Federal Election 2019: Meet the Liberal Party

Summary

Website: https://www.liberal.org.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LiberalPartyAustralia/
Slogans:
Building our economy. Securing your future.
A fair go for people who have a go.
Themes: Right wing, with a current tendency towards hardline religious conservatism.  Tax cuts, especially for the wealthy.  Strong borders, pro-coal, skeptical about climate change.
Electorate:
Upper House: All of them.
Lower House: All the urban electorates.
Preferences: The Liberals are putting the United Australia Palmer second on all their Senate How to Vote cards (well, third in WA and TAS, but only because the Nationals are listed separately on those tickets).  The Australian Conservatives are third in SA, TAS and VIC, fourth in QLD, and sixth in NSW and WA.  The Liberal Democrats are in the top six in all six states (they aren’t running in the territories, and the DLP, Australian Christians and Christian Democrats are all in the top six in the states they are running in.  The Australian Democrats appear twice in the top six, and Katter’s Australia Party, Hinch’s Justice Party, the Centre Alliance , the Small Business Party, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers each appear in the top six once.

Fascinatingly, in the Northern Territory, the Liberals have put HEMP ahead of both the ALP and the Greens.  This seems like a very strange choice, especially now that I’ve actually read HEMP’s websites.  In the ACT, where only seven groups are available above the line, the Liberals have put Sustainable Australia second, the Greens sixth, and have specifically instructed voters to leave Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party blank.  This is a nice touch, but it would have been more consistent to do this everywhere, don’t you think?

The overall theme is definitely Clive Palmer with his money and mines first, followed by religious conservative parties and libertarian parties.  No real surprises here, basically.

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Federal Election 2019: Meet the United Australia Party

Summary

Website: https://www.unitedaustraliaparty.org.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnitedAusParty/
Previous names: Palmer United
Slogans:
Make Australia Great
Put Australia First
What Australia Grows, Grows Australia. Support Aussie Farmers
Themes: The lucky country.  Wealth creation, especially by mining, manufacturing and tax cuts.  Clive Palmer personality cult?  Feels a bit Trumpian, but without the absolute lack of compassion.  Doesn’t like Bill Shorten.
Electorate:
Upper House: All of them.
Lower House: All of them.
Preferences: As has been the subject of endless media conversation, United Australia is preferencing the Coalition in every seat.  Other favourite political parties are the Australian Conservatives, who they put in their top five wherever they are running, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, likewise.  United Australia is not afraid to embrace the crazy, and thus preferences Katter’s Australian Party once and the Citizens Electoral Council Twice.  The Small Business Party and the Democrats appear twice each, and Rise Up Australia and the Lambie Network each appear once.  Amusingly, their how to vote card in the ACT is invalid – they preference five parties above the line, and also the Ungrouped Independents, which you aren’t allowed to do.

The main thing the parties preferenced have in common is a complete disregard for the environment, as befits a party founded by a mining magnate.  Though I can’t help feeling that the CEC, with their wild theories and love of grandiose infrastructure projects may actually be Clive Palmer’s natural home… that super fast mag-lev rail would fit right in with his dinosaur park and Titanic replica…

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Victorian State Election 2018 – Meet the Liberal Party!

I don’t have time to read all of this!
The Basics

libs

Website: https://vic.liberal.org.au/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/liberalvictoria/
Current leader: Matthew Guy
Campaign Website: https://getbackincontrol.com.au/
Themes: Centre right heading further right by the moment.  Tough on crime.  Christian, of a very conservative stripe.  Pro-religious instruction in schools.  Getting a lot of support from the gun lobby, which is concerning.

With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket

I’m going to start by saying that this ticket absolutely enrages me.  I expect bloody-minded, irresponsible Group Voting Tickets from small, right wing parties who either embrace the bloody mindedness or don’t know better.  But the Liberal Party is one of our two largest parties, and while I don’t expect much from them, I would have hoped that they would be responsible with their preferencing and their Group Voting tickets.

