Saturday, February 02, 2019

Is it Gough's fault?

Back in August Fraser Anning gave his maiden speech in the Australian Senate. It was a bold speech that ventured outside the liberal orthodoxy that dominates politics in this country.

It's likely that Senator Anning's politics are the closest to my own within our parliament. Still, I'm going to make a criticism in this post of one aspect of his worldview.

Senator Anning has recently published an opinion piece on the topic of the Liberal Party & the Overton Window. The argument he makes is that Australian politics was good up to the election of Gough Whitlam in 1972. According to Anning:
...the political consensus on identity, values and so many other vital issues which existed between the major parties of the left and right up until 1972 was shifted radically to the left by the Whitlam government and has never recovered.

...The “acceptable” window of political discourse in the days of Sir Robert Menzies, Jack McEwan and Arthur Calwell, which was reflected by not only by the media of the day but also in the views of the vast majority of Australians, has been shifted radically to the left since that time.

The electorate rejected Whitlam in 1975, but the Liberals under Malcolm Fraser did not reverse Whitlam's policies and Anning sees this is as being the key to what has gone wrong:
Thus while the radical left in Labor may have conceived of the destruction of the wonderful, prosperous and cohesive nation Menzies bequeathed us, the only thing that made it possible and enduring was the collaboration of the very party that he founded.

It is in fact the Liberal Party, not Labor that has enabled ratchet socialism to gradually overtake our nation and has shifted the Overton window to the far left.

I don't think this adequately describes what has happened in Australia. Since the 1870s both the left and the right wing of Australian politics have claimed the mantle of being the "true liberals", leaving us with no party committed to conservatism. It is therefore not surprising at all that the Liberal Party has pushed our culture along ever more liberal lines.

That's why Anning's time frame for change is inaccurate. Take, for instance, the push toward diversity. That began in the 1930s with Arthur Calwell, one of the men Anning thinks of as supporting traditional Australia:
In newspaper articles, speeches made as president of the Victorian Labor Party during the 1930s, and later after election as federal member for Melbourne in 1940, Calwell's deep concern for social justice was invariably linked with the creation in Australia of an ethnically mixed society through large-scale immigration. a confidential note addressed to Chifley in 1944 he wrote of his determination to develop a heterogeneous society

Now, it's true that Calwell only wanted to take this principle "so far". He wanted a diverse European Australian country rather than a mono-ethnic British Australian one. The problem is that once the principle is in place the next generation will inevitably want to take it to the next step. And that's what happened - and it happened well before Gough Whitlam came to power.

In June 1965, the Labor Party platform changed to omit any mention of a white Australia policy, with immigration being decided instead primarily on economic grounds.

Prior to that, when Menzies was PM, the Liberals had (in 1958) changed immigration rules to allow non-European residents to become citizens. In 1966, the Holt Liberal Government announced that non-Europeans were to be admitted as permanent residents.

As for Malcolm Fraser, he complained in 1968 that one Australian University was teaching:
French, German, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Japanese...the list as a whole is one belonging to the last century except for one of the languages mentioned.

In other words, he asserted in 1968 that our links to Europe belonged to the 1800s and that only Japanese was relevant to Australia in the twentieth century. Is it any wonder, then, that Fraser in 1975 had no intention of pushing back against Gough Whitlam? There was not going to be any push-back, because Fraser was even more for the change than Whitlam was.

Fraser did not see himself as a principled conservative, but as a liberal. He wrote:
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.

Fraser is making it clear that he is only a "conservative" in the sense that he wants to conserve the already entrenched liberal institutions and values. So why then would Fraser try to reverse the liberal policies enacted by his Labor predecessor Whitlam?

(The other gruesome truth is that even in the early 1940s, important policy decisions were being driven by technocrats of various stripes, such as high ranking officials within the Federal Government, academic experts, diplomats etc. and that the rationale was often just "maximum development along modern industrial/economic lines" rather than anything resembling "the conservation of natural forms of human community".)

To understand how politics has developed in Australia it's important to recognise that the mainstream parties on the right have been "right liberal" in their politics rather than genuinely conservative. This includes the Liberal Party under Menzies.

Senator Anning, therefore, is going to get very little support from anyone in the political establishment. His best chance is to appeal over the heads of the political class to the rank and file, particularly those who don't identify as urban middle-class.

A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.


  1. You're quite right. And I'm afraid Anning, while being an admirable fellow in many ways, has no understanding of Australian political history whatsoever.

    The big push for liberal social policies (cultural marxism if you like) was already underway during the time of the Gorton Government . This was when Don Chipp opened the floodgates to pornography. Chipp was one of the most destructive figures in our political history.

    Chipp was the darling of the media which is also an indication that the media was already very social leftist. The ABC was frantically undermining our society from as early as 1967 when the very social left This Day Tonight current affairs program was launched. Chequerboard, which followed soon after, was perhaps even worse. The ABC was pushing the homosexual agenda very hard in the late 60s.

    The Whitlam Government was simply reflecting the disastrous social changes that were already happening. Had Whitlam not been elected the Liberals would have pursued more or less identical social policies, as they did later under Fraser. The rot was well established in the Liberal Party. It wasn't just Chipp. There was also Andrew Peacock, a definite social leftist. And Snedden.

    And Menzies of course was no conservative. Even the United Australia Party back in the 30 and 40s wasn't a true conservative party, being dominated by renegade Labor members. And the Nationalist Party which preceded it was liberal and also with a large proportion of former Labor members. There is no conservative tradition in Australian politics. It's liberalism all the way.

    1. Excellent comment, thank you. You could also add in Don Dunstan, who became Labor leader in South Australia in 1967 and Premier in 1970, whose policies were radically liberal on all fronts (he was a "sexually liberated bisexual man"). In Victoria the long serving premier, Sir Henry Bolte, was in power from 1955 to 1972. He said that he was proud to be part of the "progressive Liberal Party" rather than an "old-fashioned conservative mob" and he replied to critics of mass immigration by framing his state as being merely an economy "We have many critics against the policy of attracting capital, in migrants and investment to Australia." His successor, Sir Rupert Hamer, was thought of as a social liberal, to the point that he was even supported by left-liberal Age newspaper.

  2. I agree with the broad thrust of this post, particularly the points about Calwell, who, like B A Santamaria, is now often lauded as an ultra-conservative of sorts, but was happy to break down the British ethnic basis of the White Australia policy in the expectation that the new migrants would be disproportionately Catholic, urban and Labor-voting.

    That said, while we can always trace back the source of degeneration a little bit further into the past, there's rhetorical value in being able to emphasise a decisive "break" with the past, which in the political context always has an element of the mythical about it anyway.

    So for Australian traditionalists and conservatives, it's hard to go past the Whitlam government. Not only was the Whitlam government the first one that had technocratic and self-consciously liberal leftists assuming control of the national government, but Whitlam himself was the living embodiment of their ideals and character.

    The fact the Whitlam government was able to move things so far left in such a short time proves that the rot had already set in more broadly in other areas, but paradoxically, this actually improves the rhetorical utility of using the reign of Whitlam as the definitive "break" with the "true" Australia which existed before.