Are conservatives irrelevant in the 21st century?

1 Feb

irrelevantThe extraordinary Queensland election result saw former LNP Premier Campbell Newman lose his seat, and the ALP chuck an unprecedented Lazarus and rise, as gobsmacked as was anybody looking on, from its cold political grave. Newman’s government lasted just one term, after the largest win in political history by his party left the Queensland ALP with just seven seats. Now the voters have seriously turned. You could not make this stuff up.

In November, Victorians threw out their LNP government, also after only one term, and returned the ALP to power.

In NSW we have an election in March, and LNP Premier Mike Baird is likely apprehensive.

It’s early days, but what seems apparent at first blush is that increasingly, Australians don’t care for the conservative method of governance. In general, we don’t take to entitled, privileged bullies fattening themselves and their besties at the taxpayer trough while simultaneously stripping us of public assets, and grinding into the dirt those who can least afford any further grinding. Unrestrained self-interest does not go down well with the Australian public, it would seem.

Neither do we take to blatant liars in our governments, nor to arrogant, dismissive leaders who think power means they never have to explain, and account for their actions.

As all of the above traits are endemic in the current conservative personality, and as the voters aren’t willing to tolerate them for longer than one term, the LNP state and federal may well be looking at some time in the wilderness of opposition, having had a brief and turbulent taste of their utter lack of relevance to 21st century Australians.

The ALP ought not to become over-confident. All too often the party has shown an alarming tendency to go along with what are essentially conservative ideas, to the point where many of us have fallen prey to  a chronic despair that has expressed itself in the phrase “There’s no bloody difference between the two major parties.” There’d better be a bloody difference, and if ALP politicians state and federal have any sense, they will be taking a good look at resurrecting the party’s core values, and listening hard to what voters are telling them.

Increasingly, voters appear to be willing to give governments only one chance. Till very recently, our attitude was to give them a second go in a second term. We seem to be on the cusp of a significant change in that attitude. This may well have to do with retribution. If our major parties don’t give so many of us a fair go, why the bloody hell should we extend that generosity to them?

For mine, it would be a great advancement if politicians were as a first principle capable of remembering their job is to serve the people, and not the other way round. I don’t know how many arses need to get hit by the door on the way out before they grasp that fundamental article of their job description.




20 Responses to “Are conservatives irrelevant in the 21st century?”

  1. Mayan February 1, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    I don’t know about the proposition of this article, nor peak oil, but judging from my Facebook feed, I fear that we are not far from peak stupidity.

    There is some truth, however, to the notion that we elect state and federal governments of a different hue. Perhaps this is worth keeping in mind over the next 10 to 20 years. Oh, and it’s worth remembering that we’re only 1/7kkk of the way into the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 1, 2015 at 10:03 am #

      But what a spectacular beginning…


      • Mayan February 1, 2015 at 10:33 am #

        The 20th century began quite nicely, too.

        That’s the good thing about being a pessimist: one is unlikely to be disappointed.


        • Jennifer Wilson February 1, 2015 at 11:04 am #

          That’s a hard choice to make, between pessimism and disappointment.


  2. paul walter February 1, 2015 at 9:29 am #

    The people are having a Syriza moment.. they ARE sick of “reform” when it is only an alibi for looting.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Team Oyeniyi February 1, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    I am starting to think I’m the only person in Australia who said this result was likely well before the event.

    Then on top of the already anti-LNP sentiment, we had “I’m with stupid”, a stupid knighthood, the Medicare craziness and Murdoch calling for Credlin’s head.

    This was a message of “Yes, Labor were bad in office in Qld, but f**k it, you lot are worse!”

    NSW next cab off the rank. Will be intetesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter February 1, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

      A much tougher test.. NSW is the hub for the new paper shuffle/ burger flip economy. Am sure they popped corks when Abbott shut down manufacturing in SA and Vic.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mayan February 1, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

        A disclaimer to anything I say here, my income is derived from foreign sources and is unrelated to the Australian economy. With that in mind, Australia is an okay place to live. My views would be quite different if I had to find employment in Australia.

        One of the things that struck me when reading Adam Smith’s works many years ago is that he was adamant about the necessity for decent, moral behaviour for markets to work. He wrote ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’, underlining their importants. Alas, whether purporting to believe that people should be free to go about their lives without interference, or where asserting the necessity of guidance and interference, politicians and their cohorts fall prey to the temptations of self-interesting. Interestingly, they will justify their power by reference to possibility of people being self-interested, albeit without the powers of the state.

        As to the Liberal Party, they eschew free markets with a panic usually reserved to vampires upon encountering sunlight. It could be said of Australia, as a whole, that it rejects competition and craves the bestowal of favours and seeks economic rents. Innovation and responding to what customers desire and need is considered a losers game. The only question decided at Australian elections is which trough is filled.

        As much as the restoration of knighthoods might cause some rustling of feathers, the truth is that this is a move very much in keeping with the Australian way of doing things. Those who want 457 visas were lucky at the last federal election, while the CFMEU won the jackpot in Victoria. Here in South Australia, no effort is made to hide this process, as seen in the no-tender sale of a large parcel of land and the refusal its corruption commission to conduct an open investigation, despite a damning judicial review.

        Look at the structure of almost every industry in this country, and you will see the result of favours being granted to a select few. Follow the movements of people between the bureaucracy, certain law firms, political parties, charities and boardrooms. I suppose it could be coincidence, but we all know better.

        For some reason, the process seems to fascinate many people, and there are some who earnestly believe that it makes a difference, despite the evidence.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. paul walter February 1, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    I get Mayan’s response as to “the proposition”.

    Are conservatives irrelevent in a new era?

