The Liberal Party is a party of old white males that do not represent the community. Right? This seems to be the conventional wisdom coming from most political commentators and punters on social media.
Apparently the party is not diverse enough. Apparently it does not reflect the community. Apparently it is out of touch.
I’m going to buck the trend and deliver some much needed perspective. Comparable to the Labor Party and the Greens, the Liberal party IS the party of diversity and indeed does reflect the community’s diverse range of viewpoints.
What? I hear you say.
Unfortunately, diversity has merely become a synonym for our toxic obsession with race and gender. Labor and the Greens like to pretend they have diversity based on whether or not their members are male or female, or whether some of their members have darker skin than others, but is this really diversity?
See, the Liberal Party has diversity where it matters: ideas and beliefs.
The fact that policy disagreements are occurring within the party is a sign of a functioning, robust, democratic movement, as opposed to Labor and the Greens where all members are forced to parrot the same views for risk of expulsion.
So, focus on just ideas and beliefs for a moment and consider which party actually reflects the divergence of views that exist in the Australian community on a range of issues.
The Liberal Party has a diverse range of views on same-sex marriage. Some are passionately for, some passionately against. The same-sex marriage plebiscite revealed that 61% of the country supported marriage equality, while 39% opposed it. There’s a divergence of views in the community and this is reflected within the party.
The Liberal Party has a diverse range of views on climate change, much like the Australian community. Some members of the LNP are climate skeptics, some believe that action on climate change is essential. Various polls indicate that on average around 70% of Australians accept that global warming is influenced by human activity. There are some, however, that are skeptical. Which party best represents these divergent views on this issue?
What about the economy? The Liberal Party has traditionally been divided between the wets (members who accept and sometimes advocate for government intervention in the economy) and the dries (members who argue for very limited government). Compare this to Labor and the Greens, who all agree that government intervention in the market is a good thing. The Australian community has a diverse range of views when it comes to government intervention in the market, and these views are once again reflected in the party.
On refugees, there are members of the Liberal Party who call for compassionate treatment and pathways to citizenship, such as Russell Broadbent. Whilst there are hardliners such as Peter Dutton who consistently advocate for a harsh regime. It goes without saying that there’s a diverse range of viewpoints out there in the Australian community on this issue, with loud voices calling for compassion and equally loud voices on the right advocating for strictly enforced border control. Again, which party best reflects this broad cross-section of the community? Try calling for boat turn backs as a member of the Greens and see what happens.
The problem with diversity is that people view it from a shallow standpoint. They see a split between men and women and people of different colours or sexual orientation and they applaud ‘diversity’. But diversity is and should be about more than who we are. What matters most, especially in politics, is WHAT we stand for. What ideas we believe. A party is not diverse if every member is parroting the same thing. A party is not diverse if members are not allowed to diverge from the sanctified party position.
The Australian community is complex, and while people of the left like to believe that every person in the nation apart from those ‘deplorables’ accepts their view of the world, it is not necessarily the case. The fact that the Liberal Party has policy disagreements internally is a sign of health. It’s a sign that they are grappling with diverse viewpoints that exist in the community, echoing the sentiments of voters. Granted, the line between robust debate and instability is a fine one, but the party should not necessarily be pilloried due to the fact it’s members have disagreements. We are living in a democracy after all.
We should not fall for the identity politics game of believing diversity entails just gender, race or sexuality. But even if we did play this toxic game for a moment, it could be pointed out that the Liberal Party has the highest representation of gay members in federal parliament, two: Tim Wilson and Dean Smith. It could also be pointed out that the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives is Ken Wyatt, a Liberal. It should also be noted that the only member of federal parliament with black African descent is Lucy Gichuhi, a Liberal. Further to that, every member of the Labor caucus must belong to a union of some sort, whereas the Liberals come from a wide range of backgrounds and there is no necessity to be affiliated with any association at all. There’s small business owners, lawyers, farmers, CEOs, managers, teachers, academics. That’s diversity.
But pointing out such trivial matters is beside the point. What matters for those members is not who they are but what they stand for.
The next time someone says that the Liberal Party is out of touch, remind them that it is the only party truly representative of the diverse views of the nation, ranging from left to right, nationalist to globalist, free trader to protectionist. If that person disagrees, perhaps remind them that it’s worth seeing the world through more than the narrow prism of sex, race or gender.