Federal Election 2019: Meet the Australian Conservatives

Summary

Website: https://www.conservatives.org.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AUConservatives/
Slogan:
A better way.
Themes: Judeo-Christian tradition, Western values, conservatism, individualism, LGBTQI+ people are icky, capitalism is awesome, and libertarianism is also pretty great.
Electorate:
NSW, QLD, SA, TAS, VIC, WA.  Every single State.  Only the Territories escape.
Preferences: To be updated when the how to vote cards are declared.

Policies & Commentary

The Australian Conservatives is what happens when two people – Cory Bernardi and Lyle Shelton – love each other very, very much and come together in a special way… to form a political party that will protect freedom of speech and the right to say terrible things about LGBTQIA+ people.

I believe in being up-front about my biases, so I’m going to state up-front that I do not expect to like this political party one little bit, and the odds are that I will be reading their policies through a lens of general rage.  Bernardi and Shelton are the sort of people who give my religion a bad name.  And that is personally very annoying.  But the things they say and believe about LGBTQIA+ people are… well.  I believe in an infinitely forgiving God, so I suppose I can’t call them unforgiveable.  But I don’t think that anyone on this plane of existence should have to take on the burden of forgiving them.

So yes.  I am going to find it very difficult to interpret any of their policies in a charitable light.  If you think I’m being unfair, then by all means, visit their website and form your own opinions.

The Conservatives’ front page tells us that:

Australian Conservatives is the movement uniting Australians who believe enduring values and principles are the key to a better nation.

And under Our Principles, they add that:

We support and advocate for the essential pillars of conservatism as a means of building a sustainable and prosperous economy and maintaining civil society.

Ah yes, the kind of civil society in which it is appropriate to compare people’s consensual relationships with having sex with animals.

Really, I don’t think ‘conservatism’ is the right label for this.  As a definition of ‘civility’, that’s downright revolutionary.

Their front page also has a ‘Latest News’ section, with links to their Facebook and Twitter pages and articles they’ve written recently.  A brief sampling of these suggests that the Conservatives are in favour of coal and nuclear power, against action on climate change and the Greens party generally, and in favour of the kind of free speech that is insulting and damaging to people who are not white, male, straight and Christian.  Astonishing.

The Conservatives seem to be running Senate Candidates in both states, but the most well-known faces on their team are Cory Bernardi, party founder and former Liberal Senator who found the Liberals too mealy-mouthed and socially progressive for his conscience, and Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, who led the ‘No’ campaign in the Marriage Equality Postal Survey.

On their ‘Our Movement’ page, we learn that:

Australian Conservatives is the movement uniting Australians who believe enduring values and principles are the key to a better nation.

We support and advocate for the essential pillars of conservatism as a means of building a sustainable and prosperous economy and maintaining civil society. Thousands of years of human experience have demonstrated what works. Unfortunately, this lived experience is ignored by too many involved in politics today.

We then have their statement of belief, which starts by their belief in ‘a nation bound by virtues and sustained by faith’.  Too bad if you are an atheist.  Or, let’s be real here, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Jew, or any other religious flavour that doesn’t happen to be Christian (to give them – marginal – credit, they don’t seem to mind what particular variety of Christianity you ascribe to, provided it is a conservative one – there are both Catholic and Protestant candidates running for the Conservatives).  But let’s be clear, here – this is the mark of a party that wants religion to be a part of government, which is not appropriate in a secular nation that contains citizens of many different faiths.

They are pro-family and want children to ‘believe in their dreams and… work hard to make them a reality’.  So they must be thrilled with the school children who are rallying for action on climate change, right?  I mean, they believe ‘in a land where determination will never succumb to apathy’ and a nation for those ‘who dream not only of today, but also of what tomorrow can be.’

Oh, wait… maybe not…

They want government to be not an obstacle but an advocate and ally for its people, which sounds like the traditional anti-red-tape argument espoused by just about every small party to the right of centre.

We believe that those who receive will also give, because there is strength in community.

So, trickle-down economics ought to work, and we should tax people less and encourage people to donate to charity.’

We believe that sustaining freedom is not always easy, for there will always be some who seek to oppose and restrict it.

