One of the more revealing comments came, I think, in an editorial in The Australian, which is the more right-liberal of the Australian daily papers. The editorialist thought that the lesbian couple should have taken a more positive view of their situation:
This couple has so many blessings: they have each other to love; two incomes; two babies, and they live in a society where they are able to get IVF treatment, much of it free, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status.
This kind of comment is pretty typical of right-liberal politics in Australia. Whereas left-liberals see themselves as dissenters and criticise society for having failed liberal principles, right-liberals talk up how much society has progressed in line with liberal values.
Right-liberalism might well appeal to those who have outgrown and become weary of a dissenting phase in life. However, if right-liberalism is the furthest "right" that politics goes, then society is in trouble.
Take the issue at hand. The editorialist thinks it's a great thing that lesbian couples and single mothers can access government funded IVF in Australia. What this IVF policy means, of course, is that society has officially accepted the idea that fathers aren't necessary to family life.
We aren't talking here about widowed or divorced women who attempted to follow the ideal of their children having a father in the home, but ended up in different circumstances. Instead, we're talking about the Government funding women to deliberately create fatherless families.
Once the idea of fatherlessness is officially sanctioned in this way, further assaults on the traditional family are inevitable. Perhaps one small example of what's to come is the recent Coles supermarket advertisement.
This begins as a classic happy family ad. Mum and the kids are caught in the rain and dash into Coles to do the shopping. Then they're shown safely at home, sitting around the table enjoying a hearty family meal prepared by a radiant mum.
But there's no dad. Maybe we're supposed to assume that he's hard at work somewhere supporting the family. Perhaps he'll show up in a later ad. I wonder, though, if Coles is attempting to appeal in this ad to a single mother audience.
If we do shift toward a culture in which the fatherless family becomes an accepted norm, expect poorer, working-class men to be hit hardest. Expect, too, less stable forms of marriage to develop, as it won't be thought to matter as much as it once did if mothers eject fathers from the family, or if fathers themselves walk away from family responsibilities.
I can't see either left-liberals or right-liberals countering any such negative trends. To secure change, we need to break free from the limitations of current understandings of left and right toward a genuinely non-liberal alternative.