Even without Alan Jones’ disgraceful comments about the New Zealand Prime Minister, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that creeping conservatism is taking an ever more dominant role in Australian politics.
This is not surprising, but it’s a reason we should be paying more attention to politics than we probably want to be doing right now.
As a conservative shock jock on talkback radio and Sky News, Mr Jones is the self-appointed cheerleader-in-chief for the conservative forces. He regularly attracts controversy (along with ratings) by using aggressive language against non-conservatives, which can often fall outside the bounds of what we now believe to be ‘politically correct’.
While he eventually apologised for using a racial slur this time last year (which wasn’t the first time), the broadcaster appears to favour using violent language against female prime ministers who offend his conservative beliefs.
First was his call to bundle then-PM Julia Gillard into a chaff bag so that she could be dumped at sea. This week, Mr Jones encouraged our current PM to ‘shove a sock down the throat’ of his NZ counterpart, Jacinda Adern.
Not to ‘stuff a sock in it’, as the broadcaster now claims to have meant, but down the woman’s throat.
The broadcaster may have tried to brush off the implied violence by saying he was ‘willfully’ misunderstood, but he has a track record of either subjecting women to verbal abuse on air (remember his treatment of the Opera House CEO?) or using violent metaphors to emphasise how much he disagrees with them.
— 𝕤𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕙𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕟 (@samanthamaiden) August 16, 2019
Mr Jones mostly gets away with this behaviour because he articulates the darker thoughts that conservative politicians in the major parties are too timid to express for fear of being ostracised by the broader community.
Judging from the escalation of violence against women suggested by Mr Jones’ outburst against Ms Adern, it appears the shock jock feels he now has an expanded licence to use such vitriol against non-conservatives.
In fact, just looking back over the past week, conservatives generally appear to have become emboldened by the re-election of Scott Morrison and voters’ seeming rejection of the progressive approach offered by Labor.
Last weekend, for example, arch conservatives from the United States joined with the usual suspects from Sky News After Dark for the first Conservative Political Action Conference in Australia, at which participants were called upon to ‘join the brave, protect the future’.
- Related: Dark side of Sky After Dark
The overall tenor of the event and its disconnect with mainstream Australia could best be encapsulated by comments made by one of CPAC’s keynote speakers, the unelected citizen formerly known as Tony Abbott MP.
Demonstrating that he hadn’t forgotten how to throw red meat to the base, Mr Abbott reportedly told the conference that state government reforms to abortion and euthanasia were ‘morally shocking’ and enabling ‘death on demand’.
He also laid blame for such laws on society having lost its ‘moral anchor points’ and encouraged conference participants to read the “great books, the greatest of which is the New Testament.”
- Related: CPAC attendees mocked
Meanwhile, religious conservative influences of a more substantial kind emerged with reports that church and other religious leaders had met with the PM this week and requested more protection in the Government’s proposed religious freedoms legislation.
While it remains to be seen whether these wishes will be met, the demands of conservative climate action opponents are clearly being followed.
According to reports from the Pacific Islands Forum this week, the document negotiated by government officials and leaders to record what was agreed at the meeting was almost made unacceptable by Australia’s edits. Our diplomats did their political masters’ bidding by ‘negotiating’ the removal of all references to ending the use of coal and insisting on watered down references to there being a climate crisis.
And this was all in just one week.
Conservatism clearly isn’t a new element in Australian politics, but its growing influence on behaviour, language and laws is a risk we can’t ignore.
While progressives are distracted trying to resolve their existential crisis, creeping conservatism risks dragging the nation back into the dark ages.