But no such luck.  I can cope with them putting the Democratic Labor Party in their top two on every ticket, because this is a clear shout out to the conservative voters who are their base.  But the Australian Country Party, the Shooters Fishers and Farmers, and the Liberal Democratic Party each appear in their top five on seven out of eight tickets, and I think the Liberal Party have an absolute hide to go around talking about Labor being soft on crime (and exploiting tragedies / fostering racism to increase their votes) while supporting parties whose main goals are to loosen our gun restrictions.

No wonder the the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia, which aims to relax gun laws, is targeting the Andrews government with a major advertising campaign, but giving the Liberal Party a pass. It looks to me suspiciously as though the Coalition is entirely willing to negotiate with people who want to trash our gun laws if they think it might get them votes, which is utterly irresponsible of them.

Hinch, Health and Transport Matters are also getting the occasional top five appearance on the Coalition ticket, and I can’t help noticing that a lot of people in South Eastern Metropolitan are putting Transport Matters second in South Eastern Metropolitan.  I think they are going to get up.  Which annoys me, because they are probably going to push out those lovely grouped independents who want to end violence against women.

And speaking of Chawla and Lee, let me tell you about the bottom end of the Coalition ticket.

In most regions, the last five parties on the ticket are the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, followed by Labor, the Greens, the Victorian Socialists, and last of all, the Australian Liberty Alliance.  I will acknowledge that the ALA is precisely where it should be on a Group Voting ticket, so at least the Liberal Party has one scruple.  In Eastern Metropolitan,  Fiona Patten’s Reason Party replaces the VEP – evidently they’ve done something to annoy the Liberals there, and I’m currently in the mood to applaud this.

And in South Eastern Metropolitan they have put Chawla and Lee second last, followed only by the Australian Liberty Alliance.  Chawla has, by his own report, attempted to get Matthew Guy to say whether or not he will follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, but Guy has avoided answering, and has now blocked Chawla on social media.

(Was Chawla being obnoxious?  Maybe.  Though from what I was able to see, he was asking Guy the same things he was asking all the other candidates he could find.)

In short, the Liberal Party in Victoria does not appear to have a problem with parties that want to loosen gun laws.  But it has a big problem with independents who want to stop violence against women.

It’s good to know that the Liberal Party doesn’t have a ‘woman problem’, isn’t it?

The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations

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A new Prime Minister – Lest we forget what he stands for

I made fondant from scratch today.  Then I flavoured it and dipped the results in choolate.  I’m pretty sure this makes me more productive than the entire Federal Government put together this week.  And probably much happier, too.  (And definitely more hopped up on sugar!)

So, in case anyone missed the news, we have a new Prime Minister, and it isn’t Peter Dutton.  Unfortunately, it is Scott Morrison, who, while marginally less appalling than Dutton, is not precisely a cause for celebration.  But we’ll get onto why that is in a bit, because I think it is proper to finish recounting the events of the day before we get onto the evaluation.

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Thought Experiment

Let’s, just for a moment, consider the possibility that Malcolm Turnbull has been entirely sincere in the various small-L-liberal things he has said over the years.  That he sincerely supports marriage equality, that he wants a republic, that he wants action on climate change, that even one child in detention is too many, all that stuff.  We’ll leave his economics out of the picture for now, because that’s not what this is about.

If he does believe all these things – and I’m quite willing to believe he does – and he is now Prime Minister, what, precisely, can he do about them?  Without, that is, ceasing to be Prime Minister.  Which is the catch, really, isn’t it?  I mean, theoretically, he has the power to make huge changes, but in practice, I don’t think he can actually do that and continue to lead a Coalition government.  Even setting aside our current fashion for changing our Prime Minister at the drop of an opinion poll, there is only so much the party room can tolerate.  One cannot lean too far outside the boundaries of what is acceptable to the Party.

