So what is this miracle? That a true conservative has won a general election on true conservative principles.
I rolled my eyes when I read that. The single biggest mistake that we make is the one that Melanie Phillips just made. It is passively awaiting for a saviour, a "true conservative," from one of the mainstream centre-right parties, such as the Australian Liberal Party.
We could play that game forever if we wanted to, decade after decade, never learning the lesson that such parties are committed to liberal modernity.
Tony Abbott quite possibly sees himself as a conservative. Certainly, he has read Edmund Burke and likes to quote from Burke in his speeches. But time and again he has proven himself to be closer to liberalism in his policies and principles.
For instance, Abbott has repeatedly stressed his strong belief in mass immigration. He wrote once:
the immigrant who feels like a stranger in our midst is really at the heart of the Australian story.
To the extent that it is a celebration of our nation, Australia Day is necessarily a salute to an immigrant culture.
Abbott has more recently gone much further than this and claimed that immigrants, particularly from Asia, make much better Australians than the Australian born:
People who have come to this country from many parts of Asia...that is the face and the name of modern Australia.
...I want to say how brave every single migrant to this country is, because every single one of you has done something that those who are native born have never done. You have been gutsy enough to take your future in your hands and to go to a country which is not yours and make it your own...migration...has added a heroic dimension to our national life
...those who come to this country as skilled migrants...they might come as temporary migrants originally, but they make the very best Australian citizens eventually. They are the most worthy, the most welcome parts of the Australian family...
Can we reliably expect someone who has voiced such opinions to uphold traditional Australia?
And it's a similar story when it comes to the family. Abbott's concern is the same one as the feminists: to make sure that the family does not hinder a woman's career and earnings. He once warned conservatives in his party that:
Supporting families shouldn’t mean favouring one family type over others. We have to resist yearning for “ideal” families and “traditional” mothers.
What followed was a paid maternity leave scheme which would pay women a full wage for six months (to a total of $75,000) per child.
What about the idea of a husband supporting his wife? Abbott doesn't think this is viable anymore:
"The fact is very few families these days can survive on a single income"
So Abbott's commitments here are not distinctively conservative ones, but more in line with modernist trends in society.
Melanie Phillips is selling a misleading image of Abbott to her UK readers. In doing so she is encouraging a belief that things might be put right simply by the right leader coming along. What she ought to be doing is encouraging her readers to get active themselves.
Fortunately, not everyone is being overly optimistic about Abbott. Credit to the Sydney Trads for an excellent column on Abbott which I highly recommend that you read here. I look forward to the day when this more clear-eyed view is a commonplace one.
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