A philosopher PM

The interview with Tony Abbott on Andrew Bolt brought out just what I admire about Tony Abbott so much. He has many qualities but his intuitive understanding of the political philosophy of the liberal-conservative side of politics is what makes this potentially one of the great governments in our history. This is from the interview.

TONY ABBOTT: Andrew, I would like Australians to feel that each of them – each of us – is coming closer to being our best selves. We all know when we are being our best selves, or when we are coming closer to being our best selves, and I’d like each of us, in his or her own way, to feel that at the end of a term of Coalition government. Because my vision is not so much to impose my views on people, but to give each and every one of us more chance to be our best selves, as we see it.

ANDREW BOLT: You seem to be suggesting you would like Australia to be, in some ways, a freer place, where people can go about acting on their own ambitions. In what way do you want Australia to be freer?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, that’s the classic Liberal position, isn’t it? Lower taxes, smaller government, greater freedom – that’s the classic Liberal position. And then of course there’s the classic conservative position – respect for the family, respect for institutions and values that have stood the test of time, and the Coalition that I have the honour to lead is the Australian custodian of both the liberal and the conservative traditions. And I guess in our culture – our English-speaking tradition – what you’ve seen is a happy marriage between liberalism and conservatism. I think it was Tennyson who summed it up, Andrew, when he talked of ‘a land of just and old renown, a land of settled government, where freedom broadened slowly down from precedent to precedent.’ I think that nicely captures the paradox of freedom and order.

Liberal and conservative. Freedom and order. And able to quote Tennyson from memory! The tensions of government are never ending but the need to find one’s way in the midst of the flood of events every political leader is certain to find before them requires a sound philosophical hold and a clear inner vision. This Tony Abbott most certainly seems to have.

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