Joe Hockey and the ghost of Bob Menzies

17 May 2014

This week’s budget raises the question of whom the Liberal Party now represents

WE LEARN a lot from a new government’s first budget. Strategic priorities, previously existing only in verbal form, are given concrete expression; promises are sorted into the various categories of core, non-core and empty; scores are settled and favours repaid. But the thing we learn most from the first Abbott government budget is about the Liberal Party and who owns it.

The days of the Liberals presenting themselves as “the party for all Australians,” on which Robert Menzies built his edifice for the “forgotten people,” are long gone. It is, of course, debatable whether the party that proclaimed itself independent of vested interests was ever thus: it has from its inception, and just like its antecedents, always been the defender of capital and the protector of privilege. Just as Menzies refused to accept the name “conservative” for the new party he helped found in 1944, he also strove mightily to convey the impression that the reality was otherwise, and with the help of propaganda, scare campaigns, the cold war, the communist bogey and other useful devices, he was highly successful. The unwitting help he received from an inept and poorly led Labor Party is too easily overlooked…

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