Mon, 19 Apr 2021

New Liberals leader outlines his party's politics

Independent Australia
26 Feb 2021, 16:52 GMT+10

The New Liberals is a party offering more progressive policies than the "other" Liberal Party currently governing our country, writes Victor Kline.

DISCLAIMER: Independent Australia is not affiliated with this party and does not endorse this or any other political entity.

WE WERE SITTING AROUND, as usual, red wine in hand, grumbling about having no one to vote for. Four friends who later became the National Executive of The New Liberals. Like much of the country, we were in despair at a government that had apparently mastered the art of bare-faced corruption and an opposition that seemed incapable of calling them out.

And then there was the epiphany. President of the National Executive, Dr Katharine Kline, said: "You remember that old saying 'somebody should do something about this? Oh, hang on, I am somebody'? Well, we are somebodies."

There was a moment of silence whilst we all looked at one another. And we all knew we were thinking the same thing. We were old enough and ugly enough. For all the potential horrors it would no doubt involve, we could take this on. And so, The New Liberals was born. A party of real people from the real world who would never have thought of entering politics had they not feared their country becoming the new Argentina.

We discussed it for a while and then Katharine said: "If we are going to do this, we have to make sure that we are in no way like the people we despise. And the best way to make sure of that is if we always tell the truth, whatever the risks, whatever the consequences."

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Our first test of that came very soon after. Knowing one another as we did, we knew that the party we would form would be a classic "liberal" party, as that word is understood around the world and has been for 200 years. It would mean a progressive party that believes in equality of opportunity, compassion, justice and freedom of the individual, but with a strong place for government to ensure that in exercising that freedom, the individual doesn't impinge on the freedom of others.

But we knew, of course, that the Liberal Party of Australia had taken a perfectly good word and perverted it to mean its exact opposite - ultra-conservative. So if we told the truth about ourselves by using the word "liberal" in our name, we could be buying into a world of trouble. But we also knew if we didn't tell the truth this first and fundamental time, we would already have compromised our promise to ourselves. And that would be a very bad start.

So we took our courage in our hands and named ourselves The New Liberals. The upshot was that, from a very early stage, moderate disaffected Liberal voters came across to us in droves. Often well-educated and well-heeled people, they were furious with the party they had voted for all their lives. They could see no benefit in being well-heeled if their children and grandchildren had no planet to live on.

They embraced us as the sort of "liberal" party they wanted and which they felt they had lost. A party which was going to be tough on climate change and tough on corruption but compassionate with the less fortunate - the refugees, the three million living below the poverty line and all the others their once-proud party had dispossessed.

So large is this group of disaffected ex-Liberal voters, that politicians, press gallery journalists and psephologists are suggesting that we could take as much as 20 per cent of the vote in as many as 33 Liberal-held seats, which would put the Government at risk in those seats provided we always preferenced the LNP last - which, of course, we will, as we did in our first outing at the Eden Monaro by-election.

Ironically, though we are more progressive than Labor, their disaffected voters tend to recoil in horror at the word "liberal" in our name. They have been conditioned to a visceral gag response by the LNP's perversion of the word.

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But pleasingly, if we get a chance to talk to them and show them our policies, they tend to become our greatest supporters and our hardest workers.

So we are attracting the middle ground of disaffected voters from both sides. Greens voters have also shown interest but want to know how we differ from their party. We have respect for the Greens and hope to be able to work with them as colleagues, but there are significant differences between us.

Our climate policy is stronger. Even though we are both aiming for net-zero emissions by 2035, we say this is only half the problem in Australia. Water, this country's most precious resource, has been commodified and has become the object of corrupt practices. We see this as one of the first things we must address.

Staying on the corruption issue, we propose the strongest Federal ICAC around, which will result in people like Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and Energy Minister Angus Taylor going to gaol. The Greens policy would not achieve this.

We are also a broad-based party and have many strong progressive policies for which the Greens have no equivalent, like parliamentary reform, national security, law reform, the public service and media reform.

But most importantly, we embrace Modern Monetary Theory as the core of our economic policy. It is an updated form of that same Keynesianism that pulled us out of the Great Depression and without which there is no hope of solving unemployment and underemployment, abolishing the gig economy and getting the three million who live below the poverty line above that invidious line.

We are proposing a non-compulsory Job Guarantee Scheme, where anyone who wants a job will be guaranteed one, suited to their skills and at a good living wage. People are already registering for this. It will return this country to real full employment without the risk of inflation, much as we saw during our most prosperous period in the 1950s and '60s. And this will be complemented for those who cannot work by safety-net payments around double the current rate.

Victor Kline is the leader of The New Liberals, a writer and a barrister, whose practice focuses on pro bono work for refugees and asylum seekers.

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