Listen up, Libs


It can’t be easy to be a Liberal these days. A year ago they were the big cheeses, ruling the roost as top dogs high on the hog. John Howard ruled with an iron fist, and the rest of the Party clung adoringly to his skirts – which were, probably, metaphorical.

Today, such a short time later, things are vastly different. A new poll has Liberal leader Brendan Nelson suffering a record low as preferred Prime Minister, with Kevin Rudd achieving a 70 per cent approval rating to Nelson’s 17. To put this in less abstract terms, if you can imagine Kevin Rudd as a large, juicy pumpkin, Brendan Nelson is a half-empty sachet of pine nuts. And by that I mean no disrespect to a man who has achieved a lot in life in the fields of medicine and multiple guitar-owning.

The latest poll comes despite adverse reactions to the Government’s first Budget by the usual bunch of carping whiners, ie environmentalists and old people, who simply cannot restrain their urge to complain about every little thing, with their solar-power this and we-can’t-afford-to-eat that.

It even comes despite Nelson’s own spectacular parliamentary efforts, including an incendiary display where he and Joe Hockey rampaged through the house brandishing Bacardi Breezers and bellowing like moose. Somehow this failed to "cut through" with the voting public – as has his plan to slash 5 cents from the fuel excise, which serious analysts have judged to be, technically speaking, "stupid".

And Nelson’s problems don’t end there. On Monday an email from Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull was leaked, in which Turnbull is critical of Nelson’s leadership and Budget strategy. Turnbull, naturally, denies leaking the email.

Turnbull is actually vehemently opposed on moral and ethical grounds to any actions that would destabilise the Liberal leadership, but somehow the leadership just keeps getting destabilised. One has to feel for the poor fellow, always coming in to work and finding it’s happened again. "Good Lord!" Malcolm keeps crying. "I’ve only been gone an hour. How did this leadership get destabilised again?"

In any case, Turnbull
has now made it quite clear that he approves
of Nelson’s policy and leadership and winning smile, and is at pains to
emphasise that it has, in fact, been his dream ever since he was a tiny boy to
live out his career in subservience to an ineffectual marionette. And I for one think it’s unfair to hold Turnbull responsible for an email stating the exact opposite just because he wrote it.

Thanks to Fiona Katauskas

Admittedly, it is true that Turnbull aspires, some day, to the Liberal
leadership, but only in the sense that an ostrich aspires to a long a
neck, so where this "born to rule" rubbish comes from I have no idea. The fact that Turnbull has been telling other possible Party leaders to quit Federal Parliament doesn’t necessarily mean he is manoeuvring for a leadership challenge either. In fact, given the problems existing in the State Liberal Parties, the idea doesn’t seem all that unsound.

In Julie Bishop’s home State of Western Australia, Opposition Leader Troy Buswell is embroiled in a chair-sniffing scandal, which threatens to render the entire field of humour writing obsolete. Fortunately for my job prospects, the quokka-soccer story is apparently untrue. Meanwhile, in Joe Hockey’s NSW, the Liberal Party can only be detected by powerful psychics.

Perhaps the most telling sign of the Liberals’ malaise is the Victorian Party, where leader Ted Baillieu has been forced to fire two staffers who contributed to an anti-Baillieu blog, as he vows to purge the Party of "cancerous elements" who are disseminating dangerous anti-Liberal philosophies like "Ted Baillieu is the suck" and "Ted: made of fail".

And the damage has spread, with Baillieu’s State campaign manager Susan Chandler forced to resign after one of the sacked bloggers made public an email in which Chandler called a Liberal candidate a "greedy f*cking Jew". This is serious. This is not the Liberal Party of old. The Liberals I remember would never have hounded a woman to unemployment for calling a colleague a greedy f*cking Jew without first ascertaining whether or not he actually was one. Things sure have changed.

So, with this once-proud Party dispirited, rudderless, and reasonably hilarious, what is the answer? How can we restore the Liberals to their former glory? It would be easy to just sit back and laugh, and I advise that we set aside some time each day to do so, but genuine problems, nevertheless, call for genuine solutions. Many possible fixes have been proposed. Alexander Downer thinks the Liberals should be more like Kevin Rudd. On the other hand, Gerard Henderson thinks Kevin Rudd should be more like Robert Menzies. Still others think that Robert Menzies should be more like Alexander Downer, and several believe Gerard Henderson should be less like himself.

But such suggestions would be merely cosmetic. We need something more concrete, if we are to ensure that our democracy is served by a robust and innovative Opposition willing to stand up for the rights of rich mothers and alcoholic teenagers. And that something-more-concrete is a terribly simple philosophy, to be found in the most reliable of self-help books and Disney films: be yourself.

That’s right, Liberals. It’s time to stop tiptoeing around the truth and embrace it. Take ownership of your Liberalness. Rejoice in it, glory in it. Stick your chest out and say to the world, Yes, I am a Liberal, in all my infighting, bludger-hating, immigrant-fearing, chair-sniffing magnificence, and I am proud, and I am not sorry. Stop sticking up for the disadvantaged, crying about poor pensioners, poor motorists and poor Bacardi, and be who you are. Stop bashing your leaders, get back to bashing the unemployed. Forget about purging the Party of disloyalty, and get back to purging the country of Muslims. Don’t worry about easing the pain at the bowser; start easing the pain on massive multibillion-dollar corporations.

The future is yours to grasp, Liberals. Just remember, What Would John Do?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.