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Delcons, Defcons, and elections in Australia 2016

With an election likely for July 2nd, the hottest topic in Australian politics right now is how to vote. So put your best case forward here. Hammer this out. Will Turnbull promise anything to win back the Delcons — the angry conservatives? The time to ask is now, and if the Liberal base are not prepared to vote against him, they have nothing to negotiate.

“Better to have a real conservative opposition than a fake conservative government.”

The elephant in 2016 is the ferocious boiling anger among betrayed conservatives and small government libertarians, divided over whether they can bear to vote for Turnbull (a Liberal*) who has been called the best leader the Labor Party never had. Delcons was tossed at the so-called “Delusional” Conservatives. But they took up the badge. Defcons means the Defiant ones.

Right now, and since September, I’m a Delcon, like Tim Blair, Merv Bendle, and James Allan. Convince me otherwise. (We love you Miranda but you are wrong.)

“As long as Turnbull is in charge there will be no real alternative for conservative libertarians.”

The issue: Is it better to vote for the lesser of two evils and hope a Turnbull-led party can be reformed after a win, or is it better to think long term, take the medicine and rebuild in opposition — and is there a realistic third choice?

Winning at any cost is a loss. It’s a matter of principle. As long as Turnbull is in charge there will be no real alternative for conservative libertarians. If the “true liberal base” will put up with Turnbull and support power for Liberals regardless of principles then their vote is truly worth nothing. I’m not just talking about putting small parties or independents ahead of the Liberal candidate, but the nuclear option — sending the preferences to Labor, despite its ghastly policies [and Tanya Plibersek, says DavidE, who incidentally leans more to the Miranda-line].

Both Labor and Liberal want carbon trading. Neither speak for the sensible center; both speak for the ABC crowd:

Come election day, many in the Liberal base that pollster Mark Textor said “doesn’t matter” will confront a question Malcolm Turnbull poses with very nearly his every utterance: Is a party that pursues power without principle worth the lead in a polling-booth pencil? — “The Samson Option” Merv Bendle, Quadrant

The old rules of voter loyalty, and the theory of wins-so-big they last two-terms are gone. But that means the landscape can change fast and new parties can transform it. The tired two party system has been captured. It needs to be broken to be reformed.

US politicians are not battling over the center anymore. If the establishment centrist Mitt Romney had won in 2012, Trump and Cruz would not be fighting it out now. Appealing to the passionless “fickle centre” is not a winner in the tweedle-dee-and-dum era. It’s a media-defined imaginary center, far removed from the sensible center in the street. Which sensible voter really wants to pay for wind turbines in the hope they will cool the world?

A least worst option: A Strategic Stalemate

It’s not necessarily Armageddon if Labor wins the Lower House, Lib-Nats, independents win the Upper. The Senate cuts the pain. Better to have a real conservative opposition than a fake conservative government. Shorten gets to be PM (ugly) but the damage can be limited if the Lib-Nats hold the Senate or, better yet, a serious alternative centre-right group gains a foothold.

Here’s a voting strategy: Choose your Representative carefully. Campaign non-left in the Senate.

Don’t throw the baby out with the water — keep the useful Libs, but weed out the weak. For starters, did they vote for Abbott in the coup?  If your member doesn’t measure up, choose an alternative, then put Labor before Lib in the House of Reps, but keep those preferences flowing to the Coalition (especially the Nationals) in the Senate.

Many conservatives and libertarians are supporting the Australian Liberty Alliance. Check ’em out: see the ALA values and core policies. It goes without saying that savvy voters in Australia always send their preferences to smaller parties and independents first (keep the bastards honest), but ultimately, in a two party system, you have to pick one of the two parties. Do I need to say informal votes don’t count?

The Miranda defense of Turnbull

Miranda Devine coined the “Delcon” name. She justifies a vote for Turnbull by pointing out the ways Abbott let down real conservatives. But Abbott’s failures aren’t a reason to shift to Turnbull’s guaranteed success for Big-Government waste. Abbott didn’t get rid of the stifling, ridiculous 18C, but neither will Turnbull.


“Perhaps Turnbull is better off without the delcons. People so willing to cut off their nose to spite their face, are not really worth having on your side.”

Turnbull is not on my side.  My nose is not at stake.

More than half of Australians don’t buy the IPCC climate position. Who speaks for them?

Skeptics are the people who elected the Liberals. Turnbull is the one cutting off noses.  Let him and those who elected him face the consequences.

I’m with James Allan — spite is there for an evolutionary reason:

“…there are very good consequences in not allowing yourself to be played for a mug. If they know you will always vote Lib, provided the party is perceived to be just a smidgeon to the right of Labor, then Mark Textor is right in asserting that the base doesn’t matter.  We become irrelevant to their thinking, or virtually so.  In evolutionary psychology this is analogous to the person who does not take retribution when double-crossed (see my Spectator pieces from immediately after the coup).  It is a ‘loser gene’ and will die out.   The best long-term strategy is niceness and co-operation until you are stabbed in the back. Then you get even.  This has no good short-term consequences for you.  But it has great long-term consequences.  You are seen not to be a mug – in this case a Textor stooge. Now you can respond in three ways.  (1) The Libs will never lose another election so vote Turnbull.  (2) We can keep stop the political spectrum from moving to the left under Turnbull.  We really can.  (3) It is wrong-headed to think long-term and dynamically.”

