27 Aug Post Boomer leadership will unite Liberals around core values
James Paterson — Australian Financial Review — 27 August 2018
Last week will go down as one of the toughest in the 74-year history of the federal Liberal Party. There’s not a single member of the party room who is keen to repeat it – nor would Australians forgive us if we did. But out of the ashes of a difficult week, the party can now seize the opportunity to move past a decade of conflict and rebuild behind a new generation of leadership.
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg will be the first post-Baby Boomer generation to lead Australia. Born firmly in Generation X, they will inevitably bring a fresh perspective on the challenges facing our nation. Though both have worked closely with and learnt from our 25th prime Mminister, they are also the first Liberals elected in the post-John Howard era to lead the party.
In an age of waffle and spin, Scott Morrison is a refreshingly direct and clear communicator. He is naturally at ease with Australians from all walks of life. He brings with him achievement and experience across the three major areas of government: national security as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, social policy as Social Services Minister, and economics as Treasurer.
His first press conference as leader of the Liberal Party highlighted how his priorities are the priorities of mainstream Australians: getting people off the misery of welfare into the dignity of work, backing those who have a go, and letting people keep more of what they earn.
Josh Frydenberg is a passionate student of Liberal history, keenly aware of the responsibility he bears as a successor to Robert Menzies in the seat of Kooyong. He often quotes Menzies’ dictum from his 1946 pre-election address that “We need to return to politics as a clash of principles, and to get away from the notion that it is a clash only of warring personalities.” His first meeting after being sworn in as Treasurer with his most distinguished predecessor in that role, Peter Costello, shows that he intends to take up the mantle of economic reform.
Morrison and Frydenberg both played a central role in the successes of the Abbott and Turnbull governments. Stopping the boats, repealing the mining and carbon taxes, a comprehensive free trade agenda, restoring the rule of law to the construction industry, repairing the federal budget, and relieving the burden of tax for workers and small businesses culminated in the creation of 1 million new jobs. No small feat in successive fractious parliaments.
Though there are undeniably lessons to be learned from this period, Liberals should never make the mistake of failing to defend our significant accomplishments on behalf of the people of Australia under Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.
Going forward as a government we must tackle the as yet unfinished business from the last five years. We must get electricity prices down. We must confront the widespread concern Australians hold about the impact of immigration on congestion in our cities and social cohesion – without undermining our successful pluralistic society or our economy.
We must make greater inroads into the intergenerational debt burden being left to our children and grandchildren. We need to ensure our economic prosperity translates into better take home pay. We must safeguard our traditional freedoms of speech, worship and conscience.
Together, our new Prime Minister and Treasurer can unite the party room and our grassroots supporters around our core values of free enterprise, individual liberty, and respect for the institutions of western civilisation that have stood the test of time.
To achieve this, the important policy development role of the party room and its backbench committees must be reasserted. All voices in the broad Liberal philosophical tradition must be heard in the cabinet. Politically, we must first earn back the trust of our traditional supporters so that we can then contest the centre ground of politics from a position of strength.
The next election is eminently winnable, and not just because of our opponent’s obvious failings and economically ruinous agenda. Bill Shorten’s plan for more than $200 billion of higher taxes, his reckless promise of a 45 per cent emissions reduction target and his desire to put trade unions back at the centre of a re-regulated economy will smash economic growth and cost the family budget of every Australian thousands of dollars.
We must now contrast this with a new, positive Liberal vision for the future. A re-elected Morrison-Frydenberg government will make Australia more prosperous, secure and free.
This article was originally published in the Australian Financial Review.