Alex Antic and the ‘ideological battle for the soul of the Liberal Party’

Alex Antic

Source: X

Alex Antic’s ascendancy is more than just a headache that the Liberal Party doesn’t want or need.

While his rolling of Anne Ruston, the Liberal Party’s most senior woman, for the No.1 spot on the South Australian Senate ticket hasn’t relieved the perception of the party’s ‘women problem’, it is also an example of the “takeover of the Liberal Party by Christian right forces”.

Mark Kenny, professor at the ANU’s Australian Studies Institute, said there is an “ideological battle going on for the soul of the Liberal Party”.

“The Liberal Party is changing in its overall shape before our very eyes, but they risk taking the party away from the mainstream electorate,” he said.

“The rise of a defiant Christian right politics and populism, led by Trump, is now quite a deliberate project.”

Antic is controversial both within his party and outside it, having broken with the Morrison government to oppose vaccine mandates and regularly engaging in a culture war against ‘wokeness’.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has stepped into preselection contests recently to protect sitting members and encourage more women into Parliament, but Antic’s growing power in his branch made this an unlikely proposition.

Jane Hume, shadow finance minister, mused the decision was disappointing for a party struggling with women’s representation and moderate voters.

“Anne Ruston is a senior member of the shadow cabinet, she’s an exceptionally good shadow minister,” Hume said on Sky News.

“Frankly I think that this was a mistake, but it’s a mistake of the South Australian Liberal division.”

Source: United Australia Party 

Recruitment drive

Both the Victorian and South Australian branches of the Liberal Party have seen recruitment drives from Pentecostal churches, with new members supporting candidates with more extreme views than the federal Liberal Party platform.

Kenny said it will take strong messaging from the federal leadership that “a different outcome is expected”.

“This isn’t just local electors saying we like this candidate more than that candidate,” he said.

“This is a takeover of the Liberal Party by Christian right forces and we’ve seen it happening in suburban branches around the country.”

After Antic told members at his preselection that there is a “pandemic of wokeness” and gave a speech focused on the evils of ‘‘radical gender ideology’’, moderate Liberal members sounded the electoral alarm.

“His views are simply out of step with our centrist state,” a Liberal Party member said.

“Political parties exist to win elections and govern. There’s no way these views are electorally palatable.”

A source within the Victorian Liberal Party, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The New Daily there is a growing awareness that the preselection of controversial figures is damaging the electoral chances of other candidates.

“(Opposition Leader John) Pesutto has realised this,” they said.

“He is now suffering the consequences for trying to address it.”

Who is Alex Antic?

Antic, before his political career, studied an arts and law degree, worked as a lawyer and was on Adelaide City Council for four years.

He laid out his vision of Australia in his 2019 maiden speech, which he said is underpinned by “family, faith, freedom and the flag”.

“An Australia unaffected by the tyranny of political correctness,” he said.

“An Australia in which sporting codes did not prioritise social justice causes over the core business of playing the sports.”

Taking the time to rail against the “unproven, uncosted world of renewables in my home state,” despite South Australia now generating 70 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, signalled the rhetoric and politics he would bring to Canberra and social media.

He is prolific in his posts about his opposition to transgender care, Covid-19 vaccination and in defence of Western culture, while espousing disproven conspiracy theories and appearing alongside far-right figures such as Steve Bannon.

Antic has appeared on American far-right provocateur Steve Bannon’s podcast. Photo: The War Room

For a self-styled free-speech warrior, he has curiously turned off the ability for people to respond to his posts on X.

Kenny said that because both the No.1 and No.2 spots on the SA Senate ticket are winnable, it raises the question of why Antic challenged Ruston for prime position on the ticket.

“He could cede that spot to her and still be elected to Parliament, and the fact he didn’t speaks volumes about the intent,” he said.

“The way they talk about the moderates in the party — they call them the left and disparage them as a weak version of the Labor Party — I don’t think regular voters look at that and think it is a credible line of argument.”

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