Experience Matters

This week marks a new beginning in conservative politics. Tony Abbott brings a new combative leadership style to the Liberal Party and has announced a new frontbench line-up. With typical Abbott frankness, he accepted that if he wins the next election he would be regarded as a political genius but failure would see him eventually become ‘political road kill’.

The media have responded with their usual disdain for anything more conservative than a super-green, Prius-driving United Nations advocate and criticised the inclusion of some very experienced former Howard Government ministers on the frontbench.

Let’s be frank about this. We have a great deal of enthusiasm and energy among the many younger members of the Liberal Party team, all of whom are eager to make their mark on the national agenda. However, experience and the associated wisdom it often brings is a very important part of creating any effective leadership team.

Consider for a moment your favourite team sport. No coach would consider starting a team comprised exclusively of rookies. Coaches blend youth with experience. In business, a board of directors includes people with a good grasp of corporate history and those with a more innovative style. A great team is a balanced team and it is no different in the world of politics. A good political team needs a balance of beliefs, interests, enthusiasm and experience.

Of those characteristics, experience often plays the most important role.

History is littered with the political corpses of those who haven’t learned from previous mistakes. Sometimes these critical errors occurred in decades past and have been all but forgotten by the current crop of political operatives. This is where experience and knowledge come to the fore.

To put this in a current political context, one of the more experienced hands is Kevin Andrews. A former Howard Government minister, Kevin has had a long-term commitment to the Liberal Party.

His concerns with the direction that the parliamentary party had been heading over the past 12 months compelled him to put himself forward as an alternate leader. His courage broke the paralysis of indecision and has ultimately given us an opportunity to reconnect with our core constituency.

I have no doubt that it was Kevin Andrews’ experience and genuine concern for the future of the Liberal Party, rather than any real desire for leadership, that led him to take such a stand.

While the new approach of Tony Abbott and his team will give new grounds for optimism among conservative voters, we should not underestimate the challenge ahead. Despite the many flaws of the Rudd Government, their greatest ability is that of applying their political spin to almost any situation. Overspending becomes a ‘necessary stimulus’, broken promises become ‘policy flexibility’ and an economic conservative is suddenly decried as an ‘extremist’.

In the face of such political babble, there is no chance of beating Labor by being a pale imitation of them. Victory can only be reached by countering their many policy failures with an alternative approach.

We need to effectively target their great green tax, their failure to keep our borders secure, their spendthrift waste of taxpayers’ money and their desperation for the approval of the international community ahead of acting in the interests of everyday Australians.

However, highlighting Labor’s flaws will not necessarily be enough to win.

We need to demonstrate to the Australian people that a conservative approach is in their best interests. We need to provide hope and optimism that our future need not be constrained by massive debt and sprawling government. We need to convince individuals that they are better placed to make decisions affecting them than any bureaucrat will ever be.

In short, we need to ensure that every Australian knows that the core conservative tenets of smaller government, lower taxes, stronger families and support for free enterprise are the keys to Australia’s future prosperity.

Tony Abbott has selected the team to do exactly that.

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