Why Bob Menzies Would Vote Green

It seems clear to me that in the upcoming 2013 elections Sir Robert Menzies, were he alive and voting today, would put 1 Greens.

We already have one prominent ex Liberal Prime Minister saying he will put Greens first, Mr Malcolm Fraser. He is a well known “small l liberal” who, during his term of office can be credited with indexing pensions and very successfully resettling 70,000 Vietnamese refugees in Australia after we had been waging war in their country. 

Just what do the Greens offer that would have Sir Robert considering preferencing them over the party he founded? The first offering is very clear, that is the Greens’ attitude toward refugees and its difference from each of the two major parties on recognition of our obligations.  We must always remember that the then Bob Menzies was compassionate enough to ensure that Australia was the sixth signatory to the UN Convention on Referees. Although the manner in which we can and should cope with the world wide creation of so many more refugees is a very difficult one, the heartless and selfish way Australia wants to deter, at any cost, stateless people from settling here would have made Bob Menzies ashamed.  Although the white Australia policy did not end until “it was time” under Gough Whitlam, both Bob Menzies (and his successor Harold Holt) had begun the slow task of very quietly dismantling it.

In one memorable speech he said, “The great vice of democracy is that for a generation” (we can add more time here) “we have been busy getting ourselves on to the list of beneficiaries and removing ourselves from the list of contributors.”  At the heart of all Green policies is that we must stop despoiling and raping the environment for our own gains and pleasures and start conserving it as a contribution to future generations. He would have approved.

But of all the things that might have swayed the great man to vote Green, I see as the most significant the fact that the Greens have played out, during the tenure of the hung parliament, democracy just as he saw it, a conciliatory and co-operative means of working together.

In considering our modern vision of Democracy, a two horse race as it has so often been here and in the US (much less so in other democratic countries), it is wise for us to read a few of Menzies’ views on Democracy.

“Democracy focuses on the rights of individual people.”
“It is easy to criticise the philosophic basis of democracy – counting heads – and dilate upon the alleged inefficiency of democracy and contrast it with the alleged efficiency of dictatorship”
“The motive of power, once ingrained in a people leads to a feeling that conquest is the law of life.”
And he quoted a great legalist saying that democracy is “the progress of man from status to contract”.  

We have seen all this play out so well during the tenure of the hung parliament in the demonstration of a contracted and negotiated democracy with individuals having more voice. This is thanks to the way the Greens and the Independents comported themselves on the political stage during the past years. 

Bob Menzies, the father and founder of the Liberal Party would have been proud of the way the process gave the minority a voice.

Perhaps the Greens and Independents have received public criticism because the two larger parties have focused on how much easier it was in the past when we were told what to do by a majority party and did not get the opportunity to look at so many alternatives. The fact is that it was simpler because we did not have to think.

But Bob Menzies had advice for this too. “Don’t chase the mirage backwards”.

I am sure that Bob Menzies would be voting 1 Green.

I would not presume to guess his preferences but I imagine they would not be dictated to him and he would be voting according to his conscience.


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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