    As I understand it, thinking conservatives also reject the crude IPA version, that is an alibi for looting also thriving in Koch/Wall St America, from whence all else seems to disperse.

    Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird, could be an exemplar of a thinking small-c conservative to small l liberal, for example.

    But rational conservatism and small l liberalism have been banished from the political spectrum and, if anything the ALP, (or the Greens,in a funny way) on the whole, perhaps is more representtive of old style conservatism than anything from the hard right in this age.

    Our friend DQ, for example, adopts an arguably conservative sense of an approach to people movements, for example, but that is to do with his native sense of caution and a sense of less obvious, unresolved factors that impact on the implementation of humane policy. This form is different to the outright reactivity of the hard right, even extending to parts of the ALP, involving ,say, the scapegoating of asylum seekers.

    Marx observed that hard capitalism will sweep away both the bad and the good in a society, but a small c conservative’s call for rational planning and preservation of heritage, resource and natural beauty is actually resonant with a socialist’s determination to resist hegemonic Ricardian capitalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mayan February 1, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

      There are many discussions which concern the relationship between conservatism and free markets, a large proportion of which question whether conservatism is compatible with free markets. My take is that both what might be called socialism and what might be called conservatism both rely on a large government, albeit to different ends.

      About the Kochs: apart from them being an American phenomenon, their donations are dwarfed by the amount given to opposing causes, and the vast scale of Wall Street donations to the Democrats is fascinating and should raise questions, including (and perhaps especially) from Democrats themselves. Then there is the trail of Silicon Valley money, which also tends to favour the Democrats. None of this fits the commonly held beliefs about where money flows from and to in the USA.

      There are some in Australia who question the control of the ALP by some unions. There is ample evidence to suggest that there are unhealthy relations between unions and employers, and questions about the effects that industry superannuation funds becoming huge investors has had on the union movement. From that flow questions about the trade-offs that the ALP might be willing to make, especially if they might be to the detriment of workers.


      • paul walter February 1, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

        Mayan, you will get no arguments from me about the “capture” of the US and hence Global system by Big Capital in America; also the Eurozone, where Merkel ,on behalf of her banker backers has come down hard on Syriza. I think that we reached the point of rupture maybe a decade ago.

        I’m glad you mentioned Smith. Ive often thought he is another one who ideas have been twisted round to infer the diametric inverse of what he was trying to say, back in the Age of Enlightenment.

        I often think, things change and nothing changes at all.

        Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote February 1, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

      I am pleased you think so!

      But if I thought we could actually achieve a revolution, and successfully get the tumbrils rolling, I’d be there!

      I pour a little cold water upon the more radical flights of fancy from other commenters, but only because I value their contributions. I rarely bother with the conservatives who wander in from time to time. Jennifer culls the more annoying ones very effectively.


  5. doug quixote February 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    Yes, Jennifer I agree that we the voters can only stomach the conservatives in small doses, I suppose as a way to keep Labor honest. Most governments have a use-by date, by conventional wisdom about 8 to 10 years. They run out of ideas, run out of energy, abuse their privileges and indulge in corrupt conduct. A reset is needed.

    The Queensland situation as I read it, a month ago, was that the electorate rid themselves of Anna Bligh and a tired government. Job accomplished, they had seen quite enough of Campbell Newman and his henchmen.

    Labor won every election from 1989 to 2009 inclusive. The voters went back into the fold.

    This is not hindsight; my views are in black and white over at Bob Ellis’ blog.

    I predicted a Labor win, as did Bob, to universal disdain and doubt.

    How sweet it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. paul walter February 2, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    Perhaps a different trajectory…Instead of a question, we get a statement, conservatives are irrelevant in the 21st century.

    From that point, we then question whether conservatives are relevant ANY century?


  7. 8 Degrees of Latitude February 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    The real question, surely, is how politics (which we need, however fractious we might feel about it) can move from the celestial machine model to the multimodal system that social media and greater informal engagement is creating. This poses greater problems for formal political parties than it does for shifting, ephemeral groupings. That’s as much a problem in the Australian context for the Labor Party as it is for the Coalition.

    There will always be argument which can be labelled in a facile way as taking place between “conservative” and “progressive” thought-streams. For example, one can be a fiscal conservative (believing you can’t just ignore bills and print money) and a social liberal. Come to think of it, that exactly describes me. 🙂 Any number of boundaries are being blurred by social advance. I agree that Tony Abbott is fundamentally unsuited to a progressive landscape, but that’s really not what the argument should be about.

    Queensland’s election result is interesting. The LNP won a bigger portion of first preference votes than Labor (by a small margin) but lost a swag of seats they wouldn’t have won last time if a similar exercise in voter volatility had not taken place then. The government also lost its premier, Can-Do Campbell (Newman) whose new moniker must surely be Cock-Up Campbell. The lesson for democratic governments everywhere is that not only are all the dogs barking, but also that the caravan has very definitely moved on.

    I think that is a very good thing.


  8. Mayan February 2, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    Another factor behind this backlash is that it highlights the dangers of a unicameral system. I’ve heard many cries from the left before to do away with the Senate, yet here we see a government drunk on power. Worse, the new government shows no signs of reversing some of the most outrageous abuses of civil liberties (e.g. the the VLAD (bikies) laws) and transgressions against the principle of a separate judiciary and executive.

    Perhaps the left should take a long look at the contempt for which many of it its members have held the upper houses, and consider the pitfalls of a unicameral system

    Oh, and I do wish that the VLAD Act would be repealed and the new government would commit to not inserting itself into matters best left to other organs of governemnts. They won’t – they will extend these outrages, most likely – but they should.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 2, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

      It’s early days, and I agree with you, the VLAD Act is an absolute outrage and I hope the new government will repeal it.



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