The Liberal war

Costello is quitting politics, Wilson Tuckey isn’t quitting politics, Peter Dutton (the shadow health minister) has had politics quit on him. Turnbull is the voice of (relative) sanity in the Liberal Party, but not many – either in the Party or in the wider population – seem inclined to listen to it.

Some seem to be in the market for a new messiah in Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott, to save them from the horror of endorsing an emissions trading scheme and thus actually doing something constructive for humanity. Perish the thought that the Liberal leadership should be driving at such things. Better bulldoze them aside and continue squabbling over interest rates before anything useful happens. I’m not convinved that Hockey would be any more popular or politically savvy than Turnbull, and Abbott I think would be a disaster.

On a somewhat different track, Howard isn’t giving up the ideological game either. On motives for victory in Afghanistan, from an ABC article:

What we’ve got to ask ourselves is, what is the consequence of failure in Afghanistan? And that would be an enormous blow to American prestige, it would greatly embolden the terrorist cause.

This is predictable Howard rhetoric, and it gives some insight into his mindset. He actually does see American “prestige” as a commodity worth fighting for. Not freedom, democracy, security or any other desirable facet of society, but image, and not even the image of the country of which he was the second-longest serving prime minister. This is a war, not a beauty contest. There are real people dying out there – how many innocent lives is one country’s “prestige” worth?

I think there is probably a grain of truth in the idea that a withdrawal from Afghanistan could be used in Al Qaeda propaganda, but an “enormous blow”? Since Obama came to office, the world hasn’t seen America in quite the same slight belligerent light. Of course, Obama hasn’t actually done that much yet (a rather premature Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding), but even so he has helped redefine America’s image. I think that people throughout the world are probably far less inclined now to view the US as a conquering power. Consequently, there is less propaganda value in a US defeat as there would be if the hawks were still running things.

I actually happen to agree that, on balance, the Afghan War is an important one to win, but my argument has more to do with the prospect of the Taliban condemning society (especially women) to live in the dark ages. Yes, it’s certainly true that Western military might cannot solve all the world’s problems, and in many situations can be a problem in itself. However, it would be encouraging if we could solve just this one, to help Afghan society back from the precipice.

The problem with that argument, from Howard’s general nationalistic-conservative point of view, is that it’s not our society hovering above the precipice. To argue this case might be to admit that human rights and civil liberties are worth fighting for. If we start saying things like that, where does it end?

The hardliners of the Liberal Party might ask themselves why the election is worth winning. For the prestige of the Party?

Did you miss me?

Oh… I see. Well, same to you with extraneous attachments. Nevertheless, after a short and somewhat unintentional break, I’m now ready to inflict myself upon you once more, hapless reader.

I shall commence by drawing your attention to the fine specimen that is federal MP Wilson Tuckey. (A fine specimen of what shall be left unspecified for now.) Nobody really takes Wilson Tuckey seriously on anything, not even his own party, but the simple fact that he’s been elected (and continues to be re-elected) suggests that he does actually represent someone. This is rather a pity, in the general scheme of things.

Recently, of course, Tuckey has been piping up over the leadership of the Liberal Party, and Malcolm Turnbull’s unsuitability for the role. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the standing of the Liberal Party in my mind would be improved to a vastly greater extent by the removal of Tuckey than by the removal of Turnbull. Though Tuckey’s replacement would have to represent the same constituency, surely he or she couldn’t be quite so much of a callous, disreputable fruitcake.

By contrast, any replacement for Turnbull could easily be a lot worse. I find Turnbull to be a fairly un-objectionable leader, despite his poor polling. He’s a much easier person to listen to than Kevin Rudd. He does come off as a little smug at times, and perhaps a little politically inexperienced, but I can happily live with such minor inconveniences if it means we won’t be subjected to the Moral Crusades of Opposition Leader and Alternate Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The objectionable aspect of the Liberal Party is not (for the moment) its leader, but its policies and ideology. And people like Tuckey.

Talking about refugees

The Liberal Party has reminded me in no uncertain terms why I (at least) voted it out at the last election. John Howard was a competent leader, and his government can take the credit for several good deeds. However, these cannot make up for an (almost) complete lack of conscience regarding refugee policy. I can accept that the Liberal Party, by its nature, is given to supporting a free-market approach to things, including privatisation, individual workplace agreements, etc. In many cases I don’t agree with this philosophy (particularly where it disadvantages the poor, and asks the private sector to maintain infrastructure and services that are not commercially viable), but I do respect it at some academic level as an alternate perspective. Refugee intake, on the other hand, is a humanitarian issue that must surely transcend squabbles over how much control the government should exercise over the economy. You don’t screw around with humanitarian issues, unless you’re John Howard and your (re-)election depends on the irrational fear of outsiders. It’s not just wrong – it’s obscene.

This is a deficiency that the Liberals’ time in opposition has clearly not remedied. Evidentially the lull in hysteria since the “children overboard” and Tampa scandals was not the product of enlightenment, but merely a truce. Ideologically-aligned elements of the media are now helping Turnbull in making bizarre leaps of logic and claims of a government conspiracy. But this time, the facts – the ones that we actually know – seem to be making a greater impression. The government, as far as anyone can legitimately tell, is doing precisely what it should be doing, given the latest grisly incident. Meanwhile, those who do possess – simultaneously – a brain, a conscience and a sense of perspective are speaking out* in defence of some of the most vulnerable people we will ever hear about. The few Liberals who do so deserve a great deal of respect.

* Some articles you might peruse on the subject:

Stimulated by Kevin

It appears that, in the coming weeks, most of us will be receiving $900 from The Man, with which we must do our patriotic duty as consumers and… well, consume. I suppose we should all be buying Australian goods and services as much as possible, though that line always sounds a little parochial to me. It’s a global crisis, after all.

However, it’s nice to have a Senate that isn’t just a rubber stamp for the Government’s every whim. The Greens managed to wrangle a few improvements to the package without appearing to play games, which is a neat trick in our consummately adversarial political system. On the other hand, Senator Nick Xenophon’s brinkmanship over funding for the Murray-Darling probably isn’t how the democratic process is supposed to work. When interviewed on Insiders, he reassured everyone that he would indeed have scuttled the whole thing had he not gotten his way. Malcolm Turnbull still isn’t having any of it, of course, but I just can’t get fired up over arguments concerning tax cuts vs. handouts, and he looks like he was just fishing around for some arbitrary way to differentiate Liberal policy from Labor policy.

For my own part, I am considering various options for disposing of $900. I’m so unused to spending that kind of money that it might take me a while to work out how to do it. Upgrading my computer and acquiring saddle bags for my bike could make a substantial dent. I could, of course, blow the whole lot on chocolate. For $900 I could get 300 250g blocks, amounting to slightly more than my (current) body weight. Hurrah for capitalism.