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New Australian leader gives hope to conservatives everywhere

By Walter Lohman - posted Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Australian Liberal Party - "liberal" in the good way, like Adam Smith - and its coalition partner, the National Party, won in a landslide election over the weekend. Australian voters have made Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott the next prime minister of Australia with a projected majority of 89 out of 150 seats in the parliament.

How did Abbott go from "unelectable" to dealing the left a defeat of historic proportions? According to The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Abbott did the very thing so many U.S. Republicans and British Tories have shied away from in recent years: He had the courage to broaden the appeal of a conservative agenda rather than copy the policies of his opponents. As a result, Australians enjoyed a real choice at the polls this weekend. Mr. Abbott's resounding victory shows that they relished this opportunity to chart a more free-market course.


True enough - and very encouraging - but he's not just an economic conservative. He's also a social conservative.

Last year, in a speech at The Heritage Foundation, Abbott explicitly identified himself and his party with Heritage's support for free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values, and a strong national defense. And - shhh - he also supported the idea of "American exceptionalism."

That's not supposed to fly in Australia. The left in the U.S. takes solace that, while conservatives are a force in Australia (and in the United Kingdom) - they even win elections - they're nothing like our conservatives. Conservatives in Australia are supposed to confine themselves to their "ideological" commitment to free markets. By this reading, the Australian Liberal Party is an example of what a responsible (and they believe ultimately futile) opposition to progressive historical trends should look like.

But Tony Abbott is not a good data point in their narrative. And he's beaten them - badly.

Abbott has been called a lot of things: "the mad monk" (in reference to his youthful training for the Catholic priesthood), gaffe-prone, anti-woman, the aforementioned "unelectable," and neanderthal.

Whatever else the left wants to call him, now they'll have to call him "Prime Minister." That's a moniker that gives hope to conservatives of all stripes everywhere.

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About the Author

Walter Lohman is Director of The Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center.

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