Pragmatic Conservatism

I’ve been in politics for twenty-one years, in the lower house and upper house, in government and opposition, twice apiece. I’ve served on every conceivable committee and chaired or participated in inquiries on most key topics of interest to Victorians. This also means I have a very low tolerance for nonsense.

I came to Australia as a ten-year-old with my family; my parents and my older brother… four suitcases, no money and we didn’t know a soul. As a child, my mother was in a concentration camp in Jasenovac, where over 20,000 children died. Today she lives in Bentleigh and visits me three times a week so we can argue! Family is the basic unit of society and I think we need to have policies that nurture and support family members, whether it’s the young, working mothers and fathers or the elderly. I take a multi-generational perspective on families, very much in the European model. Whilst my mother doesn’t live with us, I’d love it if she did.

I shape most legislation by asking ‘Does this diminish choice and opportunity?’.

As a young child I grew up in Bosnia-Herzegovina and our multicultural city was dominated by iron ore mining and steel manufacturing. You’d put your washing on the line and by noon it was black! Living under communism at that time, the Church was a symbol of freedom. Religious belief was considered to be rebellion. I’m a firm believer, to this day, in religious freedom. The religions are the major purveyors of tradition and culture and within the framework of our laws, people should be able to practice religion with due respect exercised to others who have different religious beliefs. You don’t have democracy and you don’t have multiculturalism without religious freedom.

Governments should exist to protect freedoms; freedom to choose, freedom to believe, to associate or not to associate, freedom of movement and freedom of speech. When I look at government policy I seek to protect against the diminution of choice which is often masked by new policies and by the government deciding that this or that is better for you, chipping away at essential freedoms. I shape most legislation by asking ‘Does this diminish choice and opportunity?’.

If you’ve been elected to public office, if you’re hired as a public servant, you’ve got a job to do and that job is to serve the people of Victoria. That is to deliver the services efficiently and effectively that the private sector can’t. We should seek to allow the private sector to thrive and to encourage people to participate in the private sector which is the only generator of real wealth. Entrepreneurs and small business people are the risk takers. They’re the ones who work umpteen hours a week. My mother came here with nothing and was able to start and run a successful restaurant, aptly named The Last Penny. I didn’t experience a Friday night or Saturday at home until she sold the restaurant. I’d work full time during the week and then part time at the restaurant on weekends.
The Liberal party seeks to help migrants into productive work so that they can independently care for themselves and their families. There is nothing more rewarding, as Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs than sharing in highlights and celebrations and handing out awards for achievement within these communities. I recently handed an award for earning a Master’s Degree to a young woman who had come to Australia 13 years before as a South Sudanese refugee without any education whatsoever.

Politicians are interested in the betterment of life, especially we pragmatic conservatives!

What Victorians, including our multicultural communities, need are sensible policies that respond to real needs rather than symbolism and spin. For example, on the multi-layered and complex issue of family violence, the action of lighting up buildings in the colour orange for 16 days was just ridiculous. This is a stunt rather than a comprehensive response to the issue which needs clear thinking and strong strategy to deliver tangible outcomes to families and individuals.

Similarly the legalisation relating to illicit drugs and illicit drug use through so-called ‘safe injecting rooms’, which is currently under inquiry, needs to focus on practical investment into support services and rehabilitation as opposed to encouraging illicit drug use through drug injecting rooms. Victoria has around one quarter of the number of rehabilitation beds that NSW has. We can and need to rectify this. Parents of kids affected by ice lack support and appropriate care. Families are being ripped apart by the ice epidemic when, under the influence of ice, every dark thought becomes a reality. Most people who are homeless are suffering through either drug addiction or mental illness. De-institutionalisation had to happen but we’ve gone too far and these people are falling through the cracks. We need to help them, but not by making harmful drugs legal or easier to use and access.

The mindset of the usual pundits and commentators on these issues is so fixed that it’s no wonder that the community is starting to say ‘Bugger you I’m not listening anymore, I’m going to form my own views, create my own reality and go against the establishment’. However, I encourage people to avoid the trap of thinking that every politician is a moron. We can’t implement every policy idea that comes our way. Politicians are not magicians but almost all are interested in the genuine betterment of life for Victorians and our State, especially we pragmatic conservatives!