The Politics of Principle

If there is a lesson to be learned from the Victorian election result it must surely be that principle is still very important in politics.

It has been a position that I have been advocating since I entered the Senate nearly five years ago.

The decision to put the Greens last on the Liberal how-to-vote ticket demonstrated to an increasingly cynical electorate that the Liberal Party was more interested in good government rather than government at any cost.

They were appropriately rewarded at the ballot box.

In advocating the importance of principle and conviction in modern politics, some have maintained that such a view is quaint and old-fashioned.

There is no doubt that you can’t win elections with misty-eyed idealism and good intentions alone, but making sure a political party reflects its guiding ethos rather than a grab bag of philosophies is a key to electoral credibility and success.

One can link such sentiment back to the phrase many of us would remember from our school days: ‘If you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for anything.’

How can political parties expect to receive the confidence of the electorate if they aren’t prepared to demonstrate and maintain a commitment to some core beliefs of their own?

The fact that the Victorian Liberals’ preferencing deal was forced by vocal grassroots members suggests that even loyal party members want more conviction from their chosen team. It was reminiscent of the public campaign against the ETS that ultimately forced a change to Coalition (and government) policy and paved the way for the first minority government in 70 years.

A lack of commitment to principle (and terrible governments) is what has damaged the Labor brand so badly in recent years. As the NSW Labor model of spin, media management and lack of action was rolled out across successive states, Labor lost connection with its core values.

It became clear that their electoral quest was only ever about gaining power rather than wanting to do something when they got into government.

And that is why the Victorian election result is so important. With one decision, the Victorian Liberals demonstrated their integrity while exposing Labor’s weakness through a lack of it.

It also increased public awareness of the real danger presented by the Greens and reduced their expected vote on election day.

No matter what their public image might be, the Greens are committed to radically changing our economy, our social fabric and cultural institutions.

They have repainted old-fashioned Marxism with a green brush and convinced a section of a trusting public that their agenda is cuddling koalas and saving trees.

But they are a force that can only exist with the support of the major parties. Every electoral triumph claimed by Greens leader Bob Brown was built on the back of the preferences of the Liberal Party.

Just why the Liberal Party would ever contemplate providing life support for a group that has a revolutionary leftist agenda and offers nothing in return beggars belief.

Liberal Party members knew this instinctively when they demanded the Greens go last. Now that principled action has met with political success, who knows, perhaps it might catch on. I certainly hope so.

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