Peter Dutton lamented the loss of principled conservatism in the LNP and subsequently decided that the best course of action was to lead a coup against Malcolm Turnbull, bolstered by the perennially dissatisfied right-wing contingent of the coalition. The majority of the Liberal party room shared this view, apparently, which gave rise to the wholly unedifying debacle of yet another leadership spill. Andrews, Dutton, Abetz and Abbott et al must be weeping into their Fosters, wondering how successfully agitating for the removal of a sitting Prime Minister could ever have ended so badly for them. In a way they should be celebrating – they’ve laid the foundation for a return to the right that Australia hasn’t witnessed for decades.
Now we have Scott Morrison as a Prime Minister, sporting a revamped ministry that seems to give only a cursory nod of recognition to the factional conflict that supposedly necessitated the spill. Will this appease the stringently conservative members of the Coalition? Well, we now have a Minister for Energy (or in the words of our newly incumbent PM ‘the minister for getting electricity prices down’) and a Minister for Population – and Peter Dutton agreed to stay on leading Home Affairs. Problem solved! Obviously, some collateral damage was bound to emerge, but as we prepare for the potentially permanent loss of Julie Bishop one must ask – what did the Coalition need extraordinarily popular and experienced female ministers for anyway?
Throw in Barnaby Joyce as Special Envoy for Drought Assistance and Recovery and you’ve ticked all the boxes that Turnbull couldn’t (or perhaps, wouldn’t). Not a single mention of emissions reductions – and those of us paying attention have already observed Australian Coal Association lobby ads hitting our television screens. It’s a wonder that Turnbull didn’t just brace for a few more backflips and deliver these improvements himself. There is, of course, the inconvenient observation that ScoMo is not quite as popular as Turnbull, who in turn lagged Bishop by more than a few inches of daylight. The PR gurus in Morrison’s office must be furiously preparing PowerPoints explaining how swapping an unusually popular leader for a mediocre one is, in fact, an act of unprecedented strategic brilliance.
However, outside the Canberra bubble Australians overwhelmingly find the mid-term deposition of elected leaders to be internationally embarrassing, confusing and unnecessary. The act itself is now tainted, the electorate willing to suspend their judgements of any new leader and punish the sheer hubris of such political chicanery. Bill Shorten is probably in a state of blissful shock, day-dreaming about re-carpeting The Lodge while the Coalition constantly comes up with newer and more creative ways to incinerate the primary vote of any candidates unfortunate enough to be standing at the next election.
So where does that lead us now? Almost inexorably to a Labor government. Putting the current two-party preferred primary vote aside, where do we go given that Scott Morrison has won the hastily assembled spill? Nowhere of positive consequence, unless you happen to want Bill Shorten as prime minister #31. The right wing of the LNP has essentially decided to force a trade-down from a historically popular leader at this most critical juncture for no obvious gain at all.
The very worst element of this whole grim charade is where it takes Australia two elections from now. Assuming that Labor wins and sets out to faithfully implement their agenda of bloating the public service, relaxing immigration policy and throttling businesses to appease the militant union left we’ll find ourselves in exactly the same place in three years time – except there will be no palatable conservative party to stem the rot. The Coalition will have been razed, sheared into moderates and hard-line conservatives who are no longer willing to yield any political ground to each other. It’s anyone’s guess as to how tainted the Coalition brand will become, or how many MPs will lose historically safe seats in the all but assured Labor swing.
Taking but two examples from Europe we can see where ridiculous centre-left policies lead in the prevailing global climate of cultural and economic instability. In Germany the once mighty Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union ceded over a million votes to the hard-right Alternative für Deutschland in 2017 – a result that would have been inconceivable only a few years earlier. The Swedish Democrats (running on a similar nationalist platform) look set to add over 10 points to their primary vote and potentially become the largest party in Sweden. The message from voters could not be clearer – ignore our concerns on the economy and immigration and we will lurch violently to the right within a single election cycle.
Fifty percent of Australians already find the current rate of population growth and immigration to be too high. It doesn’t take a political science PhD to predict what will happen if Labor is elected and continues to ignore this sentiment. Even a cursory glance at the current situation in Italy is enough to show how ugly things can become. While Sally McManus and her union pals must be practically beside themselves with joy today the evidence shows that when pushed hard enough voters don’t seem to find champagne socialism very appealing.
It seems almost certain that the Coalition will lose the next federal election and Bill Shorten will become prime minister. It follows that Labor will continue to ignore popular sentiment on the economy and immigration leading us to 2022 in a state of increasing turmoil – then who will be left to vote for? Cory Bernardi must be salivating. Fraser Anning too, no doubt. Did Peter Dutton and his ill-advised followers yearn for a return to the right? Oh yes – and they’ll achieve it in a manner that they should have predicted if they’d taken only a minute to reflect on this shameful farce.
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