The most bizarre feature of the Liberal party’s leadership coup is that the party has not given any explanation as to why the coup took place. It is important to get the official explanation on the record because, without it, the party and the whole non-socialist movement cannot even begin to rebuild its reputation, regain the trust of the people or make a plausible case for why the Coalition should be re-elected, a prospect that looks highly dubious at the present and one which will need a lot of attention if it is to succeed. There is a good analogy. The reason why the Labor party was on the nose for the last few years is that it has never given a reason for either the Gillard or the Rudd coups; the Liberal party will feel the same public opprobrium if it does not get a plausible story on the record, and fast. Not that I am saying the coup was unjustified or that the party should be shamefaced about last week; a change was necessary. Indeed, at least Brown Study gave several reasons last week why Turnbull’s reign should come to an end. The Morrison government has given none. Until it does so, the public will continue to feel it has been deceived and treated with contempt. And it is not good enough simply to say that the government had a rough time last week, but now all is peace and unity; people want to know what all the new peace and unity are based on. Moreover, giving the reasons for the coup is a tremendous opportunity to restate those traditional conservative principles on which the Liberal party is supposed to be based, how they were not being pursued under Turnbull and how they will be restored under the new regime. It would certainly be good for Liberal parliamentarians to get these principles straight in their heads so they can argue for them in public. In particular, the conservative tendency in the Liberal party should tell us what it stands for, as that feature was also strangely left unexplained. So the first and urgent task of Team Morrison is to state exactly how it came to power, what it stands for and how it is going to achieve those objectives.
The second bizarre feature of the change of leadership was the argument put by the Turnbull acolytes in the media that the move against Turnbull was some sort of evil conspiracy manipulated by dark forces in the media, urged on by their bête noire, