05 September 2016
by Everald Compton
The great political party, The Liberals, formed by Robert Menzies seven decades ago, is in its death throes. It has been assassinated by right wing zealots, none of whom would have ever been welcomed into its ranks by Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister.
I was at High School when Menzies commenced his political comeback by uniting a collection of conservative parties to form The Liberals. In doing so, he declared that he was commanding the centre ground of politics in Australia, planning to push Labor to the Left and the Country Party (now The Nationals) over on to the Right. It made common sense as most Australians wanted a government without ideology that made pragmatic decisions to secure Australia’s post war prosperity.
Menzies achieved his aim for 16 years, retiring at his own timing and on his own terms. Then, the rot set in as the Liberals moved steadily to the right, finally going heavily in that direction when Tony Abbott arrived and inflicted 19th century economics and morals on the nation, sending it into decline on many fronts.
Now, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Menzies Liberal, is totally dominated by the radical right of a Party whose politics would make Menzies turn in his grave. Indeed, if the great man was still around, he would move to New Zealand where John Key governs in his tradition with great success.
In many ways, today’s Liberals reflect the state of world politics where good government has been in decline since the arrival of George W Bush heralded the birth of political stupidity.
Bush was a poorly educated man with an obsession for fundamentalist Christianity that consumed his life. He was in no doubt that God had very deliberately called him to be President of the United States and that 9/11 was a specific sign from God that he should curb the power of Islam forever by finishing the job that the Crusaders had stuffed up.
Thus, he led the United States (and Australia, Britain and Spain) into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that gave birth the cult of ISIS. His understanding of world affairs was minimal and racist while his abysmal view of finance and economics led the world into the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 and the ever widening gap between rich and poor.
He opened the door for the Tea Party to dominate American politics. A combination of it all is that lower income Americans have been driven to embrace Donald Trump as their saviour.
This has led to creating conditions in Australia whereby Pauline Hanson has made an incredible political comeback after two decades in the wilderness, riding through a right wing doorway that Tony Abbott held wide open.
What would Menzies do to fix all this if he was still around?
Without the slightest shadow of a doubt he would form a party that had as its basis a union of the right wing of the ALP with the left wing of the Liberals. Then, he would add to it an educated group of Young Turks (more females than males) with open minds and no ideology who signed up as nation builders, financially and socially.
Significantly, he would choose to operate without the Nationals who would share the Right with Hanson. Over on the other extreme, the left wing of the ALP could debate whether or not to join with the Greens. Hopefully, Independents would eventually outnumber all of them.
Let me now emphasise clearly that extremism is not confined to the political Right. It thrives just as vividly over on the Left as shown by the election of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the British Labour Party. He is as close to a total nutter as I have seen. It was his supporters who formed the backbone of the vote to leave Europe. They and the low income retirees just wanted to tell David Cameron and the Tories, and their fallacy of ‘trickle down economics’, to go to hell.
So, we come to the crucial question. Is there a leader of the stature of Menzies who can now rise up and form a powerful party of pragmatist visionaries in the political centre? I can’t see one at present as the brighter ones in the Liberals and ALP seem to be locked into those parties and new blood does not come forward from outside because they don’t want to be snared into a dead end of political ideology.
So what do ordinary Aussies like you and I do? Shoot ourselves or go to live on a tropical island. I intend to lodge protest votes with Independents until the main stream parties have the common sense and the will to reform because they will have no other option.
I voted for Menzies in every election that he contested. Then, when he departed, I moved to Gough Whitlam, as brilliant a visionary as I have seen in my lifetime, but without the ability to implement those visions. Eventually, I strongly backed John Howard as he appeared to be a Menzies man, but I departed sadly when he teamed up with George Bush and also masterminded the Tampa affair that sent refugees to a terrible fate.
One day, the right leader will turn up unexpectedly in Australia in a similar way as Lincoln did in USA when he came out of the backblocks to reach the White House.