A bit over 20 years ago a small group of young Canberra libertarians got together at the Kingston Hotel and outlined our plans to launch a new political party. Flash forward to this year and that small group had become a national network of thousands of members, with several important electoral victories under our belt, and playing an important role in the Australian liberty movement. It was a moment worth celebrating, and thank you to everybody who came along to our 20th birthday celebration in Canberra earlier this month.
From a personal perspective, it was great to catch up with so many old and new friends, and an honour to have been elected to the national executive and then as National President. For those who don’t know me, I was one of those young Canberrans who helped launch the party back in 2001, and went on to lead the party to the 2001 and then 2004 ACT elections. After stepping away from politics I spent a few years as a travelling hippy bum, before returning to Australia to complete my PhD in economics and then work as a lecturer at the University of Queensland.
The political stakes are much higher now than they were when I led the party 20 years ago, so I’m grateful to be surrounded by an excellent group of volunteers. Going forward I would also like to make more use of the institutional memory of the party, and draw on the sage advice of former party presidents and executive members, former politicians and staffers, and former members and campaigners. If you have any insights or constructive ideas, please feel free to contact me directly. If you want to send angry rants, then I encourage you to instead contact our excellent Vice President Terje Petersen. 😉
Preparing for the next “libertarian moment”
The last few years have not been good for libertarian politics. The Ron Paul “libertarian moment” is now long gone, fear is driving large sections of the electorate towards the government’s false promise of safety, and the culture war has driven society apart while sidelining important debates on economic and civil liberties. The dominant political narrative today is “big fear and big spending”, which is being pushed by all the major parties.
This too shall pass.
Governments across the country are currently being applauded for their heavy-handed response to COVID-19, but a growing minority of people are getting worried about the loss of civil liberties and growing power of government. Likewise the government’s overspending and massive debts are currently popular, but they are creating long-term problems that will eventually need to be addressed. We need to be constantly talking about these issues, and establishing the Liberal Democrats as the party that respects individual liberties and rejects the economic extravagance of the other political parties.
The political tide will turn. When the discussion shifts to declining civil liberties and a growing economic crisis, the Liberal Democrats will be ready as the credible alternative to the failed “big fear and big spending” agenda. That will be our moment. Let’s make it happen.