And this, I think, is one of the big failures of the political party system, at least in the larger parties – the incredible pressure it imposes to compromise, to conform.  No matter how idealistically you start out, at some point, if you want to be pre-selected, you are going to have to get the votes of your fellow party members, and this will mean compromise.  Then you have to get the votes of the public, which may mean more compromise (though not necessarily in the same direction).  How many of your ideals do you have to trade away in order to get to a point where you can act to them?  Is there, in fact, such a point?  Or are you more tightly controlled the higher you get in the party?

Have we set things up so that by the time you reach the top job, nothing is left that is not open for negotiation?

Well, perhaps not quite.  Certainly, your Party will have certain core values that are non-negotiable.  Maybe.  But again, those values change over time – consider Malcolm Fraser’s policies on refugees versus Howard’s.  Howard was, of course, Fraser’s Treasurer, so both sets of policies were Liberal dogma during Howard’s political lifetime.  But something evidently changed in the interim.  Still, if one had entered the Liberal Party in the Fraser era because one sympathised with the Party’s ideology, one might have felt rather compromised by the time Tampa rolled around…

Then again, this example is also one of change occurring within a Party.  Someone clearly drives this change.  Is it the Party Leadership?  The Party Membership?  The Chief of Staff?  The polls?  A bit of all four? Does this mean that Turnbull does, in fact, have the power to change the party from within, if he chooses to use it?

And which policies can be changed, anyway?  Which values are ‘core’ to a party, and which are subject to negotiation?  How fast do these core values themselves change?

And would you, if you were a Prime Minister in our current climate be willing to take that risk?

I suppose it would depend on why you sought power, and what you thought you could do with it.  I mean, if you think you really can push through some vital and fantastic legislation that the country needs, so long as you stay around long enough to do it, that might be a reason to compromise on the stuff you felt was less central.

Then again, the fact that you think certain stuff is less central also tells us a bit about how sincere you are about it and how much you really care…

I’m hoping that Turnbull will work to change the conversation in the party room around marriage equality, around refugees, around climate change.  If he does, that’s definitely a useful thing.  But I think he has already signalled where his priorities lie, and for him, promoting fiscal conservatism clearly trumps promoting social liberalism.  (I note that nobody anywhere has claimed that Turnbull is anything less than sincere in his economic opinions.)

Assuming he really is sincere on the social liberalism side of things, perhaps he feels that getting conservative budget measures through is the only way he can ‘buy’ tolerance for considering these other issues.  This does not seem unlikely.  But I’m pretty sure that’s a price that he is very, very happy to pay.  I’m sure he’d like to be the PM who presided over Australia becoming a Republic that allowed Marriage Equality.  It would be a lovely legacy to leave.  But he wants to be the PM that brought Australia into a new economic Golden Age (for a value of Economic Golden Age that I personally find terrifying) more.

If he makes compromises, it won’t be on the side of economics.

New Prime Minister

So, we have a new prime minister. Again. I’m still neck deep in the year of insanity at work, but a new Prime Minister is something that’s going to bring any political blogger, no matter how sporadic, out of the woodwork.

I’m not going to miss Tony Abbott. His policies were a mixture of the cruel, the stupid and the dangerous, and we are definitely better off without him.  The question is whether Malcolm Turnbull is actually going to be an improvement.

On first glance, it doesn’t look too promising. Certainly, Turnbull is more personable than Abbott, and he comes across as more intelligent. He is certainly more electable, which is, of course, the whole point. His personal views on climate change and marriage equality are quite pleasing to the likes of me – he does seem to understand and accept the science behind climate change, and he feels that gay people should be allowed to marry. However, Turnbull is also clearly a very canny political beast.  He has been biding his time for a good while now, and it must be remembered that to become PM, he must have been able to attract votes from across the party. Turnbull may be personally liberal and pro-science, but he is even more pro-being Prime Minister, and he is far from stupid.

