Across America and Europe there is an increasingly evident rise in disenchantment with the Establishment in Mainstream Conservative Movements. Those who feel disenchanted would have traditionally described themselves as Conservative but feel that the political process is no longer working towards their interests. The success of Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump have caught many off guard but that would indicate that there was an inability to listen to the concerns of fellow Conservatives for a long period. These Outsiders may not have a strong understanding of the intrigues behind the political process or a firm understanding of the philosophical background behind their own beliefs but they nonetheless make up a considerable component of the Conservative movement.
Many conservatives have understandable reasons to be cautious with the rise of Donald Trump due to his questionable record as a Conservative, his ill-disciplined mannerisms and protectionist views on trade. However, it is important to look at those surrounding Donald Trump, particularly in his Cabinet. Vice President Mike Pence has a proven record as a standard bearer for Conservative issues such as his proven record advocating traditional marriage, the rights of the unborn and free trade to name just a few. Defence Secretary James Mattis has a stellar record as a military officer and is a firm supporter of both NATO and the ANZUS treaty. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has had a long career of defending the impartiality of the Judiciary by fighting Obama’s attempts to politicise the courts. Furthermore, Speaker of the House of Representatives has already asserted himself in the early weeks of the Trump Administration by showing leadership in his rebuke of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s phone call with Malcolm Turnbull and reaffirming the United States’ strong alliance with Australia. These figures surrounding the President make me feel at ease as a Conservative, knowing that key positions of Government and Legislature are in wise and Conservative hands.
It would be impossible not to discuss the future of Conservatism without discussing the enormous opportunity that Brexit has demonstrated. It was initially incredibly disappointing to see that despite the success of leaving the EU only to see the replacement of one Remain Prime Minister with another in Theresa May. I myself am of the belief that it was only natural for Michael Gove to lead the UK into independence as he was one of a few who had provided not only leadership but a strong track record of EU scepticism over a long period, unlike others who now sit around the Cabinet table. However, in most cases it shows great strength to change one’s mind when the facts provide such overwhelming evidence and stubbornness may have consumed lesser politicians. Boris Johnson used his gifts as a campaigner to deliver that message to those in the electorate who may have otherwise not have been engaged. In regards to Theresa May it is fair to say that she has exceeded the expectations of Conservatives and has proven herself to be resolute in the delivery of Brexit. While her dismissal of Michael Gove is a disappointment it is reassuring to know that Theresa May is not only determined to follow the will of the British people but also has strong Conservatives in her cabinet like Boris Johnson and David Davis.
At home in Australia, it is apparent that the freedoms we Conservatives hold dear are being taken for granted. The overwhelming majority of Australians had never heard of section 18c until prominent Conservative columnist and broadcast journalist Andrew Bolt was subjected to the draconian procedure that is legitimised under this law. Despite the ludicrous nature that was the Bolt Case the public was told that 18c was designed to protect the vulnerable minorities from those in the media who would have the greatest capacity to cause harm. In other words there could be no chance of non-politically engaged Australians ever been prosecuted under the law for their everyday conversations. There were warnings that the Bolt Case was just the beginning and the success of the plaintiffs in the Bolt Case would embolden the ideologues to take down anyone on the right who said something that was against the views of the left.
These warnings have come to fruition, demonstrated in the Queensland University of Technology Case where an indigenous education officer with the help of the Human Rights Commission sued three students following comments made after they were removed from an indigenous only room because of their non-indigenous appearance. These university students were not politically engaged and had career aspirations that were forced standstill because of the legal action that went on for three years. What this case has shown is that 18c poses a threat not just to journalists but also to students regardless of their political engagement.
These incursions on our political freedoms place enormous emphasis on the need to engage in the political process on campus. It is never an easy task providing an alternative voice to the left given their entrenched support across the university’s culture and institutions. Too often students have been left feeling understandably apathetic to student politics as the issues discussed during campaigns failed to resonate with the needs. However a club that is united and advocates a strong alternative plan for mainstream students can succeed. This was proven true last year in the SRC elections with six of our members elected as part of the second largest bloc elected to the council. This was a tremendous result and it could not have happened without the support of club members who gave up their time to support their Conservative friends on the campaign. From these experiences, I believe there is good cause to engage those who have felt disowned from the political process.
While it is easy to isolate the struggles of Conservatism overseas from Australia there is in my view an important lesson to be learned from Centre-Right Politics in Australia. The importance of engaging the disenchanted remains a critical in securing not just a majority but the heart and soul of any movement. The Establishment element of Conservatism will always exist and should be respected for it provision of stability and experience in mainstream politics. The Establishment does however have a responsibility to ensure the basic principles of Conservatism play an active role in the consideration of policy. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are remarkably different in regards to the policy background but indicate a disenchantment with the Establishment that should not be ignored and in the case of the UK and US can no longer be ignored. In Australia, the debate on 18c is showing the beginning of a similar crisis with people literally and figuratively feeling they cannot be heard. Politicians on the Conservative side need to maintain the fight against 18c with the full intention of seeing it’s removal or otherwise see a continuing severing in the relationship between the Establishment and the Outsiders. It is important to keep as many Conservatives in the tent as possible as allowing any substantial bloc to move away and follow a vocal single personality based movement is not in the long-term interests of Conservatism.