If Abbott had led a government of MPs with principles and backbones — willing to take on the racial-vilification-bullies for instance — would he have axed 18C? Maybe. Probably. Would Turnbull? Never; it’s a silly question. A party of MPs with principles, who knew what they stood for, wouldn’t have been fooled by the ABC into voting Turnbull in. Nor would they have been fooled by Turnbull, as Minister for the ABC, into keeping the funding flowing to the ABC. There is no chance Turnbull will deliver the things Abbott failed on. Miranda’s reasoning is wrong. (But you’re still invited to dinner Miranda, anytime and with a smile.)

I don’t like being on the opposite side to Steve Kates either. In 2016 he says “Hold Your Nose“. But I’m still with Steve in Feb 2015 all the way. Steve in 2016 hopes that Turnbull will get voted in by the people, but voted out by the MPs afterwards, or at least kept on a leash. But Abbott couldn’t keep him on a leash.

What Kates gets right in 2016 is that Labor is completely unreformed, has not done any kind of mea culpa, and could do more fiscal damage than Turnbull. On that big-spending note, strangely the Libs have failed to pin them for the massive debt run up by Labor. Abbott glued them on the boats, even the ABC can see that, but where were the cries with every spending cut that these were “Labor-Cuts”, thanks to “Gillard’s Black Hole”, and “Kevin’s Golden Sheds”? None of the cuts in the Budget of 2014 would have been necessary if not for the profligate vandalism of the Labor Party during the iron-ore boom that rescued the economy. Any idiot can hand out other people’s money. (Wayne Swan’s job. Remember him? Cost Australia an awful lot of dollars.)

A vote for Turnbull is a vote for an Emissions Trading Scheme

He and Hunt have already said they want us to buy foreign carbon credits. They would probably be starting the trading right now if not for the election. (The introduction was flagged for mid 2016.) The Gore-Palmer combo put the option of a review to recommend this into the “Direct Action Plan”. It was the back door for Turnbull to say he’s technically sticking to the Abbott climate plan, and for him to do what he always wanted and was chucked out as leader of the opposition for in 2009. He hasn’t learned.

Perhaps Abbott’s success bore the seeds of his failure

“A better conservative opposition will help us get a better Labor option too.”

Abbott and the Liberals won so big at the last election that a lot of new first timer MPs were voted in. I’d guess these naive MPs in marginal seats were more likely to lose their nerve, fooled by the ABC, and to vote for Turnbull. (I haven’t crunched those numbers on the turncoats, feel free to show I’m wrong.)

Should we take the Samson Option and blow the house down? No. Let’s be more strategic. Don’t bomb conservative politics,  rebuild it. In the long run Australian politics will be stronger if conservatives lose the House of Reps but win the Senate.  The best choice is if the good Liberals stay in, and the spineless and the weak are weeded out. It’s a win-win. A better conservative opposition will help us get a better Labor option too. At the moment both are pathetic, and voting for Turnbull merely extends the problem.

What will make me change my mind?

Turnbull could categorically, unconditionally promise some meaningful basics (which also cost nothing). How about a blood oath? No emissions trading scheme – ever. No section 18C. No more subsidies to Big Renewables (lets do the research, not buy expensive electrons — remember the “free market”?). No more pandering to the ABC — split it to left and right wings, or demand equal time for conservative views, or better yet — privatize it and cancel some Labor debt. Odds of any of these? A million to nothing.

Turnbull does not have to bring in emissions trading, nor spend more on “renewables”. There is no grassroots conservative movement calling for either of these. Voter interest across the spectrum rates climate scares lower than low. Climate change is off the political radar in Australia for everyone except politicians and rentseekers. The only people who will protest these are people who would never vote for Liberals anyhow.

A weasel wordy endorsement of any of these would remind us of Julia.

Abbott supporters

Thanks to the legwork of Redbaiter and the TrueblueNZ blog there is a list of likely Abbott supporters and the names of the 54 who didn’t. The Liberals don’t necessarily have to be led by Abbott, but they do need a team that understands what the Liberal Party stands for:

Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Karen Andrews, Kevin Andrews, Chris Back, Cory Bernardi,  Bruce Billson, Jamie Brigs, Russell Broadbent, Scott Bucholz, David Bushby, Matias Corman, Peter Dutton, David Fawcett, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Josh Frydenburg, Ian Goodenough, Natasha Griggs, Andrew Hastie, Joe Hockey, Luke Howarth, Greg Hunt, Eric Hutchinson, Craig Kelly, Jo Lindgren, Russell Matheson, Ian MacDonald, Karen McNamara, Scott Morrison, Andrew Nikolick, Stephen Parry, Tony Pasin, Christian Porter, Melissa Price, Linda Reynolds, Andrew Robb, Zed Seselja, Ann Sudmalis, Michael Sukkar, Angus Taylor, Dan Tehan, Alan Tudge, Nikolas Varvaris, Brett Whitely, Rick Wilson.

The problem with this list: many here are not contesting. Some are in the Senate. Can readers fine tune this so we can update? There are new Liberal candidates — what do we know about them? I know I’d vote for Andrew Hastie, the former SAS officer if I were in Canning. Likewise, Cory Bernardi, SA Senate.   Send in your suggestions. Who speaks for skeptics? Who speaks for real science?


*Liberals? For foreigners, “liberal” in Australia still means something like a real liberal — a free-market, small-government player.  In the US  progressives stole the term and the silly Republicans let them misuse it.

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