Turnbull was smart enough to play a waiting game through Abbott’s government, smart enough to call a spill at the right moment – and as we saw in tonight’s press conference, he is smart enough, to avoid questions about marriage equality and follow the party line on climate change and refugees if that will keep him in power.  He has said that he will lead a more consultative government, which sounds a lot to me like code for “no captain’s calls” and possibly also code for “you over there on the right, I’m on your side, too”.  And this means, really, that Turnbull cannot make decisions based on his personal opinions if these are strongly opposed by his party.  (Frankly, I can’t fault that – it’s how you are supposed to run a government in a party system, so I have to give him credit for this, even though I would personally be happier if he enacted the policies that I liked, and to hell with the party room.  But it would be hypocritical to complain about that after taking digs at Abbott for doing just that in areas that I didn’t like…)  The best we can hope for here is that we do now have a senior voice in the Liberal party that is in favour of these things, and that Turnbull might be able to use his platform to persuade others… though probably not if it will get him voted out of office.  I may be being unfair here, but I don’t think it would be wise to underestimate Turnbull’s cynicism.

One definite positive is that Turnbull doesn’t seem to share Abbott’s old-fashioned views on women, so I suspect we can expect a few more women on the front bench.  He is not just pro-choice, but sufficiently so to be willing to offend the Australian Christian Lobby by telling them so, and he does get some respect from me for that.  However, I am not actually a single-issue voter on this subject.  Actually, Tony Abbott basically trained me out of any tendencies towards single-issue voting, by demonstrating with stunning thoroughness just how many political issues there are out there that are deal breakers for me, some of which I had never even realised might be in question (making people wait for Newstart and a compulsory fee to see the doctor being two of these).  So, while it is pleasing to know that Turnbull sees himself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative, I have now had my eyes opened as to just how socially regressive fiscal conservatism can be in its effects, and am wary.  (Which is not to say that fiscally conservative but socially progressive is not still preferable to fiscally conservative and also socially conservative, of course).

Another positive is the vague feeling I have that Turnbull is less likely to embarrass Australia on the international stage, though I don’t have any really concrete evidence for this. Just a feeling that he is a bit more media savvy – and smart enough to let Julie Bishop, who is really rather brilliant with the media (she seduces me every time and I don’t want to like her), work her magic if he is not.

It’s after midnight, so I’m not going to look at Turnbull’s policies tonight, but I’d like to mention something that did give me a bit of hope, and that is Turnbull’s intention not to call an election yet, and to serve out the term until late next year. I think that is the best news the left of politics could have. Frankly, right now, the nation is riding a wave of ‘no more Tony Abbott’ euphoria, which would probably be sufficient to ensure a Liberal victory in an early election – especially as, let us confess, Shorten’s greatest achievement to date has been Not Being Tony. Unfortunately for him, Malcolm is also Not Tony, and he has both policies and charisma, both of which Shorten is a bit short on (so to speak).

Waiting until the end of the government’s term is good for the right as well as the left.  For one thing, it will give Turnbull a chance to show his true colours, and what he is capable of doing, both good and bad. This is information we need when going into an election!  But I would also suggest, tentatively and with perhaps a little too much optimism, that this is an opportunity for the Labor party.  Standing for Not Tony is no longer going to be enough for Labor, and, frankly, nor should it be.  A victory on that basis was never going to get Labor past a single term in any case.

With Turnbull at the head of the liberal party, the ALP now has the opportunity, and I think the obligation, to do some serious soul searching. This is the time for new policies. This is the time for setting out what the ALP stands for. This is even the time, dare I say it, for a change in leadership, if that’s something they want to do. After all, this is probably the one window of time during which the Liberal party can’t attack the ALP for changing leaders and being unstable. In another six months, it could be a different story. They should seriously consider using this window.

