Myth making for a progressive conservative

Posted: March 19, 2017 by admin in Uncategorized


A lot of political messaging is about building strong and believable myths that people are prepared to stand behind and promote.

I think this is particularly so for people who want to conserve what they see as valuable in their community, and in their understanding of what makes their country worth defending.

So  what are the myths that a progressive conservative would want to cultivate and use?

And just to make it clear, I am very aware that some Australian myths have led us down paths I hope no one  wants to follow. We don’t need to resurrect the White Australia Myth, or that we have “Terra Nullius “, or that we are here to dominate rather than to tend the land that nurtures us. They are myths that have no place in our present or future Australia.

I am also aware that myths are not “true”; they are stories we make up to explain ourselves. They are full of stereotypes, half truths and exaggerations, and most would shrivel at the first attempt at logical examination.  These do not make them any less powerful, or any less useful. It means we have to first decide which myths we want to use, be aware of their contradictions, and then make them tell the story we want to project about the Australia we are hoping to build.

I think there are three different categories that we can use: national myths; cultural myths; and union myths. These, of course, all overlap. I have deliberately  put in Union myths, because I think that there are many people who would normally be strong Labor supporters who feel that their heritage of being a worker, and having their safety, rights, and the value of their work being respected by the Union, has been betrayed by the Labor Party. If we can recognise and value their myths, we may find that instead of going to the PHON or to the other radical parties such as the Australian Conservatives, they look to more progressive parties that represent their myths.

National Myths

I’m using this term to mean how we describe our “Australianness” to people, and how people from other parts of the world perceive and describe us.  I’ve listed three here, and there are many more.  What other myths fit in this category?

  • We are larrikins, a bit easy with the truth, but well meaning with it, so we can spin a good yarn, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.


  • We are proud of Australia, but that does not extend to patriotic fervour that you see with the Americans.

Most Australians would be a bit put off by a neighbour hoisting an Australian flag in their front yard, and most of us would not be comfortable with school children making oaths of loyalty.  Howard and Abbott tried to turn this myth around, as have the radical groups like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party (PHON), the radical nationalists, and the Australian Conservatives. We have the opportunity to work this myth to our advantage against these groups, as well as the Liberal Party.


We need to cultivate the conservative myth that being proud of Australia is done not by waving flags, or making a massive hullaballoo about Australia Day, but by quietly demonstrating the positive qualities that make us proud to be Australian.

  • We value freedoms that we have fought for both physically and politically.
    • We are sceptical and critical of those who want to “lead” us.

We expect politicians and other public figures to listen respectfully to us, and not try to silence us.

  • We value respectful debate.

We are not a people who will tolerate bullies who use racist or other taunts to try to win an argument, and those people will find that they are not respected.  I am hoping that our response to the Racial Discrimination Act 18C controversy is that these clauses (you also have to read 18D which is where the defences against 18C are listed), is merely a declaration of what respectful debate in Australia looks like. People who want to repeal these sections are radicals who want to overturn our Australian traditions of respectful debate.

  • We value the right to demonstrate and to make our views known on the street.

Traditionally Australians have used the street to make their views known and attempts to criminalise street demonstrations have been unsuccessful.

  • We recognise that unjust laws need to be changed, which means they will be broken

Australians have been fighting unjust laws since before Federation, and many have found themselves shouted down as criminals as a result. This ranges from people fighting for Unions in our early history, to Aboriginal people breaking the unjust “guardianship” laws that oppressed them, to people who are gay fighting for their rights in our time. We support people who follow in this tradition and stand up against unjust laws.


Cultural Myths


These are myths that we use to describe ourselves, and what it means to be Australian.  These are the traditional ones like “helping your mate when he’s down”; “support the underdog not the tall poppy…”hmm bit of a mixed analogy there; “cooperation is better than competition”;  “the fair go”, to name just a few.


All of these myths have holes running right through them, and there are myriad examples of where the myth bears no relation to the reality in our culture. Despite this, they are powerful ways that we explain and understand ourselves.  We can use these myths to get the support for our policies from our communities. We can also make these myths work for us in disputing the legitimacy of policies proposed by other parties.


For instance, the proposed changes to the Social Welfare system, and the sustained victimisation and bullying of those using the system by Centrelink  go strongly against both the myths of the fair go, and helping a mate when he’s down myths, which can explain why the Government is not finding its changes being accepted.  In a different society with different myths, such as “you can achieve anything if you work hard enough” they may have found it easier,  and this is why the Liberals and their supporters work so hard to change our store of myths.


The traditional myths that the liberals and their radical allies, such as PHON and the Australian Conservatives are trying to demolish and replace have led to incredible innovations which Australians should be proud of.  We built one of the fairest social welfare systems in the world, at times well in advance of the rest of the world in what we provided. For instance we were one of the first countries to provide a liveable Old age pension, and an invalid pension. The Liberals and their radical allies attempts to destroy this system, is an attempt to negate the myths which are so important to many Australians, and they are trying to impose myths which are foreign to many Australians…our job as Conservative Progressives is to defend the myths which have led to the building of a world leading social security system, and to attack those who want to impose myths which lead to a society where the poor and those in need are left to rot on the streets.


Union Myths


There is a strong tradition of Union Activity and achievements in Australia, going back to convict days, when, on this day March 18 1834, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to banishment to Australia because they had the courage to form a union to get fair wages for their labour.  We have built a strong Australia with at least basic  rights for workers because Unions have been a strong presence in our industrial and political history.  This is not to say that the Unions have also not had a negative influence in Australia. The White Australia Policy was strongly supported by many elements of the Union movement, and the destruction of the ALP in the 1950’s by conservative elements that infiltrated the Unions led to years of conservative rule.  The influence of the Movement is still apparent in Unions such as the SDA which is more interested in maintaining its influence on the ALP  to prevent needed reforms such as Same Sex Marriage  than in representing its member’s interests.


However the radicals in the Liberal Party,  have worked for many years to reduce the influence of the Unions in Australia, and have almost succeeded, with less than twenty percent of workers beonging to a Union.  These radicals have replaced the myths of collective action, looking after your mates, with myths of individualism, of competition that in the end corrode the advances that workers have achieved through their Unions since the early 19th Century.  As progressive conservatives it is time to support the Unions and the myths that support them.  The Unions have been instrumental in building many of the structures that we want to support in the New Democratic Party…workers being paid a fair days pay for a fair days work, workers knowing that they will have a decent job, with decent pay if they want it, support for workers to get the education they need to build their skills so they can advance in their trade. Like the Unions, we support collective support for those who are unable to work, and we support people who choose to work in non-traditional ways, including parenting their children or following creative endeavours.


Many who previously would have been Union members and who would most likely have been supporters of the Labor Party, have been alienated from both by a combination of challenges. Following my theme of myths,  one of these challenges has been the replacement of myths of mutual help, with myths of competition and individualism. We need to challenge this change, and show how individualism and competition hurt workers.  Workers are starting to see that they have been short changed by this shift, and we can take advantage of this to show how the more traditional myths can be translated into our present day.


One of the challenges for us is that we now have a workforce that is atomised, powerless, and scared. We need to work with the unions to change this, so that workers know they are strong and powerful, and have the right to demand a fair days pay for a fair days work, and to know that they can expect to come home from work uninjured and capable of having a family life.


To conclude, myths are powerful ways of selling our message, and they are particularly powerful when we are trying to defend what our ancestors have built with their sweat, and at times blood, in the past. We need to identify the myths we want to use, and start to construct the stories around them that will resonate with our fellow Australians.

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