I have a lot of respect for former National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson. He is widely regarded as one of the most honourable men in Australian public life. Since his early retirement from politics in 2007 (aged 50 at the time), he has continued farming in the Gunnedah shire, served on a few boards and unsuccessfully attempted a comeback in 2021. He is best-known these days, however, as the host of his own podcast series of cerebral and enlightening interviews with prominent writers, politicos, philosophers and artists. His guest interlocutors have included Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and rapper Zuby. Urbane and well-read – he took vocationally unnecessary B.A. and M.A. degrees in history as a young grazier – Anderson is resolute but not rigid, pastoral in both senses, immovable on the essentials but never militant. In a culture of grown-ups where even political foes shared the same objectively true beliefs, he could have shone as a prime minister. But we don’t live in such a world. Not anymore.
The counsel on the Voice he offered Anthony Albanese tonight via James Morrow was to “defer” it until a (Labor-curated) constitutional convention discusses it all over again. As Margaret Thatcher would almost certainly say: “No. No. No.” If the admirably eirenic Mr Anderson did a podcast with King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes would point out that there is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace (3:1-8). There is also a time for scattering and a time for throwing away. Rightists and conservatives are called upon to extirpate constitutional rot, not put it off. Nor should a legislated Voice be seen as any more acceptable to Liberals and Nationals than the entrenched version proposed by an unhinged prime minister.
The trouble with the Coalition is that it is as clogged with putrefaction as the institutions it refuses to salvage. Left-wing Labor chauvinist Troy Bramston was delighted yesterday to report that John Howard has warned the Liberals not to “lurch to the right” as they plot their return to the Treasury Bench. This is code for surrendering in the culture wars so as not to anger the ABC. The hackneyed “broad church” Howard prefers delivered lockdowns, gay ‘marriage,’ inaction on religious freedom, John Pesutto and net zero. There’s a reason he is no longer a Methodist and his one-time deputy is no longer a Presbyterian: broad churches only flourish in times of moral concord. They are useless in the present age. For the right, this is an era of counter-revolution.