When it comes to abortion and politics, action matters.
So does honesty.
And collectively, the Victorian Liberal Party has shown that it lacks any will to act on abortion and that it is completely duplicitous in its approach. These facts simply cannot be ignored, notwithstanding the efforts of one or two very brave Liberal politicians, such as Bernie Finn.
That’s why today’s report that Family First will now look at withholding preferences from the Victorian Liberal Party makes perfect sense and is one that I applaud.
So let’s look at the Liberal Party’s actions.
First up, when it comes to action, it doesn’t matter what the Liberal Party says about abortion while it is in opposition. All that matters is what it does when it is in power.
And on this score there are only two numbers that count: 0 and 508.
The first number represents exactly what the Liberals have done to wind back these laws: nothing. There has been complete and utter inaction. In fact, there is a good case to argue that the Labor backbencher, Christine Campbell, has done more to highlight the problems of these laws than the actual Liberals running the state over the last four years.
The second number is even worse. It signifies the difference between the number of days that Labor administered, funded, supported, protected and oversaw these evil abortion laws and the number of days that the Liberals have.
Today that number stands at 508.
That’s 508 days more than Labor that the Liberal government thinks it is fine and dandy to administer laws that allow abortion up until the day of birth. And the only thing about to change on this front is the number. Tomorrow it will tick over to 509.
That means that the Liberals actually have a far worse track record administering abortion in Victoria than the Labor Party.
It’s a stone cold fact encased inside the hardest possible reinforced concrete. There is absolutely no getting around it.
So it’s time to stop thinking that the Liberals are more pro-life than Labor. They aren’t.
With all this in mind, let’s examine the honesty of the Liberal Party.
And when it comes to honesty it does matter what the Liberal Party said in opposition because we all know that oppositions will say anything to gain power. The only way of knowing if the words of a party in opposition are honest is to see if they mean them while in government.
Liberal MPs mostly voted against the abortion laws while in opposition. And they have mostly said nothing at all about abortion since gaining government. Even after Geoff Shaw announced that he would bring forward a bill to outlaw such things as partial-birth and sex-selection abortion there has been nothing but a stony silence.
During the 2010 election campaign the Liberal Party was most welcoming of support from pro-life groups and was happy to receive preferences from minor parties with pro-life policies. In fact, given the slim victory margin obtained by the Liberal Party, it is likely this support was crucial in helping it gain power. Yet this support has not been treated with the good faith it deserved.
In fact, after the election the Liberal Party’s opposition evaporated in the wind and it just efficiently assumed control of Labor’s abortion laws and kept the killing humming along nicely. Premier Napthine has even gone so far as to say the he has no intention whatsoever of changing these laws.
In effect, the Liberal Party has changed its position in order to curry favour with both sides of this argument.
That’s very dishonest.
Yes, we all know about Emily’s List and the pro-abortion lobby within the Labor Party. This is not hidden. All it simply means is that the Labor Party is honest where the Liberal Party is not.
So the words ‘Liberal Party’, ‘honest’ and ‘abortion’ do not belong in the same sentence, unless you are pointing out the dishonesty in this situation.
This is important to understand. In just a few month’s time Victorians who are pro-life will essentially have to choose between whether they want an honest pro-abortion party running the joint instead of a dishonest pro-abortion one.
Granted, it’s not really a great choice. But the news that Family First is going to ruthlessly play havoc with its preferences means that some consolation can be gained from the sleepless nights this will cause the cowardly collective of conservative MPs. And I’ve spent enough time around cowardly conservative politicians to know that the thought of losing will cause peptic ulcers. Sometimes this is even enough to perform a minor miracle and strengthen the backbone.
If Liberal MPs don’t stand up on abortion, Family First will have no choice but to proceed with its plan. And there is no doubt that some of these politicians will lose their seats. The government will change hands as well.
Of course, the Liberal Party will huffily claim that it deserves pro-life votes. And it will sook about Family First’s ‘alleged’ lack of integrity.
But the Liberal Party has no integrity when it comes to action on abortion. Just remember those two numbers: 0 and 508. And the Liberal Party certainly has no integrity when it comes to honesty on abortion either.
So it has no leg to stand on, precisely because it has taken no stand on abortion at all.
Of course, those Liberal MPs who have had a backbone should receive Family First preferences. But there’s not many who have actually done anything while they have been in the corridors of power.
And time is running out for those who have been hiding in the background. But they will have to make their position known when Geoff Shaw’s bill is debated and voted upon. Of course, if this bill is sidelined it will only be because the Liberal government allows this to happen. And that will make Family First’s preference decisions that much easier to make.
The best part about Family First’s announcement is that for the first time in a long time the pro-life movement will be playing to its political strengths.
Pro-lifers might not currently have the power to elect a ‘pro-life’ party into office. But they do have the power to toss equivocal politicians out. And they should do this, even if the new guy is just as bad as the old, simply for the message it sends.
After a while, politicians who want a career will start listening. They haven’t had to recently because the Liberals have always just assumed that they’ll get the pro-life vote. And it’s been handed to them for free. And in politics, things that are free are ignored.
But now both Liberal and Labor candidates will be required to compete for the pro-life vote. And that means there will also be a greater pressure to act. From both sides of politics.
And that is why Family First’s decision is not just principled politics. It is also pragmatic because it stands the best chance of achieving a positive outcome as well.
There are other parties with pro-life platforms that will also be contesting the Victorian election, such as the Australian Christians and Democratic Labour Party. I support many of the objectives of these parties and I’ve written previously that cooperation between them would lead to better electoral outcomes.
There would be no better way to kickstart this cooperation than if these other minor conservative parties followed in Family First’s footsteps as well. And that would also turn the current headaches in Liberal Party HQ into full-blown migraines.
It’s what minor parties should do. If they aren’t able to put on the pressure, they might as well not be in the game.