Introducing the all new Australian Oxymoron Party (AOP)

As a member of the Labor Party I feel that to at least some small extent, I can empathise with the frustrations that supporters of the Coalition must be feeling at the moment. After the federal election defeats that hung like rancid albatrosses around Labor’s neck over the course of the last decade, just about everybody had an opinion about what was wrong with the party, and how it needed to be fixed. The majority of the criticisms of the party aired during this time were pretty well on the money, but perhaps only a small proportion of these would have served the purpose of making the federal party actually more likely to win elections. The somewhat antiquated party infrastructure that all the major parties in Australia continue to operate with can indeed be effectively criticised from top to bottom, but the average punter assumes as a given that a political party should have its house in order (roughly) by default. For the most part, they are not interested in the internal workings of the parties they vote for. They are more interested in what a vote for each of these parties respectively means for them, their friends and families, and their local communities.

Now the Coalition has only had one federal election loss in recent history of course, but they certainly have done a good job so far of making sure it proves to be a real doozy for them. The latest largely irrelevant tangent that the media have collapsed on in a frenzy is the prospect of a merger between the Liberal and National Parties. The cause? Another spectacularly ugly public backflip from Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, who only yesterday voiced his support for a potential merger. But within twenty-four hours, he was declaring the idea “nonsense”. With stalwarts like Michelle Grattan now calling for Nelson to stand aside, surely the Opposition Leader needs to give some thoughtful consideration towards doing the right thing by his party and leaping on the nearest available upturned sword.

What has most amused me about this latest talk of mergers has been the attempts by members of Nelson’s front bench to explain what the Coalition stands for. Joe Hockey suggests that Australians want a “clearer, more identifiable” party to represent “liberal conservative” interests. The Chaser could not have expressed it better. I am not sure this somewhat circular argument against the merger from Christopher Pyne has really helped to clarify either:

“The National Party is a conservative party,” said the justice spokesman, Christopher Pyne. “The Liberal Party has always said that we are both liberals and conservatives. We hold both the strains of non-Labor thinking within our party, and merging the Nationals and the Liberals would not be merging two like parties.”

Well, at least Pyne’s first sentence makes sense.

4 thoughts on “Introducing the all new Australian Oxymoron Party (AOP)

  1. The political layman would agree with you. However, to be a liberal conservative, you would have to apply conservative policies quite liberally. Just as to be a conservative liberal, you would have to apply liberal policy conservatively. It is not that hard to follow.

    However the Liberal party has always claimed to be a broad church of liberals and conservatives. It ultimately stems from the Fusion party and fusion era which I believe Don Arthur wrote a great essay about.

    However it has been clear for quite a while that most Liberal party members are Conservatives and not Liberals as whether you are a rusted on conservative or liberal the only thing you really share in common is the laissez faire free market ideology.

    Given there are actually very few Liberals in the Liberal Party a merger with Nationals makes good sense. It really would be a Conservative party then. No more pretending to be Liberals. The only real reason Liberal politicians oppose it is they hate the country, and what everyone in it stands for. They’re afraid it will take away some of their big city big business perks. There is no electoral advantage in the country, so both Labor and Liberal will continue to ignore it.

    The problems with the Nationals though is they only focus on the farmers and not the townspeople hence their decline in fortune.

  2. The Nats in WA know what they stand for. And what they stand against: amalgamation with the Libs. They are happy to have a Federal marriage where they are all but invisible but no Libs are going to eye off their seats in the State parliament. They won’t even have a coalition before the election. Horse trading is what government is about. AOP any other party but the Liberals.

  3. Vee, I think you are right when you suggest that the Liberal Party is more of a conservative party these days than a “liberal” party. Having said that, recent developments with the leadership mean that the man most likely to be Opposition Leader at the next election (Malcolm Turnbull) is one of the most “liberal” members of the parliamentary caucus, and Nelson himself has proven time and time again that he can adopt any political position if enough pressure is applied. I don’t think the merger will happen because of the natural antagonism that exists between some of the more liberal members within the party and the agrarian socialism associated with most of the National Party parliamentary members.

    “Liberal conservatism” or “conservative liberalism” is literalism taken too far methinks. This is not the sense that folks like Pyne and Hockey use these words in. Loosely speaking, “economic liberalism” and “social conservatism” comes closest to describing the broad position of the Coalition, but clearly they are neither conservatives in broad terms or liberals.

    Kevin, I think you’re right there. The Nats know that a pact with the Libs is a fast track to the emergence of another country party and their oblivion.

    Matthew, it might make sense in some ways from our standpoint, but politically its a hard thing for the Coalition to tackle. Half of the Liberal Party barely tolerate the Nats as it is. The Nats only tolerate the Liberals because of a shared social conservatism and base want to be close to the reins of power. I am not sure it’s quite the match made in heaven that some folks seem to think it is in political terms.

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