The party that calls itself Liberal and describes itself as conservative is neither liberal nor conservative.
The liberal part of the name is an old construction and refers to the Party’s ostensible belief in economic liberalism: free markets and small government. In the first couple of decades of the Commonwealth, the main debate was over tariffs and market protection, with the protectionists more often than not holding sway.
Robert Menzies, who was a true conservative, devised the Liberal name as a way of distinguishing itself from the Labor Party, which was around that time discussing nationalising the banking industry. In fact, Menzies kept the tariff wall around Australia. It wasn’t until the rather radical Hawke and Keating Labor governments of the 1980s and '90s that the tariffs were cut and the economy was rather swiftly liberalised. Or more accurately, “neo-liberalised”. Irony abounds.
The Liberals, under Howard and his so-called “conservative” successors ─ Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison ─ seized upon the radical Friedmanite Doctrine first embraced in the West by Reagan and Thatcher and continued the Keating project.
Except the Liberals have none of the restraint, discretion, wit and foresight of Keating. Their goal is a radical restructuring of the economy, shifting income from the people into the greedy, clutching hands of capital. This may be seen in the attacks on unions and collective bargaining; the huge cuts to corporate taxation and personal taxes of the wealthy; and the attempts to shovel money to private capital through privatisation and outsourcing of traditional public service functions.
So, the Liberals are not liberal, not even in an economic sense. They are radicals. They are, in effect, attempting to increase the wealth of large corporations and the wealthy by increasing income disparity and driving down wages, to the benefit of the few. It could be argued that they are radical economic conservatives, in the way they wish to push the economy back to the sort of economic Darwinism not seen since the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century. But then, if conservativism may be defined as respecting institutions and conventions developed gradually over time, then the phrase “radical conservativism” is an oxymoron.
And moreover, these self-proclaimed “Liberals” have absolutely no respect for institutions or conventions. They seem to want to smash down organically accepted institutions and replace them with their own warped versions.
One example may be observed in the rise of the influence of the Pentecostals in the Liberal Party, especially under the previous Morrison Government. This is a movement which, as we have reported, wants to control every part of our society, including government, through its Seven Mountains doctrine. The rise of this explosively expanding sect is nothing short of alarming, particularly given the extent of its aspirations.
Another example – or rather, a huge set of instances ─ may be seen almost daily at the Robodebt Royal Commission. There, it has become apparent that the misnomer that describes itself as the Liberal Party has absolutely no respect for the institutions of responsible government or an independent, non-politicised public service.
Time and time again, we have observed senior public servants front the inquiry and make the most mealy-mouthed statements about their actions in implementing this criminal scheme – or rather, scam – to defraud ordinary Australians of their meagre incomes. Something that drove several thousand distraught people to take their own lives. Yet the testimony in from the Commission, of the hand-picked Tories given authority by the Liberals to implement their Orwellian policy, was uniformly asinine. If they said anything at all, it was to suggest a lack of concern about the devastating effects of their actions on their fellow human beings. Just following orders, they seemed to say ─ the Nuremberg defence.
When former Human Services Minister Alan Tudge's abused former lover, Rachelle Miller, fronted the inquiry this week, the extremism of the Liberals became manifest. The personal details of Robodebt victims were released to the public because they needed to be silenced. And the public servants involved, despite the manifest criminality of such an act, meekly allowed themselves to be traduced.
And then when Tudge himself faced questioning the next day, the true banality of evil was laid bare. Here was a man utterly uninterested in how his actions might play out, incurious about whether what he thought was true was, in fact, the case and not prepared to spend a moment to find out. A man of such vast mental agility, he almost had to take on notice the question of whether he was a lawyer or not.
Perhaps the example of Nuremberg should be used for Tudge and those of his ilk, the architects and implementors of the despicable Robodebt scheme?
No, the Liberal Party is not liberal and nor is it conservative. It is an extremist party. And with a leader like Peter Dutton in charge, it looks likely to only become more so. Which should, with any good fortune, make it unelectable for a generation.
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