The Victorian Liberals have expelled an outspoken anti-abortion MP.

Followers of Victorian politics have probably heard of Bernie Finn. Finn, a sexagenarian Liberal stalwart who was until recently the party’s sole representative in the staunchly Labor (ALP) areas of western Melbourne, has long made waves. With his admiration for President Trump, rejection of Covid vaccine mandates, and opposition towards IVF and same-sex marriage, he is wildly out of step with Liberal MPs in this most “progressive” of Australian states.

Up to now he was tolerated because of the Liberals’ “broad church” policy, sympathy from the party’s “religious-right” faction, and support from his conservative constituents.

Yet Finn’s luck finally ran out. The leader of the Opposition, Matthew Guy, has expelled him from the Victorian Liberal Party just a few months shy of this year’s state election. Finn’s comments on abortion — that it should be banned, tout court, even for rape victims – were the last straw. He had the audacity to say that: “killing babies is criminal” and a “child should [not] be punished for the crimes of its parent. If you want to kill someone in this situation, kill the rapist.”

Insensitive? Probably. But his expulsion is a symbol of a profound shift in the Liberal Party and within Western society away from traditional conservatism and towards left-liberalism.

As Finn himself put it: “I joined the Liberal Party because it was the party of freedom. [But] the party of [Liberal founder] Menzies is no more – not in Victoria. It used to be the jewel in the Liberal crown … but it doesn’t exist anymore.”

Finn’s abortion comments were a pretext for Guy & Co to do what they had long wanted to do. They are now free to recast the Liberals as an organisation that is, well, even more liberal. They believe that this will break Labor’s near two-decade-long stranglehold on Victoria.

This has been increasingly evident over the last year, with the party adopting progressive positions on climate change and gay conversion and rejecting the “tough on gangs” rhetoric that they took to the last state election. The recent Federal election, in which Victorian Liberals were almost obliterated, weighs heavily on their minds.

Defeat has forced the Liberals into a rare moment of introspection to decide what they should stand for. Are they progressive or conservative? This schism was philosophically predictable — free-marketeers and social conservatism aren’t particularly suitable bed-fellows, as figures such as John Gray and Christopher Lasch have noted.

Finn’s expulsion over abortion is significant as a sign of a broader shift in philosophy towards progressive causes.

Whilst opposition to abortion is standard conservative fare, this issue has never had the totemic significance in Australia that it has had in the US. Whether one is “pro-life” or “pro-choice” is less important per se than as a proxy for signalling one’s political leanings. Indeed, like many things in our post-Mayflower settlement down here in the Antipodes, the Australian approach is less religiously-tinged and more pragmatic than the American one.

But Finn’s attitudes used to be fairly mainstream. Why are they now derided and proscribed? Why the split within the Liberal party? Why is left-liberalism – as evidenced by tolerance for homosexuality and denigration of heterosexuality; an infatuation with transgender issues, and an insistence on diversity over homogeneity – in the ascendant?

It is a world-wide phenomenon. It is best captured in Polish academic Ryszard Legutko’s excellent 2012 book “The Demon in Democracy”, a stiff rebuke to naïve Australian liberals who believed that “Australian exceptionalism” – as represented by our preferential voting system or our brand of multiculturalism – somehow exempted us from the (often harsh) laws of nature. 

The primary driver is a massive demographic shift in the West, particularly here in Australia. As one commentator recently noted, more than seven million people have been added to the population of Australia since the Sydney Olympics in 2000. This means that the population has increased by more than a third in a little over two decades. Much of this growth come from regions outside of Australia’s traditional Anglo-European sources.

As American author Helen Andrews has noted from the US experience, a diverse demos pushes a country leftward because new arrivals require assistance from the state, religious tolerance, and space within the community for their customs and mores. Such trends blunt traditional conservative appeals to patriotic nationalism; appeals to historic gods, great leaders and ancestors fall on deaf ears. This is exactly what we’re seeing in Australia with the decline in reverence for Christmas, Anzac Day and Australia Day, and a rise in attacks on traditional Western heroes.

Politically, as American academic Michael Anton notes in the US, the best predictor for left-of-centre voting preferences in an electorate is the percentage of foreign-born voters. This is something we witnessed in the recent Federal election. There was a huge shift away from the Liberals by Australia’s million-strong Chinese diaspora in a number of seats after Scott Morrison’s hawkish remarks on Chinese expansionism.

The most influential factor, though, is America. Although it may be in its twilight, the post-1945 US-led settlement — the “rules based international order” — dominates, particularly in Australia. We are a nation which is utterly dependent on American military might for its protection – think AUKUS, ANZUS, and The Quad – and which is overwhelmingly influenced by American investment, corporate interests and popular culture. The pax Americana is left-liberal and its satrapies are expected to worship at the same shrines.

No wonder that dissenters like Bernie Finn are being forced off-stage. Nothing personal, mind you; it’s just that they are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of demography, and the wrong side of Joe Biden’s America.

Ryan Anderson is an essayist based in Melbourne, Australia. His work has appeared in Quillette, Quadrant, the UK Mallard and assorted other publications in the UK and Australia. He can be contacted at...