As somebody’s mother probably said, ‘When you point the finger at somebody, four fingers point back at you.’
Writing in New Matilda on Monday, fellow Canberran and lecturer in public sector finance, Ian McAuley wrote a plea to the ‘articulate right’ to ‘stand up for public ideas’.
As a conservative myself, I was extremely puzzled by McAuley’s article. Sure, it’s true that Abbott is a wrecking ball and his front bench keep playing a game of Policy Chicken with the Government (‘We’ll reveal our policies once the government reveals theirs‘). Sure, it’s true that a lot of very loud commentators are irrationally critical of the government. Sure, it’s true that the wingnuts on my side of politics are functionally the mainstream.
But here’s the thing: left wingers have all the political power in Australia. They’re practically in control of the Lower House. They have the balance of power in the Upper House. They have the army of public servants. They have the publicly funded organisations like the Human Rights Commission. They have all the NGOs. They have the overwhelming majority of social media on side.
You guys have — easily, without a word of hyperbole — all of the advantages, and yet it is incumbent on my side of politics to fix the debate? Are you kidding?
From my lofty, ivory tower conservatism, the problem with modern politics in Australia is that the ALP has absolutely no communication skills whatsoever and the Greens refuse to play grownup politics.
In other words, it takes two (or, in this case, three) to tango.
Let’s focus over on the Greens for a second. Here’s their submission about the Freedom of Information Act.
The Greens believe that open and transparent government is a prerequisite to an effective democracy. Information is central to knowing how our elected representatives are exercising their power and to hold our representatives to account.
Date of submission: 7 December 2012.
In July 2012, they sang a rather different tune:
Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne has backed a Treasury decision to deny the federal opposition access to costings of the minor party’s policies presented to the Labor government cabinet. [Source: The Age]
And let’s not forget Sarah Hanson-Young’s response to the ASIO case earlier this year:
For years we have been witness to an unacceptable situation where people who have been found to be genuine refugees before receiving a negative security assessment from ASIO were not allowed into our community, not allowed to challenge their assessment and were unable to go home.
You want people with negative security assessments from ASIO to be allowed into the community…? Say what?
When it came to ceasing the grandfathering of a group of single parent pensioners, the Greens came out swinging:
“The Government and Coalition have turned their backs on poor and struggling families, highlighting the growing disconnection between the other parties and vulnerable people” Mr Bandt said today.
Except, it’s untrue. The question in play was why one group of single parent pensioners should continue to be treated differently to the rest. The Greens didn’t answer it because pandering to the bellyfeel beliefs of their electorate was easier.
And now to the ALP. One feature of Policy Nirvana is that you could predict with some accuracy how the government would respond to an issue as it arose. ‘Oh, there’s a new hot topic of the moment? Here’s the government to give us a clear response. We can all sleep easy.’ I cannot — with hand on heart — work out what the government wants. Wayne Swan struggles to explain economic policies to the electorate, and other ministers seem haphazard with their communication. The ALP has a professor of economics… on the backbench. Before anybody blames the evil journalists, the same communication struggles persist even when there are no journalists between the minister and the electorate: even their social media channels are banal.
So the crazy isn’t just coming from my side of politics. Doctor, cure thyself.
If I were being extremely charitable to Abbott (and I don’t like him much either; I’m hardly an apologist), I would say: ‘Abbott is a reactionary. What we are seeing from Abbott is a reactionary with nothing to react to.’
The Greens do not have credible policies. The ALP appears to have a self-imposed ban on communicating policy with any level of coherence. My earlier comment about Abbott being a wrecking ball is technically untrue: there is absolutely nothing for him to wreck.
Finally — and this is the most important part — the megaphone rightwingers aren’t preaching to the converted. Look at the comments on Andrew Bolt’s blog. Look at the demographics of Alan Jones’ radio show. Do you know what makes them so popular? Lefties getting outraged and flocking en masse to their websites.
Do you really think that the racist yokels who agree with Bolt, Ackerman, et al. are reading newspapers? Seriously? The comments to their blogs are barely literate.
As an ‘articulate’ conservative, you can’t imagine how difficult it is to hear other articulate conservatives over the noise caused by lefties tweeting and retweeting the lastest obnoxious statement from whichever ‘shock jock’ simpleton is lefty hate-flavour of the month.
People would think I had rocks in my head if I pointed to the inane comments of Marieke Hardy, Catherine Deveny, Bob Ellis, or the Socialist Alliance website as the alpha and omega of left wing views. Yet, as a conservative, I’m routinely told by progressive news outlets that Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman, Gerard Henderson, and the Institute of Public Affairs represent the totality of conservative views. Each week on Q&A, I would see a parade of different left wing organisations… and then a columnist from News Ltd or a troll from one of Those Two Think Tanks. It was as if nobody else existed on the anti-left side of politics in Australia. Sometimes, they even get in an ‘international’ left wing guest, just to rub it in that lefties think that there’s no variety here so we have to import more trolls.
Monday night ABC is basically a left-wing-athon. Every progressive issue you could want covered gets air time. The ABC knows who’s watching and makes sure you get two hours of uninterrupted moral outrage. There is no comparable conservative variety hour (except on pay television).
If Ian McAuley were serious about improving the quality of public debate, he would do both of two things:
1. Get his side of politics (who have all of the power in public debate) to start communicating some ideas for a reactionary opposition to react to; and
2. Stop feeding the trolls and start supporting conservatives who can engage in debates.