Tony Abbott says SSM debate sparks new wave of conservative activism
Tony Abbott has hailed the rise of a new conservative movement prepared to fight for Western culture and religious freedom as a result of the same-sex marriage campaign and warned Liberals the “activated” voters will wonder “who will represent them in the years ahead”.
The former prime minister said the “nucleus of an organisation” had been created in just two months of campaigning for traditional marriage but there was no support from Malcolm Turnbull or conservative ministers.
He said the new movement, which could represent 40 per cent of Australians, could become a counter to the pro-Labor, leftist GetUp! movement which has been around for a decade and heavily funded by unions.
This week John Howard, a leading advocate for traditional marriage, also warned of the “fragmentation” of politics in Australia and is concerned about the lack of representation in the same-sex marriage debate for conservatives.
In a speech to be delivered in New York overnight to the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom group, Mr Abbott will say thousands of young people had sprung to defend marriage despite attracting “an instant social media storm and reputational death”.
“Such robust characters, once activated, are unlikely to fade away; and could continue to make their presence felt (even after marriage is no longer an issue) because they’ve had the guts to campaign for a cause they believe in,” he says.
“With the leaders of both big political parties, 60 large businesses and most of the major sporting codes all coming out on the other side — and no cabinet minister, not one, in the centre-right government prepared to campaign with them — they will understandably be wondering who and what might represent them in the years ahead.”
While he said he believed the result of the same-sex marriage postal survey could still “swing either way” because No voters were reluctant to answer poll questions, he said a 40 per cent vote would be a “moral victory” for marriage, demonstrating a core of conservative support in Australia.
“Win, lose, or draw, though, starting from scratch two months ago, the campaign for marriage in my country has mobilised thousands of new activists; and created a network that could be deployed to defend Western civilisation more broadly and the Judeo-Christian ethic against all that’s been undermining it,’’ he says.
“So far, the campaign to defend marriage in Australia has raised over $6 million from more than 20,000 separate donors, and fielded more than 5000 volunteers to doorknock and phone canvass.”
Mr Abbott said the political implications of the rise of a new “loose” conservative movement and the lack of conservative ministers supporting the No case was that in the short-term “the embryonic Australian Conservatives, the only national political party whose leader backed marriage as it’s always been” would be the beneficiary in electoral terms.
“In the medium term, these new activists are likely to mean that the long march of the left through our institutions is no longer largely unopposed,” he says and suggests there could be counter “solidarity” marches to protest marches from the left.
“If the traditional stance of the centre-right in the English-speaking tradition is to endure — to be pro-market and to be socially conservative — there has to be people prepared to stand up for beliefs; because if you don’t believe, you won’t fight; and if you don’t fight, you can’t win.”
Mr Abbott says “if the opinion polls are right”, the Victorian Labor government, which is preparing to give “doctors the right to kill some patients”, will be the “prototype” of the “next national government”.
“There is ... a massive job for these newly energised, potential conservative activists,” he says. “For every protest march, there must be a solidarity one. For every assertion of identity politics, there must be a defence of the social fabric. For every lobby on the counter-cultural left, there must be one on the commonsense right if even the sensible centre is to hold; for the values of centre-right party MPs can no longer be assumed and often need to be buttressed.
“Merely debating marriage has hinted at the risks facing cultural conservatives, the new dissidents in the world that their decency and tolerance has made possible.’’
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