Thursday, 27 May 2010
For Labor supporters of a certain age, there was only one real moment of joy over the last few decades: watching Fraser burst into tears when he lost the 1983 election. For years before the Man of Steel arrived, there was one true figure of hate (OK, two including Joh) on the right side of politics, and that was the man who broke all convention to remove from power a popularly elected government (that after being deposed, turned out not to be so popular after all). For the same Labor supporters, the subsequent rehabilitation of Fraser to become the conscience of the Liberal party must be a source of wonder.
According to Fraser, the problem with the Liberal party these days is that it has moved too far to the right. Maybe this blogger has lost perspective, but joining in the mass bombing of a country doing no more than trying to get rid of western powers and run their own affairs does sound fairly right wing. Much is made these days of Fraser’s apparent generosity in letting in Vietnamese refugees when Prime Minister (after doing everything possible to make sure they stayed in camps in South East Asia). What is less discussed, of course, is that as Minister for Defence in the late 1960s, he oversaw Australia’s part in helping the Americans destroy the country those refugees came from.
The idea that the Liberal party has moved to the right since Fraser begun his parliamentary career is a joke. Fraser may not like the way Howard treated asylum seekers, but when he was a government Minister those sort of people wouldn’t have been allowed in legally or otherwise. In the 1950s, when Fraser won Wannon for the Liberals and began pushing his way up the party ladder, the racial politics of the White Australia policy and denial of civil rights to indigenous people was the iron clad consensus on which Australian politics rested.
His biographer in Crikey gets closer to the matter when she notes how much Fraser’s politics were moulded by anti-Communism. It was this that was the glue that held right-wing politics together and could justify the destruction Fraser helped oversee in Vietnam. She describes the sea change to Fraser’s thinking when the Berlin Wall fell and the main prop to right wing politics went with it. With the international angle gone and organised labour no threat at home, there was nothing for a right-winger to be against. Fraser’s gaining of a ‘conscience’ over the last few years is really no more than accepting that the basis of what had been recognisable as right-wing politics had had its day.
Of course, not everyone got the hint. The wrangles between Peacock and Howard in the 1980s as they responded to Hawke’s nobbling of the union movement under the accord, already presaged the later dilemma about how the right could justify its existence. After an Indian summer with the War on Terror trying to create a new Cold War, that dilemma has well and truly come to the surface. The lack of a threat that could define the rule of what is acceptable behaviour for the establishment has been neatly brought out by Bishop’s blooper on spilling the beans of what the security services get up to in this country, a breach of security protocol that would have been unthinkable in the days when there was acceptance of there being a real threat for the security services to be actually dealing with.
For Fraser, Abbott’s election was the last straw. The problem for Fraser is not that the Liberals are moving to the right as such but that there is no real basis for them doing so. To make up for it instead we have the pyrotechnics of Abbott who is getting more shrill by the day in his attempt to create an opposition out of nothing. Abbott’s performance in Parliament yesterday was getting reminiscent of Nelson and his Tarago hysterics, except this time Abbott faces a government that now struggles to even sell a boost to super without calling on outside help. Troubles all round then.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 27 May 2010.Filed under Political figures