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The Victorian Liberals: the Model of a Modern Mainstream Party?

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What are people to make of the Victorian Liberals and their values now that they have rescued their leader, lawyer John Pesutto, from his self-inflicted crisis by blaming it all on Upper House member Moira Deeming.  Suspending her from the parliamentary party for nine months!

Ms. Deeming was summoned to Mr. Pesutto’s office on a Sunday night, accused of condoning Nazis and associating with extremists. She was directed to sign a confession. Then Mr. Pesutto announced he would seek to have her expelled from the parliamentary Liberal Party because she “conduct(ed) activities in a manner likely to bring discredit on the Parliament or the Parliamentary Party”!

As we know, the basis of Mr. Pesutto’s actions was guilt by association. A number of men wearing Nazi uniforms gate-crashed a rally organised by a women’s support group. This was with the apparent acquiescence of the police. It also appeared to involve an entry in Wikipedia containing false information.

Mr. Persutto’s actions bore no semblance whatsoever to what we have taken for granted in a democratic society: natural justice, innocence until proven guilty and due process. Remarkably there was no explanation as to how such conduct was likely to bring discredit on the Parliament or the Parliamentary Party.

This is Mr. Pesutto’s version of a “modern Liberal Party that is mainstream and embraces diversity”!

The responses of the Liberal politicians split three ways.

First, there are those who would be glad to see the back of Ms. Deeming and any excuse will do. This view is reflected by these comments of a ‘Victorian Liberals insider’ to Murdoch journalist Holly Hayes:

‘Ms Deeming’s hard line stances on social issues is hindering the embattled party from gaining more centrist voters.

‘At end of the day, an MP is a brand ambassador for a political party. Moira knows that. Rather than focusing on helping the team rebuild the Liberal Party for the modern era, she’s focused on herself and everyone blowing up with her.

‘If you’re joining the Liberal Party to implement regressive politics such as repealing abortion or turning back voluntary assisted dying, it’s not the party for you.

This group would endorse The Australian’s John Ferguson’s assessment:

Deeming is…. a religious conservative driven by social issues that don’t resonate greatly in inner-city seats.

‘There is nothing wrong with a politician having strong views on abortion, transgender reform or vaccine mandates.

‘But this world view needs to fit within the ­imperatives of the political party; her views are not Pesutto’s views.

‘It is OK to debate the merits of transgender reform, quite ­another to drag the party into a vote-losing row that embroils the leader and undermines his ­authority. Sure, Pesutto …. was right to be wondering whether Deeming was a carbuncle that needed to be cut out.’

The second group is those who believe that the Liberal Party needs to base its decisions on values and evidence; that there was not any evidence which justified punishing Ms. Deeming, and that the approach of Mr. Pesutto is completely at odds with the Liberal Party’s principles and values.

This group would relate to the views expressed by Liberal luminary Alexander Downer who wrote last December:

The failure of the Liberal Party this year runs a good deal deeper than the management of fiscal policy. The Liberal Party has for many years dominated the values debate in Australia. As the party of selfless individualism, from the 1949 election until the demise of the Howard government, people knew its core values, which they associated with freedom to choose.

‘They associated the Liberals with achievement and ambition….The public also knew that the Liberal Party was the party of free speech and free expression and that it believed in economic competition and debate about everything, from science to literature.

‘The Liberal Party also was the party of nationalism….

‘And even though not every member of the Liberal Party is a Christian, it has been in essence the party of Christian values. And it has been unashamed in its articulation of those values.

‘This was successfully juxtaposed with the Labor Party’

‘It seems the Liberal Party’s arguments for government hinge much more on management than values. Liberals argue they would build a road here or there, or a hospital somewhere else, and that is better than the Labor proposal….

‘The values of selfless individualism and individual freedom and responsibility are timeless. The Liberal Party shouldn’t allow them to be cast as anachronistic, replaced by the idea that the only values worth embracing today are the values of the progressive left.

‘The Liberal Party must be able to summon up the courage and energy to fight the divisive and negative values of the so-called progressive left’

The third group is those who say that principles and values must make way for upholding the leader. Nothing can be allowed to damage the leader. This sentiment was reflected by those saying that the Liberals needed to support Mr. Pesutto’s motion and to move on.

It would seem that that debating whether the Victorian Liberal Party is liberal or conservative is pointless. It appears to be neither.

