Bueskens, Petra: Malcolm Turnbull and small and big L liberals

Bueskens, Petra

Malcolm Turnbull, Immanuel Kant and the Conundrum of small and big L Liberals‘, New Matilda, 6 October 2015 updated

The article is interesting because it juggles shades of meaning in Kant, strains of opinion in the Liberal Party today and historically, and traditional political labels.

Malcolm Turnbull is a curious fish because he is beyond the standard political taxonomy of “left” and “right”, “liberal” and “conservative”. He blends the two in ways that confound those on both sides of politics and, just as paradoxically, appeals to voters across the political spectrum …

The closer one gets to power the more compromises there are. “True liberals” are incorrigible idealists and politics is, at its core, pragmatic. Machiavelli might be more useful for Turnbull than Kant (Locke, Rousseau, or Wollstonecraft) because politics is the art of the possible, not the ideal.

This is not to say we don’t hold Turnbull to account; we want him to exercise his ideological commitment to ‘small l’ liberalism; we want him to act on climate change, domestic violence, refugees, education, communication, the republic – and not just with words, but with actions and funding. The irony is that to do so he has to bite his tongue and be the proverbial ‘team player’ in a team of “Liberal conservatives” – a wonderful oxymoron capturing his very dilemma!

An earlier article by Spencer Jackson applied some of Kant to refugee policy. Lenore Taylor notes that the ‘Team Australia’ rhetoric beloved of Turnbull’s predecessor is now less evident – perhaps there is an ideological component to that preference.

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