As for Turnbull’s government and what it will be like, well, that’s not my area of expertise – none of this is, let’s face it – but I have a few thoughts. For one thing, I suspect it will be very, very polished in its approach to the media (unless, of course, Abbott goes the white-anting route, but I’m actually rather hoping he will not. We’ve had enough stupid political infighting for one decade). For another, I don’t think there will be many changes in policy. Turnbull has said a lot about the Abbott government’s failure to communicate and sell their policies (I think he is wrong about that – I think the general public understands the policies just fine, and genuinely doesn’t like them), so I think we can expect a lot more talk about what these policies are and why we should accept them – but he has also said now and in the past that he supports those policies. He’s going to follow the Abbott course on refugees, economics, workplace relations and climate, at least until the next election.

Marriage equality looks like an easy win on the surface, an easy source of votes, but Turnbull is not going to do that, either, because those votes are on the left, which already likes him enough to hold their noses and vote for him even if he does not move on this.  Championing marriage equality would, however, alienate the right, who are already pretty dubious about him.  Turnbull may feel positive about the idea, but he isn’t going to risk his career for it, not after waiting this long to get where he is.  What I think we can realistically hope for is a referendum that will be written in a  way that is more likely to succeed than the one we would have got from Abbott.  We may get personal statements in favour of marriage equality from Turnbull too, and perhaps a voice in the party room, but we won’t get more than that.

Overall? I think we’re looking at the Howard government Mark 2. I think that is Turnbull’s natural style, and I think it’s also a political era that the Liberals would like to return to anyway. It speaks of stability and security and the 1950s, which is what the Coalition is all about.

Now, if Turnbull gets re-elected in 2016? Well, that might be a different story. I suspect that this would be the point at which Turnbull might risk pushing more of his own views on climate change and marriage equality. But don’t look for economic policies rooted in social justice from Turnbull.  That’s not what he stands for, and to do him justice, he has never claimed otherwise.

I’m going to finish with a quote from an opinion column by Tom Switzer from back in February, the first time we all thought this was going to happen, because I think he’s pretty much written my entire article in one paragraph:

If Turnbull replaces Abbott, he’ll need to remember he will be leading a party that is the custodian of the centre-right tradition in Australian politics. Winning the centre is the business of politics, but doing so at the expense of your own political base is suicidal – as Turnbull found out last time in 2008-09. To be a successful centre-right leader, you need to have the courage of your (conservative) convictions.

In other words, it could be worse.  It could be Abbott.  But let’s not get too excited just yet – Turnbull may be on ‘our’ side on some matters, but he’s not going to act on that.  Not in this term.

Victorian Senate Group E: Liberals / Nationals in Brief

Next up on the ticket is the Coalition, comprising the  Liberal Party and the Nationals.

After some consideration, I am electing not to write a full post about the Coalition.  My reason for this is simple: most people are aware of exactly who the Coalition is, and far more knowledgeable people than I are analysing their policies in newspapers, in blogs, and on the television.  And, frankly, both the Coalition and Labor get an entire series of debates in which to tell us about their policies.  It’s not difficult to find information about them (though I will say, past experience has taught me that the Liberal Party are really quite thorough about hiding their policies on their website).

The purpose of this series is to assist people in figuring out who all the tiny parties are.  You don’t need me to tell you what I think of the Coalition’s policy.  In fact, you probably don’t want me to.

On the same principle, I will also not be writing a full post about the Labor Party when I reach them.  Fair is fair.  If I find myself with too much time on my hands before the election I may come back and have another pass at this (especially for the Nationals, who really don’t get their share of coverage), but for now, I’m just going to briefly discuss the Coalition’s senate ticket and then move on.  (I think we all know that HEMP is going to be far more entertaining anyway…).

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Politics: Small ‘L’ Liberals

Malcolm Fraser was on Q&A tonight, doing a better job of selling the Rudd and Gillard governments than either Rudd or Gillard did, and generally coming across as sane, intelligent, compassionate, and in general the sort of person one might vote for.

