Contributed by Jim Hayes
Some of the pundits are suggesting that the Tony Abbott camp is using Malcolm Turnbull’s low political standing, the fallout from the dual citizenship scandal and especially the marriage equality argument, to step lift their destabilisation strategy to a new level. They are right to think so.
Abbott attacked the Turnbull cabinet for refusing to take up the no case in the marriage equality referendum, during a speech he made in New York, to the anti-gay group that calls itself Defending Freedom. The organisation has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
His core message was that the Turnbull government is betraying “conservatives” and is too much like the Labor Party. Abbott also let out that the marriage equality battleground, has been a vehicle for bringing together and mobilising the “conservative forces,” setting up a network of activists that will be deployed to “defend western civilisation more broadly and the Judeo-Christian ethic against all that’s been undermining it,’’ he said.
The No campaign is made up of over 80 groups, which Abbot suggested could form a nucleus for an organisation that could take on “progressives,” as he calls those who are on the other side of the political fence, and groups such as GetUp.
Abbott named the Australian Conservatives, led by former Liberal Cory Bernardi, as a possible leading force, to serve as a magnet, drawing in “conservatives,” at least in the short-term, because have no voice in the Liberal Party.
Bernardi agrees that the No campaign can be used to build a movement that goes beyond the immediate issue and serve as a stepping stone for a new political movement.
In the meantime, Abbott argued that the focus must be to oppose what he called “the long march of the left through our institutions and stand up for pro-market socially conservative beliefs”.
“Activists should organise counter-rallies against “progressive” protests, reject “identity politics” and support the values of “centre-right party MPs [which] can no longer be assumed and often need to be buttressed,” he added.
By linking to and building a political movement that exists both outside and inside the Liberal Party, the Abbott camp believes it can exert greater on Turnbull and eventually have him overthrown in their favour.
It may or may not be Tony Abbott himself who takes over the leadership of the Liberal Party, but it will be someone from the faction that has morphed around him. This is the ambition.
If this scenario is played out, the most important part of it is not the identity of the new leader, but that it promises to bring in a different and more radical style of politics, which will put much more weight on visible activity on the streets and in communities, based on a crusade against today’s perceived devil – the progressives.
Some people see this as a march to fascism.
While there are some of the markings of this, the fascist title is not really accurate. The reason is that fascism as a movement has a clearly defined ideology, wrapped around the concept of corporatism, put forward as the alternative to both socialism and capitalism. This does not match up with the radical defence of the unfettered market.
Nevertheless, the movement Abbott is talking about, has the potential to provide fertile ground for a fascist movement to grow from within its ranks.