Leading article Australia

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24 March 2018

9:00 AM

24 March 2018

9:00 AM

On too many fronts, the Turnbull government’s embarrassing timidity is constantly on display. It is a timorousness fuelled as much by lack of conviction on core centre-right or conservative principles as by a cringe-worthy left-leaning political correctness. Worse, just over a year into the administration of Donald Trump, the contrast between what our most important ally (and arguably cultural soul buddy) has been able to achieve with simple, forthright determination and conservative grit makes our own cowardly hesitancy on so many political fronts that much more infuriating.

Climate change and our energy crisis are the centre-pieces in the Coalition’s window display of pusillanimity. Whilst Steven Marshall’s victory in the South Australian state election is of course to be welcomed and applauded, it is hard to escape the feeling that a much greater and more comprehensive victory was allowed to slip away. It was the defeated Labor premier, the hapless hand-wringing luvvy Jay Weatherill, who himself last year claimed – indeed he boasted – that this election would be ‘a referendum on renewables’. And partly it was, with the Liberals promising no more wind farms will be built in that blighted state. But that bold and sensible move was undermined by Mr Marshall’s madcap promise to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars subsiding the installation of batteries into South Australia’s many solar-powered households – a Pink Batts-style scheme that would surely give even Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett pause for thought. Marshall’s batteries should come with a large warning and graphic on the pack: ‘Caution. May politically implode’.

And what of the accompanying notion of splashing out for an interconnector into New South Wales? The symbolism couldn’t be worse – a ludicrously expensive umbilical cord designed to keep the electrical lifeblood flowing to this mendicant state courtesy of another state’s electricity consumers. Never has the abuse of our federal system been so stark. Ideally, the states should be in free market competition with each other, not suckling each other to cover up for the worst-performing states’ flawed policies.


The rate of immigration is a second issue where Australians are being let down by the timidity of Mr Turnbull and his team, in obvious contrast to the boldness of Mr Trump. This issue, when raised by former prime minister Tony Abbott, should have been a no-brainer for the party that won a landslide by promising to stop the boats. A sensible debate on the ideal immigration intake would have re-ignited the Liberal brand and attracted wayward conservatives back to certain core brand values, such as ‘choosing who comes here’. As President Trump has demonstrated, common sense voters are perfectly capable of distinguishing between curbs on immigration, or even debate about the quantity or quality of desirable immigrants, without quaking under the fear of being labelled ‘racist’.

A related issue has come to the fore, with the plight of white South African farmers now being murdered, raped and tortured in horrific numbers encouraged by black political activists. Again, it is a no-brainer for a centre-right party to immediately come to the aid of these highly-skilled yet persecuted individuals. Yet no sooner had one Turnbull minister, Peter Dutton, championed the idea than another, Julie Bishop, shot it down. Much as she also shot down Mr Trump’s worthy and important idea of relocating the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

It is increasingly clear that the Foreign Minister represents the very worst instincts of Mr Turnbull’s ‘bed-wetting’ Liberals. In this week’s issue, the president of the conservative-leaning Australian Jewish Association, Dr David Adler, questions whether Australian foreign aid going to the Palestinians and UNRWA is complicit in inciting and rewarding terrorism against Jews. Again, at a time when the Trump administration is calling out Palestinian malfeasance, and substantially reducing funding to those bodies it believes promote terror, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does the opposite and ignores growing evidence of the misuse of aid.

Industrial relations, progressive culture and superannuation are other areas where the government’s timidity is all too frequently on display. Where are the Howard/Reith-style attacks on the growing power of unions within this country? Where is the rock solid defence of traditional values in light of the bizarre and frankly perverse gender ‘fluidity’ ideologies permeating our schools, universities and – hilariously – debating societies?

Where is the Costello-like forensic dismantling of Bill Shorten’s and Chris Bowen’s superannuation daylight robbery plans? Or could it be, that having themselves raided the legitimate savings of those keen not to be a burden on the public purse, the Turnbull Liberals are afraid they have little credibility on the issue?

This magazine believes the Liberals can and must win the next election.  It’s just a shame that their own worst enemy is themselves.

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