John Hewson’s comments while on The Gruen Nation were likewise intelligent, humorous, and generally sane and compassionate.

I have to say, if I had the option of voting for former as well as current politicians, I’d be seriously considering the Liberal party…

(I’m also in agreement with the several people who have, either humorously or wistfully, expressed the view that Malcolm Turnbull would be a real asset to the ALP right about now…)

Also, does anyone think that in twenty years John Howard will be a sane, compassionate and intelligent elder statesman? I can’t really see it, myself. He seems a bit too small for the job. But then, I imagine Fraser didn’t look like the sort of person who would turn into an elder statesman 35-odd years ago, either…

NB: Still no government.

Politics: Federal Election – Meet the Coalition (Liberal Party, National Party)

Yes indeed, it’s time for the Liberal Party / National Party Coalition. I’m going to state two things up-front here. First, I don’t much like this lot, and I particularly dislike Tony Abbott, and am discinlined to believe anything he says. He reminds me too much of Howard. Secondly, the Coalition is not going to get the same in-depth analysis that the smaller parties got. This is partly because most people in Australia know exactly who the Coalition parties are and what they stand for, and partly because I still can’t get the Liberal site to load in any reasonable fashion and when it does, it slows down my whole computer to a dreadful degree (either at home or at work when I tried to do this in my lunchbreak). And I can’t get the policy PDFs to download at all. The National Party pages, on the other hand, do load, and they have all their policies in one downloadable PDF.

So I’m sorry, Liberal Party of Australia. Much as I don’t like to do this, I’m going to have to base all my Coalition policy notions on what the Nationals say in their statement, because after 48 hours of trying, I have been unable to access a single policy from your website… though, strangely, accessing press statements about how incompetent Labor is has been fairly easy. I will leave analysis of this to the reader. If you want more information on Coalition and, for that matter, Labor policies and politicking, I can strongly recommend The Conscience Vote, a blog that covers all the election stuff that I’m really bad at, so well worth looking at.

As is traditional, we’re going to start with Senate Preferences. And the Liberals give theirs straight to Family First and the DLP, followed by the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers. Which appalls me, actually – I knew that the Coalition had moved ridiculously to the right but this is worse than I had imagined. The Greens precede Labour just after the halfway point on the ticket, and the CEC and One Nation are last of all. Sorry, I just have to pause for a moment to assimilate the fact that one of our major parties put the DLP, the CDP and the Shooters and Fishers in their top 16. My God.

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Politics: Replies from MPs

In my inbox this morning, a brief email from one of the MPs I wrote to, thanking me for me email, and saying it meant a lot. I sent emails to 23 MPs, all of them brief (three sentences), and only a few of them individualised except by name, just saying thank you for their support of the bill. I didn’t expect a response from any of them, they were just quick emails to hopefully counteract some of the nasty ones that I hear were sent to the MPs voting in favour of decriminalisation.

I’ve checked, and Ms Coote got one of my very generic ones, so I’m doubly touched at her response.

(also, I think this is the first time I’ve ever got mail of any kind from someone in the Liberal Party (since the Liberals don’t even bother letterboxing in my electorate)! Soon, I shall collect the whole set!)

It’s really good to know that even a short, generic thank you email is something that will be read and will apparently make someone’s day a little better. I’m sort of feeling guilty that I didn’t write more individualised emails to everyone – but reading all that Hansard takes a long time, so I really only wrote more specific thanks to people whose speeches stood out for me.

Guilt aside though, it means that it *is* worth taking the time to write to politicians, even if I only have time to be brief. Which means I am more likely to do so.

(Do they know what they have started? Bwah ha ha ha!!)

It’s a time-consuming business, though. I want to do more of this, but I’m clearly going to have to choose my issues carefully. There must be a faster way to learn when legislation that I might be interested in is being discussed than going through Hansard page by page…