Former PM Tony Abbott Shares ‘Pragmatism Based on Values’ at CPAC Australia

August 9, 2019 Updated: August 10, 2019

At the first-ever Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Australia, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that what enabled the right-leaning Liberal Party of Australia to win the recent federal election is that they were “less ideological” than their left-leaning Australian Labor Party opponents. He added that those on the centre-right of politics are about “pragmatism based on values.”

In addressing the audience of several hundred at Rydges World Square in the heart of Sydney’s CBD on Aug. 9, Abbott encouraged attendees to have conviction in their beliefs, which he said was needed to deal with the challenges facing Australia today—including on cultural, economic, and national security fronts.

At the conference, Abbott told attendees that he believes those on the centre-right are better placed because “we are less ideological than our opponents.”

“We are more practical, and less theoretical than our opponents,” he said to loud applause from the audience.

He drew an example from Australia’s latest election in May.

“Look at the recent election campaign here in Australia. The Labor Party went into that election with a highly ideological agenda on tax, on climate, on unions, and on big government,” he said. “We won the election because we said, ‘We’re not that,’ and because we weren’t obsessed with climate. We were able to address more meaningfully the cost of living pressures that people faced.

“Because we are not ideologically geared toward big government, we are able to reduce taxes and reduce regulations in ways that make our economy stronger,” he added. “And because we’re not obsessed with gender and identity, we are actually able to bring Australians together in a way that our opponents simply can’t.”

Scott Morrison was elected Australia’s prime minister on May 18, securing another three-year term for the Liberal-National Coalition government. Morrison had said in his victory speech that it was a victory for all the “quiet Australians” and promised that the government would put Australians first.

Scott Morrison Claims Victory In 2019 Australian Federal Election
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, joined by wife Jenny and daughters Lilly and Abbey speaks at the Liberal Party reception at the Sofitel Wentworth Hotel in Sydney, Australia on May 18, 2019. (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

Abbott was Australia’s prime minister between 2013 and 2015.

“We have very strong instincts on the centre-right of politics,” he told the crowd on Aug. 9. “As Liberals, I like to say we support smaller government, greater freedom, lower taxes. As conservatives, I love to say we support the family, small business, and institutions that stood the test of time. But above all else we are patriots. We love our country,” he said, to cheers and applause.

While standing strong by the beliefs of the centre-right, Abbott noted, “I’m not here to tell you that everyone on the other side of parliament is a bad person. I would not say that because no one [and] no side of politics has a monopoly on wisdom and virtue.”

He added: “From what we know, experience and common sense is what works. What we’re on about is pragmatism, but it’s pragmatism based on values. It’s not managerialism, it’s not anything goes. It’s pragmatism based on values.”

He encouraged attendees to “have the self-confidence to be true.”

“If we are true to our instincts and beliefs, there’s no reason why we can’t be wonderfully successful,” he added.

According to the event’s website, CPAC Australia “is a conference for those that despaired at the prospect of a Shorten government controlled by militant unions and influenced by the Greens.”

CPAC Australia Andrew Cooper
Conference organizer Andrew Cooper of LibertyWorks addresses CPAC Australia on Aug. 9, 2019. (The Epoch Times)

“Australia dodged a socialist arrow this time,” but “the future doesn’t belong to the light-hearted. It belongs to the brave,” the website quoted former U.S. President Ronald Reagan saying.

Modelled on the popular American CPAC, the three-day event is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU) and local libertarian organisation LibertyWorks.

The American CPAC in February was headlined by President Donald Trump, drawing a record crowd of 19,252 attendees.

Donald Trump hugs flag at CPAC 2019
President Trump hugs the American flag as he arrives to speak at Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2019, in Oxon Hill, Md., on March 2, 2019. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Organisers say they see CPAC Australia as a rallying point for those who identify with conservative and libertarian values centred around small government and protecting individual freedoms to gather and share their vision for the nation’s future.

Epoch Times reporter Melanie Sun contributed to this report.

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy
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