Now, this is wonderful news!  I am delighted to see that Bernardi and co have changed their mind about marriage equality, and will fight those who seek to restrict it!

Just kidding.  This is almost certainly about freedom of speech and removing the terms ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.  (Also, can I sign a petition to get someone to improve their photoshop work?  I could do better, and I’m no photoshop artist.)

Moving on from Movement to Principles, the Conservatives expand on this idea, and yes, they believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free enterprise, stronger families, and civil society. It sounds very American, actually.

A state that seeks to provide all things for its people will drain initiative from its citizens and undermine the legitimate authority of other social institutions.

The rightful functions of government are to guarantee individual freedom, property rights, internal order, a strong national defence, and the administration of justice.

You will notice that things like education, health care and support for the unemployed and the disabled do not appear on this list.

Under personal responsibility:

We believe that each individual is morally responsible for, and should bear responsibility for their actions.

Australian Conservatives recognises that the most effective form of government is self-government which requires the development in each person of the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope, and charity.

There is a real Puritanical streak to all of this.  There is also a distinct subtext suggesting that if someone isn’t doing well – if they are a single parent or unemployed or suffering from any other misfortune, it’s probably due to their lack of personal virtue and self-control, which is a lot of victim-blaming bullshit, frankly.

(It also assumes that everyone is starting from the same basic level of health,  family support, access to education etc, and that nobody is being discriminated against or disadvantaged due to skin colour, gender, where they live, what they believe in, etc.)

The allocation of resources through voluntary agreement between individuals and businesses is the most productive and efficient supplier of human needs and is the economic system most compatible with a free society.

In recognising that living generations are stewards of the riches, both natural and cultural, material and spiritual, Australian Conservatives acknowledges that the logic of market relations does not exhaust the common good.

I’ll admit, I can’t make head or tail of that second paragraph.  But I find it fascinating that unrestricted capitalism is going to provide the most freedom to all.

What is best for our families is best for society and Australian Conservatives support stronger families by acknowledging the complementary but different roles that Mothers and Fathers play in raising their children.

There’s more than a whiff of complementarianism in here.  I wonder what they think of stay at home dads?

The values, customs, conventions, and norms of the Judeo-Christian tradition are the foundation for western culture and provide the appropriate framework to inform and guide a free society. Without adherence to these enduring structures and an associated rejection of moral relativism, society induces its decay.

OK, firstly, that second sentence is kind of hilarious.  But secondly… I wish right-wing parties would just stop with this whole Judeo-Christian tradition thing.  Christianity may have originally been an offshoot of Judaism, but they are two extremely different religions with extremely different approaches to scripture, and I’m pretty sure we’re insulting Jewish people every time we pretend it’s all part of the same thing.

(And here is your random theology digression for the day:  I’m a church musician, with an interest in theology, so I’ve been reading different translations of the Old Testament recently, and the number of times I’ve come across a text that we sing about all the time in a way that is wildly out of the original context is astonishing.  Christianity took the Jewish texts and reframed them for its own ends.  And, if I understand correctly, this sort of reframing is something that happens within the Jewish tradition, and it’s why the early writers worked that way.  But for us to turn around and say ‘and this is what it meant all along’ feels profoundly patronising, frankly.)

Also, on a practical level, I’m not entirely sure the Bible is the framework with which ti inform and guide a free society, or at least not one where freedom is predicated on capitalism.  The New Testament tends more communist, if anything.

Now we move onto the policies, of which there are nine, none of which I actually want to read at this point, but I wrote the rules of this game and I will stick to them.

Policy number one is hilariously called ‘The Canberra Bubble’.

The ‘Canberra Bubble’ isolates politicians and the bureaucracy. Australian Conservatives believe there is a better way, where principles are put before politics, and policies are more important than personalities. We must bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to government.

Well.  I actually agree with that, so there you go.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.  And it turns out that I agree with a lot of this policy, which proposes stopping parliamentary pensions for new politicians, and making those who have already served eligible only on reaching retirement age.

Further, whilst recognising the status of the office of Prime Minister, a former Prime Minister must serve a minimum of four years in that position to be eligible for post-Parliamentary benefits.

