Australia's supposedly conservative party is not conservative
Confusion reigns over the true nature of Australia's Liberal Party, now led by Malcolm Turnbull.
Those with a narrow, leftward biased, Eurocentric view of the political spectrum argue that the "Liberal" in the party name refers entirely to its classical liberal views, and that -- in reality -- the party is conservative.
Such is not the case. Assigning a place on the political spectrum requires taking a more holistic view of ideology, and not just cherry-picking a few policy planks. Once you include countries with truly conservative portions of the political spectrum represented within political parties, most notably the United States, then it becomes abundantly clear that the Liberal Party of Australia is not conservative. At best it is the oxymoronically named "progressive conservative" variety, but more aptly it is analogous to the centrist portion of Liberal parties elsewhere (see, e.g., Canada).
The classification difficulty arises for many because the Australian Liberals are members of the International Democrat Union (IDU), which includes a list of purportedly center-right political parties from around the world. And yet, Germany's Christian Democratic Union led by Angela Merkel is a member of the IDU.
Anyone think Merkel's party is "conservative"? If so, your definition of conservative likely differs from most writers and readers at AT. If you need a reminder of some of Merkel's supposedly "conservative" policies, think along the lines of mass immigration, green energy and other environmental policies, socialized medicine, curtailing freedom of speech and association, and a generally large role for the state.
Ergo, membership in the IDU may mean you are the least leftward leaning party in a particular country, but that does not mean you are conservative by any objective measure. Of course, the liberals have infested center-right parties everywhere and are working actively to redefine the language -- as is their nature. Besides, the Liberal Party of Australia is the only member of the IDU with "Liberal" in its name -- save the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova, which doesn't really count -- making it an inherent oddball.
In terms of the Australian Liberal Party's specific policies, it is a rabid supporter of extreme gun control laws. Conservative? Nope.
The party supports universal health care, and even its modest reform proposals would place its views on socialized medicine well to the political left of ObamaCare. Not conservative.
A large number of the party's Members of Parliament (MPs) support same-sex marriage and some are members of radical left-wing organizations such as Greenpeace. Other prominent MPs with minister-level positions support the far-left state broadcaster, multiculturalism, and high intake rates for refugees. More nonconservatism.
Turnbull himself called Tony Abbott's skeptical climate change policies "bullshit," and instead favors large expenditures of tax dollars to subsidize various environmental initiatives, including renewable energy. He is also not a social conservative by any stretch of the definition, supporting same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, and broad abortion rights.
The party's 2016 election policies are generally a laundry list of statist initiatives.
We should just accept what the Australian Liberals are: liberals. If they aren't actually liberals, and they are instead conservatives, they can remedy the confusion quite easily by simply disavowing themselves from all the left-of-center policy positions outlined above and change their name to the Conservative of Party of Australia.
But until then, liberals they be -- which is a practical result of having to democratically operate within a dominantly left-wing populace. Canada also has the same problem, which explains the centrist, not conservative, Conservative Party of Canada. Same goes in the U.K. with the centrist party that David Cameron is leading.
A few conservative policies within a web of liberal positions does not make a conservative party. Time to accept that fact and move on, rather than continuing the embarrassing snake oil salesmanship.