Dr. Kerryn Phelps and members of her purple army. Photo: Supplied

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BY MARGO KINGSTON

 

I celebrated Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to Australia’s leadership by publishing a photo on Twitter of my mother and I toasting him with champagne.

“Small l liberalism” – socially progressive, economically dry, environmentally green – was on the rise again in the Liberal Party.

Turnbull held the line as best he could until the right flexed its muscle, moving the party inexorably towards a friendly merger with One Nation, a racially charged government destabilizing our centrist politics.

It’s clear that the new Prime Minister is controlled by this hard right. Climate change policy – dead.

Energy policy focused on renewables – dead.

‘Religious freedom’ laws demanded by the hard right as compensation for losing the same-sex marriage survey – pledged but not to be revealed until after the by-election.

Unfree speech proposals to disallow campus protests unless protesters pay for security – floated.

The ABC – at risk.

A non-discriminatory immigration policy – shaky.

Voters in the seat of Wentworth have a historic opportunity to warn the Liberal Party that the moderate wing of its base will not tolerate the demise of the core principles of small l liberalism.

I knew that only an independent in this tradition has a chance to beat the Liberal Party candidate in Wentworth, so I was thrilled when Dr. Phelps decided to stand.

This historic by-election, when all is said and done, is a choice between the official Liberal candidate and an independent promising to champion Wentworth’s small l liberal values in our Parliament.

Her victory would set the dominant hard right back on its heels with a crystal clear warning that it must turn back towards the sensible centre. 

Dr. Phelps has pledged not to block supply or vote no confidence in the government except in exceptional circumstances.

She would not bring down the government, but she would unequivocally represent socially progressive and economically responsible values and vote accordingly on legislation.

She would also be a strong voice urging the Government to end the suffering of refugees on Manus and Nauru by bringing them here or to New Zealand.

In that sense, electing Dr. Phelps would not be a protest, but a line-in-the-sand forcing Morrison to listen to the moderates in his own party and reduce the dominant power of the far-right faction.

Even more importantly, Wentworth voters would be presenting our nation a generous gift at a tumultuous time for liberal democracies. 

I’ve watched United States politics with horror for nearly 3 years now, sanguine that our system would not fall apart like theirs due to the inherent centrism of our democracy grounded in compulsory voting.

But watching the fall of Turnbull for no decent reason, I realized we’re at risk too.

Wentworth voters have the chance to lessen that risk.

There’s been a lot of drama about Dr. Phelps’ rookie errors on referencing, but I hope and pray that enough Wentworth voters, whatever their political stripe, will decide for the sake of our nation’s future to Vote 1 Kerryn Phelps to ensure she finishes second to the official Liberal Party candidate and wins on preferences.

We’re at a tipping point, voters of Wentworth.

Over to you.