Take that, Tony Abbott.  And Malcolm Turnbull.  And Kevin Rudd. And Julia Gillard.  And – we can only hope – Scott Morrison.

They would also like to cap donations to political parties, prevent organisations from donating, and make sure donations are disclosed in real time.  This sounds like an excellent idea.  They also want to make operating costs of parliamentarians publicly available in real time, and to keep a public database of government spending.  I can see that being a bit messier, to be honest.  I mean, I’m in favour of discouraging random helicopter flights, but I can see this leading to lots of complaints by the uninformed about what is actually reasonable spending.  I’m working on budgets right now, so I’m very aware of the fact when you employ staff, their actual salary is not at all the same as the amount it costs to employ them.  Employers need to put a certain percentage of the salary aside for things like leave, Workcover, superannuation, etc., and this percentage is quite high – generally somewhere between 22% and 33%.

I’d be in favour of regular auditing of parliamentary expenses; I’m less sure that Joe Random with too much time on his hands is the person to do it.

But I’m generally on board with the theme of transparency in government.

They seem to be in favour of States’ Rights, which is very American of them, and they want Senators to sit in State instead of Party blocks, which is an interesting idea.

They also support term limits for politicians, and a pay-freeze for politicians and senior public servants until the budget is back in surplus. This one sounds appealing on first glance, but it’s a bit worrisome – the implication is that the first duty of a government is to keep the budget in surplus, rather than to spend money sensibly to support its citizens.

And what a lovely segue that makes into their next policy – Economy, Budgets and Tax.  This is boringly predictable – they want to reduce taxes, get rid of the national debt, and get rid of red tape.

Individuals are far better placed to decide how best to spend their own money than governments. Our economy will be far stronger and more responsive to changes in preferences and circumstances when taxation and regulation are as low and as efficient as possible.

There’s a distinct libertarian bent to this party.  Also, what if I want to spend my money on living in a stable society where people are able to access healthcare, education and meaningful employment?  How do I buy that, please?

Their policy on Energy is depressingly predictable.

Australia produces less than 1.5% of global CO2 emissions. Even if our emissions were reduced to zero, it would make no perceptible difference to the climate.

Ideological obsessions with uneconomic renewable technologies to meet unrealistic emissions targets to prevent ‘climate change’ have made our energy unreliable and expensive. Targets and subsidies for renewable energy distort the market and disadvantage consumers. Australian Conservatives are open to renewable energy as an option for electricity generation but we oppose taxpayer and cross-subsidies to support it. 

I don’t think you need much commentary from me on this one, but do, please, take note that the Australian Conservatives feel the need to use scare quotes around ‘climate change’.

I’m going to group Education, Society and Culture and National Broadcaster together, because all of these are about fighting the culture wars, though they don’t use that term.

On education, the Australian Conservatives want to inculcate Western Values, and support a ‘return to tried and tested methods of teaching’.  I wonder what that actually means?  Memorising dates and times tables?  Corporal punishment in schools?  I’m very curious about this.

Unsurprisingly, they take a dim view of ‘political indoctrination’, which is to say, ‘Safe Schools’ and ‘Respectful Relationships’.  Because heaven knows, we don’t want people to be respectful to each other in reltionships!

They support school vouchers so that parents can more easily select schools, and they want universities to be ‘provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to secure jobs in the field of their study’.  So… vocational education for all?  I suppose I can see why this group would be averse to the sorts of degrees that teach you critical thinking.

On Society and Culture, we are back to the Judeo-Christian heritage and the benefits of Western culture, and freedom of expression, particularly the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Freedom of speech and expression is one of the pillars of Western society, and the marketplace of ideas (where dissenting views are heard and argued against), must be protected and strengthened, not silenced or suppressed.

(A pause while this blogger tries to think of something really, really offensive to say about the Australian Conservatives, because, by their own principles, they can hardly object, can they?  But frankly, it’s hard to say anything about them that is worse than what they reveal about themselves.

They also want to abolish the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Rather than defending or upholding key Western liberties, rights and freedoms of the individual, this institution has become an expensive agent for their undermining, suppression and destruction, often in the pursuit of identity politics and political correctness.

Yes, we are all equal now, or if we aren’t, it’s because we just aren’t trying hard enough.  Or because we are just so intrinsically offensive in our very existence that we deserve bad things.