This raises the interesting question of how to describe the Victorian Liberals in philosophical or ideological terms.

Some might suggest that their management style could be compared with fascism.

Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, author of Fascism: A Warning observed that a fascist “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.”

Neither the Victorian Liberals nor Mr. Pesutto would support or condone violence. However, would it be legitimate to substitute ‘peaceful means’ for ‘violence and whatever other means’?

The efforts of those focussed on shoring up Mr. Pesutto’s leadership brings back memories of 1994.

In March of that year the United National Human Rights Committee decided that Tasmania’s sodomy laws breached Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In August Prime Minister Keating announced that the Federal Government would introduce legislation which would override Tasmania’s laws.

The Government argued that the external affairs power in the Constitution could be exercised to implement the recommendation of a United Nations Committee.

Alexander Downer had been elected federal leader of Liberals a few months earlier, but his leadership already was shaky. He announced that the Liberals would support the Government.

In those days, Liberals stood firmly by their values, which included a commitment to states’ rights. However, it was argued that saving Mr. Downer’s leadership had to take priority.

By the following February Mr. Downer was gone anyway and Mr. Howard was the leader.

Although several members had crossed the floor, the price paid by the Liberals for this futile attempt to protect Mr. Downer was that they lost their credibility on their commitment to states’ rights.

Back to the present. Time will tell what the future holds for Mr. Pesutto. At a minimum the price paid last week was to have compromised the opposition’s ability to criticise Daniel Andrews’ leadership.

Far worse, and much more profoundly, the Pesutto debacle headlines the current erosion of many of the fundamental principles with which the name Liberal Party has been synonymous.


This article was published on

Politics by Postcode

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Much has changed around us over the latest 30 years and people who either relive in regional or rural Australia or engage activities who occur outside our capital cities.

A question each of us has to answer is how we respond to these changes.

Do we pretend they are not happening and ignore them? Do we say that we did not ask for these changes and were not consulted about them and that we should not have change because of something for which we did not ask?

Do we say that the forces behind these changes are too powerful for us, that there is not anything we can do about it and that we should accept defeat and find something else to do, or do we say that we shall try to negate these changes and adapt to them while retaining our culture and our lifestyle?

To answer these questions it is necessary to ask why we find ourselves in this situation and where it all began.

Some people would say it began with the Vietnam War and the age of protest. That era signalled the beginning of the rise of individualism and with that the lowering of the value and importance placed on community and family. Gradually our society has become more about rights and me and less about obligations and others.

However the political challenge began well before that. The beginning of the end of the ascendancy of regional and rural Australia began in the 1950s with the post-World War 2 decision to develop a manufacturing industry with a limited population. There were not enough people to take ethe jobs to the people and so the people had to be taken to the jobs. Thus began not only Australia’s well-publicised migration programme but also the attracting of people from the country to the cities in Australia’s south-east corner.

Despite the increase in Australia’s population, increasingly driven by migrants who largely congregate in capital cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne, and the decimation of manufacturing, this mindset has not changed. Today we see the results 75 per cent of the populations of New south Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia live in the capital cities of those states.

Meanwhile the consequences of the cultural revolution of the 1960s have been reinforced by the collapse of communism and become more apparent since the 1990s. Between the 1930s and 1980s politics in Anglo-Saxon countries and Western Europe were determined by communism. Either political parties, termed the right, opposed communism and central planning or were tolerant of central planning and communism. These parties were termed ‘the Left’.

However, the Berlin wall came down in 1989, putting an end to what was already a façade, as was evidenced by the free-market economic policies championed by the Labor Party in Australia in the 1980s. if the major parties in the West had been intellectually honest they would have wound up because the rationale for the existence of all of them ceased to exist.

However that was not possible because, even by then, politics was becoming a career and to have acted on principle would have put jobs on the line. As unapologetic socialist and Carr Government Education Minister Rod Cavalier put it more than 15 years ago:

‘The political class is a coterie. The coterie has its differences within – any such divisions are not about ideas or ideology. The factions have become executive placement agencies, disputes between them become serious only when they cannot agree on a placement. They are effectively united for themselves against the world.’

Consequently since the 1990s the terms left and right have become meaningless. Their only value is to disguise the fact that today, as institutions, the major parties do not believe in anything. They are not terms that give you a sense of somebody’s values or beliefs. Nor does identification with a major party.

