ProtégéLiberals Shouldn’t Panic Over One Loss

June 9, 2022

Since the defeat of the Morrison Government at the Federal Election, there has been much public and private discussion in Liberal circles about the future pathway for the Liberal Party.

Some say that the party needs to address the concerns of voters in the so-called “teal” seats and shift the Party’s platform to appeal to those voters, others say that we need to move to a harder conservative position to win back the swathes of voters who have left the Liberals to the LibDems, UAP and One Nation.

What’s the correct answer?

The answer is that the Party must stay true to its basic principles and speak for the mainstream of Australia, It shouldn’t seek to be shifting radically one way or the other. It is not hypocritical to adjust policy positions that are different from our time in Government, but we also don’t need to subvert the fundamental beliefs of our Party just to try to win back a specific group of voters.

In a column that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on the 22nd of May 2022 former Prime Minister Tony Abbott summed it up best:

Panic over just one loss is the last thing needed in a party that’s been in federal office for two-thirds of the post-war era.

We also don’t need voter-repelling arguments over whether to be more “moderate” or more “conservative”, because the Liberal Party has always been a bit of both.

We’re “liberal” in supporting lower taxes, smaller government and greater freedom, and “conservative” in supporting small business, the family, and institutions that have stood the test of time.

And above all, the Liberal Party is patriotic in backing Australia as still the best country in the world and wanting it to stay that way.

– The Hon. Tony Abbott AC

As much as the Labor Party cheerleaders on Twitter and other social media platforms might like to think so at the moment, the Labor Party will not remain popular forever, it will make mistakes in Government (as all Governments do) and it won’t always act in line with what it says to its base supporters.

The Liberal Party, and Scott Morrison in particular, had a very difficult task at the last election, we were already in circumstances as a Government in its third term asking the people for a fourth term in office.

Even if the bushfires never happened, and we weren’t stricken with COVID-19, it still would have been a very difficult election for any incumbent Government to receive a fourth mandate from the people.

The concept that the Liberal Party has some great soul searching to do if it ever wants to sit on the treasury benches ever again doesn’t quite stack up. After every election there is a re-evaluation of what specific policies will appeal to the electorate, but a mainstream party cannot remain mainstream if it adjusts its policy positions to only appeal to a few rather than the many.

The underlying media perception of Peter Dutton, which is mainly driven by those who are fervent opponents of the Liberal Party, is not a true characterisation of the man.

Yes, Peter Dutton is from the more conservative ilk of the Liberal Party but most definitely in the mainstream sense which has been broadly appealing to many Australians in the right circumstances.

The Liberal Party under Peter Dutton’s leadership will have time to define what it stands for, and how it differentiates itself from the Labor Government. But as Tony Abbott said “For oppositions in their first year or so, the fewer headlines they generate the better. Let the focus be on the new government which will inevitably make plenty of mistakes.”

As for the argument about shifting the party to the left or the right, we aren’t the moderate party or the conservative party, we are the Liberal Party of Australia.

Liberals should review the “we believe” statement for guidance in these coming years. Read it here.

Let’s see what the next few months do to the political landscape of Australia before jumping to any rash conclusions.

by Blake Keating

Blake is the President of the Australian Liberal Students' Federation.