forests, trees, the predictability of Tony Abbott

I don't want to be a know-it-all and I definitely don't want to be the kind of person who refers to previous stuff I've written, but this is relevant. If you took seriously the policy debate (such as it was) that occurred before the last election then you would have a fairly concrete idea - yeah, I hear you, left-wing types, just go with it for a bit - about what the Abbott government was for and what it'd do. If you were the kind of person (more like me) who is quite convinced of their general principled and ideological premises and decided it wasn't worth bothering that much about assessing the specific policy agendas of the main parties, you would also have had an expectation - a much vaguer one, as much as anything characterised by a general feeling of right-wing-ness, maybe accompanied by some instinctive sense of unease / glory and optimism.

Here's the thing though: there are a lot of things you could probably draw out of that general feeling which wouldn't be present in the very well-informed, responsible citizen of a democratic polity, high- and open-minded understanding. Those expectations might well have included some or all of the following:

Hackneyed attacks on the bias of the ABC, prompting resistance from rural MPs and much anguished, high-school level ruminating about liberal principles and freedom of the press. Emergence of bizarre and repulsive conservative views in the party, which seem to be resoundingly rejected, only for it to emerge that the right-wing party is in fact a vipers' nest of awful right-wing ideas. Conflict with the labour movement and attempt to re-establish special union-busting bodies. History wars, involving accusations hurled at teachers and curricula of being too regretful and apologetic about the country's western heritage. Elevation of free-market think tank members to jobs for which they are manifestly unsuited, including appointing some to posts they think shouldn't exist. (Not to mention a catalogue of refugee policy horrors which I am these days too sad to think about or comment on.)


It doesn't take a genius, because this stuff has all happened before, because it's happening right now under other countries' conservative governments, but most of all because this is what the Liberal Party is about: about cultural conservatism and market liberalism and the mostly confused connections between the two. None of this is new. If you're surprised, you were looking too closely at the trees.

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