By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
What’s Right? The Future of Conservatism in Australia
By Waleed Aly (Quarterly Essay/Black Inc., $19.95, softcover, 141 pages)
This essay argues that conservatism in Australia has lost it way, so much so, that even conservatives who espouse inconsistent viewpoints and procedures are identified.
It is becoming difficult to identify the place of a classical view of conservatism in contemporary politics.
Political parties worldwide hold indistinct ideological stands which makes one wonder about the relevancy of such terms as ‘left’ and ‘right’ in today’s political landscape. How meaningless are they?
Waleed Aly says: “Our political discourse is drenched in Left and Right because it is so deeply impoverished. These terms are the hallmark of a political conversation that is obsessed with teams and uninterested in ideas”.
He contends that conservative parties have backed themselves into a corner by embracing free-market extremism, and that an illiberal social politics – including prescribing who or what is Australian – is not the answer, even though it’s electorally tempting.
Debate can rage over whether it was the election of the Howard government that started the neo-liberal revolution in 1996, as Aly does, or should the credit go to Nick Greiner’s NSW Liberal government followed then by Jeff Kennett’s Liberal government in Victoria.
From a conservative perspective, this lawyer, qualified engineer and academic reveals some illogical statements and mistaken beliefs from people like John Howard, Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews or Nick Minchin. “The conservative would certainly not run immigration at record levels (as the Howard government did) and then lecture its migrant population on what their values should be…”
In What’s Right? Aly discusses what a better conservatism might look like, predicting that the main issues of the day, like the financial crisis and climate change, mean a reactionary brand of politics is unlikely to work because public opinion is rapidly leaving it behind.
No stand-over tactics here, but an obvious argument for political change and an invitation to think long and hard.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.