The first day of Australia’s first Conservative Political Action Conference was an astonishing success. I cannot tell you what a satisfying day it was, full of interest and surprise, even where I didn’t expect to be surprised. I will only hit what stood out for me, so if I leave out The Reunion of the Outsiders, for example, it’s only because they were precisely as insightful and entertaining as I thought they would be. It really is irritating to be reminded how cowardly Australian television was in not being able to keep all three together for a nothing bit of TV of a Sunday morning once a week.
Tony Abbott came next, who reminded me once more how the most philosophical and potentially among the great Prime Ministers of this country was sandbagged by a narcissistic incompetent without any of the ability of the man he replaced. He discusses what he saw as the essence of conservative leadership, “pragmatism, based on values”. I also thought the advice he gave his daughter when she took up a post in the Australian embassy in China was exceptional. Don’t spend your time learning about China. There are lots of experts on that. Learn about Australia: “You must know about us.” He fears, and I think rightly, that the traditions of the West “are no longer holding their grip”. And he repeated John Howard’s definition of a conservative: “people who do not believe themselves morally superior to their grandparents.”
Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price provided an Indigenous perspective, similar in their outlook but very different in their focus. Both, as I heard them, provided the same lesson: Indigenous Australians need stop dwelling on whatever wrongs may have been done to their ancestors since nothing from the past can be changed, but should instead look to creating the kind of future that can be made for themselves embedded as they are within a Western nation from whom they have a lot to learn given the people with whom they share this continent with.
We also heard from the founder of CPAC in the United States who discussed PDT and American politics generally with a Republican Congressman from Tennessee. An hour of back and forth with among my favourite bits the discussion of “The Trump Whisper”. This is when someone would ask him to come close because they wanted to say something to them – usually, he would think, because they wanted to complain about something in private – but then would say to him, in this very quiet voice, “I really like Trump.” Easy to believe, given how viscious the left is, but, as he noted, it is a problem all the same.
They were followed by Judge Jeanine who was even more entertaining live than she is on Fox. Spellbinding. Terrifying.
Not last nor least, but the surprise feature speaker was Raheem Kassam, whose prominence was brought to the front when Kristine Kenealy tried to get his entry-visa denied. A very impressive speaker, filled with insight, humour and philosophical detail about an issue of the greatest importance – radical Islam – of which he had much of interest and value to say. He also said this, which was an interesting perspective on how times change, that Enoch Powell, yes that Enoch Powell, had taught classics at the University of Sydney when he had been 24 years old, and amongst his students had been Gough Whitlam. No problem getting a visa then, and GW studied classics!
Congratulations to Andrew Cooper for pulling this off. Then tomorrow there is still Nigel Farage to start off the day and then, of course, followed by Sinclair.