According to Michelle Grattan this represents a blow to the cause of the "Liberal moderates".
[with] the revelation that Malcolm Fraser has quit the party for which he won three elections because of its rightward lean, it's not a good time for Liberal moderates.
The bad news is that they're soon to get another blow, when two of their flag carriers, Petro Georgiou and Judith Troeth, leave parliament ... That will leave the small "l" liberals very thin on the ground.
Georgiou, who was an adviser to Fraser in government, is the philosophical voice of the moderates. He was a key player in Fraser's commitment to multiculturalism and setting up SBS ...
The generational change that is gradually under way in the Liberal party is not producing new strong moderate voices. It is throwing up some outspoken conservatives ...
Some of the high-profile people among the moderate minority are presently gagged because of position, ambition or both.
This has things exactly the wrong way round. The so-called "moderates" are the liberal purists. And this makes them more radical and extreme.
Consider Fraser's political history. Way back in 1968 Fraser gave a speech in which he noted that one Australian university, as an entrance requirement, "recognises the following languages - French, German, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Japanese". He criticised this selection by claiming that,
the list as a whole is one belonging to the last century except for one of the languages mentioned.
According to Fraser, the European languages did not belong in the twentieth century. Only the Japanese one did. He was prepared, as early as 1968, to junk Australia's European heritage.
When in power in the 1970s, he and his "moderate" mate Georgiou, declared Australia's Anglo-Celtic national identity to be null and void. We were instead to become a multicultural nation. Later, in the 1990s, Fraser argued for an extra 20 to 30 million migrants, claiming that "Australia must increase its population to 40 or 50 million if it was to become more than a bit player in world affairs".
Even if you support such policies, you'd have to recognise that they are anything but moderate. It's difficult to think of anything more radical. It represents an abrupt change to a country's population and identity.
Edmund Burke might well have been describing Fraser when he wrote back in the 1700s,
I cannot conceive how any man can have brought himself to that pitch of presumption, to consider his country as carte blanche, upon which he may scribble whatever he pleases.
There are those in the Liberal Party who believe that the party represents a "fusion" of a liberal and a conservative tradition in politics. I don't believe such a fusion is possible and nor do the so-called "moderate" (i.e. purist) liberals within the party.
Fraser, for instance, described the relationship between liberalism and conservatism this way:
As its name implies, ours is a liberal government holding liberal principles ...
I have stressed the commitment of the Government to liberal principles and values. Precisely because of that commitment it is also concerned to conserve and protect those principles and values.
Once liberal institutions are installed in a society, a government which wishes to preserve them must in some sense be conservative.
So the only purpose of conservatism, for Fraser, is to conserve an existing liberal orthodoxy in society. It is liberalism which is supreme. There is not even a pretence here at a fusion. It is a purist liberalism.
And an unbounded liberalism is going to have radical and not moderate outcomes. Fraser and Georgiou are therefore more accurately looked on as the purist, radical wing of the Liberal Party.
There's an excellent speech by another of the "moderates," George Brandis, which admits much the same thing - I'll look at this in my next post.