinions, and I learnt a lot. When I’ve formerly researched senate candidates, I’ve never actually gone and met one of them. I don’t regret it. Rikki is fully behind the principled agenda of the conservative party, and I hope he gets in.
7. My vote says something
I have seen several writers explain the problems with the liberal party, and where does its hope lie, and will it be reformed from the inside? Maybe, if you are active in that party or an MP, then that is a lever that you can pull. I’ll happily barrack for the Abbots and the Duttons in pulling their party away from the left.
But as a voter, I don’t have access to the same levers. The only lever I have is my vote. I’m not going to vote for labour as a protest vote against liberal’s weakness—some nitwit lib will just think that they need to be more like labour to win me back. My senate vote for the Australian Conservatives? That’s a lever I can pull. Whether they can win or not, my vote will say, “I agree with these guys.”