Oh, and then they rub it in by talking about how we all need to be self-sufficient and break the cycle of welfare dependency.

I think I hate these people.

On National Broadcasting, the Conservatives want to merge the ABC and the SBS, restrict their channels, and ‘strictly adhere to enhanced charter obligations of balance and a diversity of views’.

The good news is, it already is.  I can’t find the most recent article analysing this, but here’s one from a few years ago.

Now, while we are worrying about the culture wars, let’s look at Law and Order, where the Conservatives are very worried about sharia law, which they seem to think could strike at any time.  They also want a public register of convicted child sex offenders, but mostly they want to be very clear that we are not having sharia law here.

Islam poses increasingly significant challenges to Western democracies, and Australian Conservatives will engage in a rational, honest and realistic appraisal of Islam in Australia.

We do not consider Islamic (Sharia) law to be compatible with our democratic values, institutions and freedoms and do not support suspending Australia’s legal system to support Islamic practices.

Honestly?  I wish they *would* be honest and realistic about Islam in Australia.  Because, honestly and realistically, we have a very small, largely peaceful Muslim population, and nobody is trying to suspend Australia’s legal system to support Islamic practices.  Nobody.

And what’s more, the Australian Conservatives must know this.  This is about trying to make us afraid of a threat that does not exist in order to get us to vote for them, and in doing so, they are putting the actual Muslim community – not the one that exists in their fevered imaginations – at risk.  They need to stop it.

The Australin Conservatives have policies on Defense, Immigration and Citizenship, and Foreign Affairs and Trade that could basically be described as protectionist, and kind of mean spirited.  They want to withdraw from the UN Refugee convention, and they don’t like family reunion visas.  They want to increase the residency requirement for citizenship to ten years, and applicants must have paid income tax for at least seven of those years.

On defense, they want more funding for the military, which ‘must be allowed to do its job free from the constraints of political correctness and excessive social and cultural sensitivities’ (they are very worried about defense funding of gender reassignment, but I suspect they are also suspicious of women in the military who might either be too weak for the job or too inclined to complain about sexual assault by their fellow soldiers).  They want to look after veterans and their families, which is another rare policy where I agree with them, and they want us to play a role in our region and forge strong alliances with our regional partners.

Wait a minute, I hear you say – aren’t most of the countries in our region… Muslim?

We will strengthen our existing ties with New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States but will also look to develop closer ties with India, Singapore, South Korea and Japan

Oh, that sort of region.  Right.  Who needs to be friendly with Indonesia anyway?

On Trade, they like free trade, but they don’t like foreign ownership of Australian assets.  They also don’t like providing foreign aid, which is very Christian of them, I’m sure.  And they are not happy with our involvement in the United Nations, which to me sounds a lot like they are working from the USA conservative playbook again – our home-grown right wingers don’t like the UN Convention on Refugees, but don’t tend to be quite so anti-UN in general.

And that, thank God, is all we have.

Honestly, I don’t see any need for this political party.  We already have right-wing protectionist parties that dislike Muslims and praise capitalism and Western Civilisation.  But I suppose if you think that One Nation is for rednecks and prefer your libertarianism and xenophobia with an upper-middle-class flavour to it, this might be the party for you.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

Once again, the difficulty here is finding a song that deserves to be associated with Cory Bernardi.  Let’s just say right here and now that no Eurovision song deserves that.  (Incidentally, did you know that if you Google ‘Eurovision’ and ‘bestiality’ – which I don’t recommend, incidentally – the very first hit that comes up refers to Cory Bernardi?  He must be so proud.)

On the other hand, it’s very, very easy to think of Eurovision songs that would annoy our friend Cory, isn’t it?

For example, remember that time when Cory Bernardi complained about that ‘do it in a dress’ fundraiser, calling it an absurd example of gender morphing?

Gender morphing, and boys in dresses, eh?  Cory, have I got the song for you.  It’s probably my favourite Eurovision song of all time, so you don’t really deserve it, but I thought you’d appreciate the fact that he is wearing a cross, and thus clearly in touch with Judeo-Christian values.

(Isn’t freedom of speech wonderful?)

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