The most accurate indicator of people’s values and beliefs is postcodes – where they live.

When Mark Latham was the federal Labor party leader almost 20 years ago, he spoke about “Tourists” and “Residents”. He said that the insiders live like tourists in their own country. There is a sense in which they don’t live in Australia at all.

They travel extensively, eat out, and buy in domestic help. They see the challenges of globalisation as an opportunity, a chance to further develop their identity and information skills. This abstract lifestyle has produced an abstract style of politics. Symbolic and ideological campaigns are given top priority This involves a particular methodology: adopting a predetermined position on issues and then looking for evidence to support that position.’

The outsiders, on the other hand – the people who live in the outer suburbs and the regions – are the Residents of Australia. Their values are pragmatic. They cannot distance themselves from the problems of the neighbourhood, and so good behaviour and good services are all important. There is no symbolism, and also no dogma, in the suburbs, Latham said. The Residents look for small, pragmatic improvements, and they are not interested in “big pictures”.

2018 Polls on the Victorian Election – commissioned by the Bus Association of Victoria

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In September and October 2018 the Bus Association of Victoria commissioned YouGov Galaxy to conduct polls in the lead up to the Victorian elections in November.

In addition to asking respondents for whom they would have voted on the day the polls were conducted and with which party they normally identified, respondents were asked for their thoughts on public transport issues and issues in which there is a significant level of interest – such as the rate of Victoria’s population increase, the desirability or otherwise of a hung parliament and whether or not Victoria’s large migration programme had benefited them.

Details of the questions asked and the responses from each poll may be obtained by clicking on their links below.

September 2018 Victorian election poll

October 2018 Victorian election poll

ANZAC Day Speech

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ANZAC Day Speech by His Excellency Dr. Brett Mason, Australia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands on 25 April, 2018

Australians and New Zealanders are often teased that we do not take our history or ourselves too seriously This might be true.  But ladies and gentleman, we believe ANZAC Day is important.  It is, as the playwrights say, “The One Day of the Year.”   For our sense of national identity, our sense of what it means to be an Australian or New Zealander, was first tested on the slopes of the Gallipoli peninsular in Turkey 103 years ago.

Our nations were young then, very young.  We sought to test ourselves against the nations of the Old World and we were not found wanting.  It was the birth of the spirit of Australia and New Zealand – of Aussie courage and Kiwi valour.

And we remember everyone who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula: Australians, New Zealanders, the British, Irish, French, Indians and Canadians – and the Turks too.  And we remember Malta, who treated and cared for the Anzacs and was to them “The Nurse of the Mediterranean.”

To us, they are Anzacs – legends; but in 1915 they were just like we are today – just like us – fathers, sons, parents, children, cousins and mates.

We commemorate today not a few great names, but the many – the Aussie and the Kiwi digger.  We remember all our soldiers who have fought in war, in our name, since the first ANZACs went ashore at dawn 25 April 1915.

Today, let me tell you about just one.

A young Australian who lies in the heart of the Netherlands……. Read More


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Much has been made of the Greens’ future prospects following the Tasmanian and South Australian elections and a federal by-election in a Victorian seat Batman. Half of Batman is comprised of a state seat Northcote in which the Greens defeated labor convincingly. In South Australia the Greens attracted 6.6 per cent of the vote, down 25 per cent
on their vote four years ago.
In Tasmania there numbers in the 25- member Legislative Assembly were reduced two, down from five in 2010 ― their worst result in 20 years and disastrous, particularly bearing in mind that Tasmania has a Senate-style voting system for its lower house. Over the latest two state elections support for the Greens has halved. In Batman there was a swing of 6.5 per cent to Labor, even though the Liberals did not nominate a candidate. Pundits and experts predicted an easy win for the Greens and during the campaign polls suggested that the Greens had a lead of up to six per cent.
On the back of these results some commentators are hailing the demise of the Greens. Clearly the results expose Greens’ grandiose ambitions such winning 25 seats in the House of Representatives for what they are. Whether these results justify writing the Greens off is another question. South Australia always has been a weak link for the Greens and Cori Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives fared just as poorly, losing their Upper House seeking re- election. Since the elections their other Upper House member has joined the Liberals. Read More