Why Australia’s “Conservative” Party is so Left-wing

Why Australia’s “Conservative” Party is so Left-wing. By John Ruddick.

Of our ten most recent prime ministers, all but one had acute political interest in their youth. …

The exception is Scott Morrison. That’s far from an automatic criticism but Morrison’s predecessors demonstrated they had been mulling political ideas for decades before getting the top job. Most opposition leaders have published biographies, but we still lack one on Morrison. The scraps we do have strongly hint that pre-politics Morrison was absent political interest.

When other PMs-to-be were studying the morning newspaper, arguing with their teachers and watching the evening news, Morrison was a child actor. He landed a few TV commercials so obviously had talent but while the acting career didn’t take off it may have given him a taste of the limelight. The other members of Club PM studied law, history, political science, philosophy, etc., but Morrison studied economic geography (huh?). The UNSW campus in the 1990s was (as always) an ideological hotbed but Morrison completed his degree without leaving political fingerprints.

His first job was at the Property Council. From 1995 to 2000 he then held senior roles in tourism authorities. …

The NSW division of the Liberal party has been notorious for factional strife since Menzies. The day-to-day adjudicator is the poor old state director. Its a well-paid but thankless task. … The division burned through several state directors in the 1990s. Then someone came up with a novel idea, ‘why don’t we get an apolitical state director with zero factional baggage but proven management skill?’ Morrison got the gig. …

The Liberal party is viewed as this awesome election-winning machine but once inside you quickly see its awesome dysfunction and how average many of its parliamentarians are. No one had a better view than the state director and at some point Morrison concludes, ‘I reckon I could be an MP.’ …

This sketch of Morrison’s rise reveals that while he has no natural interest in political ideas he is awesome at the politics of politics.

November 2021 is the 40th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s speech at the Menzies Lecture in Melbourne where she noted: ‘I count myself among those politicians who operate from conviction. Consensus is the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects. The process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner “I stand for consensus”?’

During a televised leaders debate in the 2019 campaign, Morrison declared, ‘I’ll govern from where I always have – from the middle.’ Lacking any depth, Scott Morrison’s guiding principle is to be a little to the right of a very left Labor party and that’s delivering us two left-wing parties.

From Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols: “Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it.”

Democracies eventually evolve politicians who are optimized for gaining power, because that’s what is rewarded. Political philosophy and wisdom in governing are increasingly incidental.