Conservatives Should Applaud Australia's Abbott

As the final results from Australia’s recent national election trickle in, leaders of both major parties will sit down and, in a few days, decide who runs the next government in Canberra.

At this point, the race is a genuine standoff: The opposition Liberal Party has 73 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives, the ruling Labor Party has 72, and there is one Green Party member (who is expected to back Labor), and four independents (three of whom are considered to the right of center).

While a lot can happen, the simple mathematics of the election outcome is that Prime Minister Julia Guillard will be headed to the opposition benches and Liberal leader Tony Abbott will be the new prime minister.

If so, then conservatives in many countries have reason to cheer and keep their eye on a “Prime Minister Abbott.” At a time when right-of-center politicians in the U.S. and European countries increasingly seem to soften their conservative rhetoric and in some cases moderate their issue stands, the 52-year-old Abbott offers unabashed, true-blue conservatism on issuesranging from global warming to spending.

Simply put, Tony Abbott is the “real deal” for the right.

When foreign right-of-center leaders such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are strong believers in global warming and proponents of a carbon tax, Australia’s Abbott takes the same view as U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R.-Okla.): The issue is bogus. Indeed, Abbott’s no-nonsense criticism of global warming and the science behind it is considered pivotal to his election as Liberal leader last year over the incumbent who said it was time to deal with the issue of climate change.

Of former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (who was ousted by his party in favor of Guillard earlier this year) and his support for a carbon tax, Abbott said that Rudd “wants to create at $15 billion-a-year market in carbon dioxide but that market depends on the non-delivery of an invisible product to no one.”

Abbott denounced the Labor government’s stimulus package which created a $30 billion-plus deficit in a single year as “the biggest spend-a-thon in Australia’s history.” He also took a hard-line on illegal immigration, and vowed to “stop the boats” (illegal immigrants seeking asylum in Australia).

A one-time seminarian who once planned to become a priest, Abbott makes no secret of his strong Roman Catholic faith and belief in prayer.

It goes without saying that left-of-center opponents and the press dismissed Abbott’s conservatism and belittled him as “the mad monk” (an obvious reference to his days in the seminary).

But the upbeat and enthusiastic Liberal Party (actually the conservative party in Australian politics) leader came off more as a positive politician in the mold of the late Jack Kemp. He boiled his message down to a manifesto for his country paying off debts, avoiding any new taxes, drawing the line on illegal immigration, and offering fresh opportunity for young families.

And it worked. Where Labor dropped 5.4% in the popular vote from the last general election, the Liberal Party and its coalition partner gained 1.4% of the vote. Now Tony Abbott is perhaps one week and three seats from becoming his country’s prime minister.

Perhaps he won’t achieve power this time. But Abbott’s coming as far as he did without compromising on a single conservative stand is worth watching—and for conservatives in the U.S. and other countries, obviously worth emulating.