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What’s changed about me?
by Irfan Yusuf
Some readers may not know this. Others will be shocked to find out. But despite the stress it may cause some of you, I will make a political admission.
Yes, folks, it’s true. I spent 10 of the best years of my life as a card-carrying member of the NSW Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia.
Now before any lefties out there read any further, check to see your private health insurance is all paid-up. Because I’m about to tell you that I was a factional warrior for the NSW Right of the NSW Libs. Yep, I was a proud conservative. Small “c”, as you can all see. But conservative all the same.
So what’s changed about me? Actually, not much at all. I may have grown a few years older since my membership lapsed. I have a few more grey hairs. I’m no longer going out with the delightful lass who recruited me to the Party. Last time I was weighed, it was clear I’d shed a few kilos.
But ideologically speaking, I am still pretty much the same. I still believe that if it ain’t broken, there’s no bloody point trying to fix it. I believe in the invisible hand. I’m still having a love affair with the free market.
In fact, the main reason I allowed my membership to lapse was simple. I saw the conservative wing being overrun by a bunch of feral ex-lefties for whom being small “l” liberal was only a means to further their careers in the political sex industry.
There was a time when the NSW Liberals were run by a faction called the “Group”. I found many people in the Group quite obnoxious. Many were snotty-nosed private-school educated dimwitted kids of rich North Shore and Eastern Suburbs parents.
(I can’t exactly talk. I went to St Andrews. But then, this article isn’t about my schooling, is it! Read on.)
A large reason so many people were in the Group was because you had to be in the Group to get ahead. And to progress. Sorry, that was lame.
What’s even lamer is that as soon as John Howard won the election in 1996, a whole host of Groupers decided to join the NSW Right. Just a few months before, these same people were sticking needles into voodoo dolls with glasses, big eyebrows and not much stature that looked like something off a Mr Sheen bottle.
What made things even worse was that this group of Groupers exposed their real politics. And believe me, it wasn’t pretty. Here’s a sample.
I was talking to a journo from the Canberra Press Gallery who was doing a story on the influence of religions in conservative politics. The journo told me of a conversation with Young Liberal National President (and former NSW Grouper) Alex Hawke.
“He didn’t say much. Apart from telling me that Muslims need to learn to fit into mainstream Australia or leave the country.”
This was the same Hawke who, hardly a few years earlier, had used Group support to stab his own branch president in the back. And this political assassination was carried out on the eve of the same President appointing him to replace her on the throne.
So if I haven’t changed, if I am just as conservative as before, why aren’t I rushing to renew my lapsed membership? The answer is simple. The conservatives are no longer conservative. They’re just feral.
What proved that more than anything was the response of allegedly conservative commentators and politicians to events following the London terror attacks on 7 July 2005.
For instance, that former pin-up boy for the Group Dr Brendan Nelson decided the time had come to lecture certain independent schools to teach “Australian values” or ship out (or was that shove off?). I’m not sure how the schools would ship out – the first fleet isn’t exactly in prime condition.
I always understood conservative governments to support the rights of parents to choose whether to send their kiddies to a state school or an independent one. Many schools Dr Nelson referred to have been in existence since the mid-1980’s, back in the days when Dr Nelson was declaring that he had “never voted Liberal” in his life.
I remember sitting on the preselection in which Dr Nelson defeated sitting MP David Connelly by less than a handful of votes. Hardly a week before, the good spin-Doctor kept me on the phone for over an hour, waxing lyrical about the importance of multiculturalism and how he would love to have a more inclusive Liberal Party.
Even today, my many family members and friends in Dr Nelson’s electorate continue to receive his literature with the original Nelson logo “Bradfield – put your heart in it!”
But after July 7, Dr Nelson’s spin had changed. He now could see votes and popularity (and perhaps even the keys to a large white mansion in Kirribilli) in telling Muslim-managed independent schools to put a sock in it.
Nelson is a typical ex-Grouper who has suddenly decided to switch to the Right. He isn’t the only one. At least a third of today’s “Howard loyalist” MP’s from across the country are former small “l” liberals.
On the intellectual front, there is Keith Windschuttle, a former Marxist who suddenly moved to the far-right. In 1988, the 3rd edition of his The Media: a New Analysis of the Press, Television, Radio and Advertising in Australia (a Marxist critique of Aussie media) was published. Within 15 years, Windschuttle decided that the notion indigenous Australians were the subject of a genocide was a huge left-wing conspiracy.
Windschuttle’s analysis of the Cronulla riots, published in The Australian on November 16 2005, is so typical of the neo-(or rather, pseudo-) Conservative analysis that denies and denigrates the multicultural status quo of modern Australia.
Winschuttle labelled the Cronulla incidents as “multicultural riots”. His analysis of the Cronulla riots painted a confused picture of Lebanese migrants, with the dividing line being religion.
He claimed that Lebanese Christians were more Australian than Muslims because the Christians had produced a NSW Governor and a Wallabies captain. He then asks: “How Australian can you get?” before virtually denying Australianness to the Muslim proportion of Lebanese Australians.
One wonders which Australia Windschuttle is living in. Had he followed ARL football, he may have heard of Hazem al-Masri. Had he read the October edition of the Australian Financial Review Magazine, he would have seen Ahmed Fahour’s name amongst 4 others considered as the most powerful figures in financial services.
Mr Windschuttle described the drunken rioting as merely “mass retaliation” to the “Lebanese assaults on the Cronulla lifesavers”. He then went into an explanation about the causes for one former headmaster from Punchbowl Boys High School bringing what appeared to be a Workers Compensation Claim for stress against the NSW Department of Education.
Mr Windschuttle conveniently fails to mention other “ghetto” schools such as Granville Boys High School, a school with almost equal if not greater proportion of Lebanese Muslim students. This school has produced at least 2 partners of major Sydney commercial law firms and 1 partner of a major insolvency firm, not to mention other people prominent in business and professions.
Somehow Mr Windschuttle is able to extract from this mass of confused information some kind of coherent theory on why our multicultural status quo is to blame for the Cronulla riots. Despite trying to push as many facts as possible into his diatribe, Mr Windschuttle neglects one important point – exactly how does one define multiculturalism? And perhaps more importantly, exactly what is Australian culture?
To presume that Muslim cultures are a monolith and always different from the cultures practised by other Australians involves generating a mythology whose creation requires a rush of blood to the head. Some writers appear to have generated this blood flow by plonking their heads firmly into the sands of Cronulla beach.
Yet this “heads-in-the-cultural-sand” approach is so typical of ex-Marxists masquerading as conservatives. For these people, anything the Left supports is bad, even if it’s right and consistent with the best conservative thinking has to offer. I guess in some cases, there is a fine line between socialism and national socialism.
Of course, real conservatives realise that multiculturalism is the status quo. That explains why real conservatives, people like Jeff Kennett and Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson and Tim Fischer, don’t waste their time with the badly reconstructed Marxists and lefties that now seem to dominate allegedly conservative discourse.
And it also explains why so many small “c” conservatives are doing plenty of soul-searching before deciding whether to renew their membership.