Original article by Dr David Kemp in the Australian Financial Review:
It is hard to imagine an Australian prime minister delivering a better speech for today than the one Malcolm Turnbull delivered in London on receiving the Disraeli prize. It was a speech of which all Australian Liberals could be proud.
Reading the press about it, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was unwisely divisive, setting conservatives and progressives in the party against each other. While a few discordant voices were indeed raised, the speech has justifiably received broad praise across the "broad church" of the party.
The fundamental liberal values of Menzies about the importance of individual people, rather than mass identity groups, were stated clearly, and applied to trade, immigration and the prevention of terrorist attacks.
Turnbull was absolutely correct to say that from its formation the Liberal Party has stood for "freedom": the right of individual people to set their own course in life, to work to achieve their goals under law, to engage in enterprise, and not to surrender this freedom to politicians, governments, or to the interfering and disrespectful authoritarians who are always with us.
Menzies' proudest achievement was to establish a party with a political philosophy that would direct it towards the shared interests of individual people in being empowered, and not policies conferring privileges for special interests or imposing someone else's opinion about how we should all live our lives.
I don't think Menzies "believed" in some of the policy settings he inherited in 1949 (such as protection and the highly regulated labour market) in the way that Turnbull states, for it would take time for Australian governments to roll back the politically manipulated economy that had come into being, but Turnbull's point that it is important to understand the need to apply values in the context of the time was well stated.
Tony Abbott was quoted approvingly about the need to govern from the "sensible centre", and that "centre" is essentially what is practicable at any given time.
Menzies may not have been an "economic liberal" in the language of today, but no leader did more to pave the way for the advance of economic liberalism in policy than Menzies. He emphasised the role of private enterprise, did much better than succeeding governments in restraining new regulation, derided the fashions of central planning of economic life, and saw off the fantasies of the "transition to socialism" and class war that the Labor Party, and Chifley, were attempting to sell to an increasingly unreceptive public.
It takes more than one speech to unify a party that is suffering internal self-doubt and deliberate distractions, and speeches alone cannot do the job that Turnbull needs to do, but getting the broad framework of governing ideas in place is important, and Turnbull's speech does the job.
On some matters Turnbull is outstandingly strong. His remarks on the vital importance of freedom of trade, the importance of sovereignty underpinned by strong borders, on the moral and intellectual vacuum of Daesh, glorying in death rather than life, on Islam and terrorism are some of his best statements yet.
Domestically he should turn his withering rhetoric outside Parliament onto Bill Shorten's Labor Party, whose policies will halt development (as in South Australia), vandalise job opportunities, and undermine the finances of so many families with even more excessive energy costs and levels of taxation and debt.
Turnbull's speech is a rejection of unbridled pragmatism, and while being "sensible", he needs to convince his own party that its policies, budgetary and otherwise, express the Liberal principles he has stated so well.
Turnbull, for example, would have gained great credit had he given those in his party who care deeply about freedom of speech confidence that the misgoverned agency administering S.18C would give priority to freedom of speech and the rule of law rather than identity politics.
The challenge for the Liberal leader is to sell his ideas first to his party and then to the voter. The art of politics, Menzies said, "is to convey ideas to others, if possible, to persuade a majority to agree, to create or encourage a public opinion so soundly based that it endures, and is not blown aside by chance winds; to persuade people to take long-range views".
That defines Turnbull's task today.
David Kemp has written on Menzies' political philosophy. He is a former Howard government minister.