Leading article Australia

Julie? No thanks

4 November 2017

9:00 AM

4 November 2017

9:00 AM

There is now a real prospect that Julie Bishop will become our next Prime Minister. Alas, such an outcome would arguably be even worse than the Turnbull farce – for both the Liberal party and the country.

Despite this magazine’s enthusiasm for her in opposition, it has become apparent that Ms Bishop is a political lightweight, with poor, even non-existent, political judgement.

She’s the red carpet-prancing, polo-attending foreign minister who has no connection to the regions or the outer suburbs. She frequently appears vacuous and lacking any real conviction. She’s a fence-sitter on the big issues: SSM, energy, debt and deficit. Her performance on superannuation at the last election was as damning as it was excruciating. Her (and her current boss’s) enthusiasm for the Iran nuclear deal was and still is troubling. Their joint betrayal of the national interest in ratifying the Paris Agreement at the very moment our major ally was walking away from it remains at the very core of why this government is now in so much trouble.

Were Ms Bishop, rather than a conservative leader, to replace Mr Turnbull, what is left of the older Liberal membership and base would abandon the party forever. The winners of such a change would only be Cory Bernardi and Pauline Hanson. Ms Bishop is widely seen as the woman behind the Abbott coup (surely one of the worst political misjudgements in recent history), who has relentlessly backed Mr Turnbull to the hilt. Indeed, without her and Scott Morrison’s involvement, it is unlikely the coup would ever have taken place. The party would be unwise to again reward such an act of bastardry. (The less said, in the light of recent revelations, about Christopher Pyne the better).

The only way back to electoral recovery and to beat Bill Shorten is for a re-directed Liberal party to get traction once more in the outer suburbs and regions where the swings against them are enormous. (In the trendy suburbs the swings are minuscule in comparison.) Voters in the ‘burbs will not fall for Julie Bishop. The aggregate polls which show her to be popular are as misleading and as self-serving as those which initially said Mr Turnbull was popular – they draw on inner city lefties who are Labor and Greens voters – and are of little assistance in determining whether someone can actually win a federal election.

This magazine believes the Liberal party urgently needs to pursue a new direction, which by definition requires new leadership. The latest Newspoll, showing a majority of Australians would ditch the Paris Agreement for lower energy prices, shows the clear path forward. The new leader needs to be someone who can relate to the hip-pocket interests of voters, for whom each new electricity bill is a kick in the guts. That will never be Julie Bishop. She’s not in their corner. The punters already know that, and even if they don’t, they will sense it within minutes of Ms Bishop stepping out in her Louboutins onto the Governor-General’s porch.

Above all, for the Liberal party’s survival, any new leader must be someone not connected with the coup. That wrong must be righted. He or she must be a conservative so that the bleeding of conservatives from the party will not continue. Ms Bishop may ‘save some furniture’ but it will be the inner city (Craig Laundy/Julia Banks) furniture; the last thing the Liberal party needs.

A Bishop prime ministership will consign the party after the next election to a rump of inner city (Wentworth, Kooyong, North Sydney, Curtin etc.) seats. Regional and outer suburban seats will be lost, as will many good regional/suburban MPs. Then, what is left of the party in opposition will be the Bishops, Zimmermans, Falinskis, Pynes etc. ‘Howard’s Battlers’ and ‘Tony’s Tradies’ will be lost for a generation. The Left will then own the party room. The Liberal Party will not survive this. It will fracture and split.

Tony Abbott is the leader Labor fears the most. That should be the clue for all who wish to reverse their party’s sliding fortunes.

Cartoonish history

This magazine has always believed in the right of cartoonists to be as offensive, crass and inflammatory as they like. On the proviso that they are telling the truth. A cartoon in the Canberra Times using Beersheba’s fallen diggers to flog a grab bag of pro-Arab propaganda and Palestinian ‘grievances’ is a false, anti-Jewish re-writing of history. The Jews are the indigenous people of Palestine. The Turks were the occupiers. We can be proud of our fallen.

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