Unlike New England, which was very much Barnaby Joyce’s victory, the Liberal win in Bennelong may be credited to the Turnbull government, including their candidate. But without a significant change in direction, the Coalition seems destined to continue to trail Labor nationally.
The fact that on such a swing to Labor as occurred here, six per cent, the Coalition would lose, say, 20 seats in a general election is an interesting statistic but does not tell us much. By-elections cannot be treated as an indication of how people will vote in a general election. That said, the outlook for the government remains grim.
There is no doubt that based on its published policies, especially on energy; a Shorten government would be a catastrophe for the country. In comparison, the Turnbull government is only a disaster for Australia. This is because, against his will but to secure office, Malcolm Turnbull has had to adopt some of the policies of the Abbott government, in particular, defending the borders and repealing and rejecting a CO2 tax or its equivalent.
What the Turnbull government needs to do is something against its nature, or at least against the nature of its leader. It needs to stop being a LINO government, Liberal In Name Only, and become a government guided by the principles long ago expounded by its founder, Sir Robert Menzies.
Before coming to that, it is appropriate to mention one of the aspects of the election raised in a television interview by a prominent Labor frontbencher, Tony Burke. In the early days of the campaign, he tried to alienate voters of Chinese origin from the coalition by claiming, with Senator Dastyari nodding approval, that a government proposal concerning a language requirement in the immigration rules would disadvantage the Chinese against native-born speakers of English. As would any language requirement, and not only against Chinese origin migrants. As Manuel in Fawlty Towers would say, ‘Que?
After the election, Burke claimed that his insertion in the debate had had the desired effect and that the swing to Labor among voters of Chinese origin was greater than the average swing. It is true that the swing was high in some polling stations, Carlingford, Eastwood, Gladesville North and Macquarie Park. But these are not the only places where there are a large number of voters of Chinese origin.
With such voters, it would be surprising if this election was not a case of ‘‘once bitten twice shies’’. It is believed that in 2007, when John Howard was defeated nationally and in this seat, many such voters believed that Kevin Rudd was both a fiscal conservative and a friend of China. Accordingly, they voted for him. Both beliefs proved to be false. In addition, the proportion of Chinese who are in business is probably higher than in the Caucasian population. It is reasonable to assume that they would identify more with a Liberal government that with Labor.
As to the measures needed for the Coalition government should adopt to have a real chance in the general election, they should first stop targeting their base, and then only do things which are consistent with their well-known long-held principles. In brief, they should stop being a LINO government by adopting the following.
First, under this government and its predecessors, energy prices have gone from being among the lowest to the highest in the world. The reason for this is most politicians’ obsessive attachment to global warming. Worse, this attachment is disgracefully hypocritical. Not one warmist politician practices what he or she preaches because every one of them enjoys a monumental carbon footprint. This must be reversed now.
Next, they should stop their massive raids on the defence budget purely for party political purposes. It’s no defence for them to say the Labour Party does the same. Even the Labor Party never dared to raid defence on the scale the Turnbull government has. An associated issue is the open slather to so-called foreign investment. This has involved the large-scale surrender of strategic defence and economic assets, including our precious prime agricultural land to entities, including cronies, under the control of and associated with foreign dictatorships, even including communist governments.
A true coalition government should reverse socialist style Canberra centralism and return the country to being the Federal Commonwealth the constitutions intends. This means getting out of the road of the states concerning powers which were clearly intended by the founders to be reserved to the states under the constitution, such as education.
Canberra’s meddling in education has meant massively increasing federal funding, the result of which has been a dramatic decline in standards which, even if corrected today, will put this country behind for decades.
Apart from reducing immigration to manageable levels, that is levels consistent with Sydney’s and Melbourne’s infrastructure and resources, above all a true Coalition government would be a small government. It would leave things the private sector can do better to that private sector.
The disaster in costs and reliability that is the NBN is a classic example of socialist over-reach. When Malcolm Turnbull became Minister for Communications he should have insisted the government vacate the field and not try to improve it.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Malcolm Turnbull will abandon the LINO principles, which guide his government. The only answer will be a change in leadership. The obvious choice is Tony Abbott. As Neil Brown noted in Spectator Australia, Labor and the Greens and their allies in the gallery realise this. That is why they never stop attacking Abbott. The reason is they live in absolute fear that he will be restored. They know he will be formidable and desperately want to ensure the Liberal Party never restores him.
While they retain their antiquated power to decide the leadership alone, unlike most Western political parties, the Liberal politicians should do this.
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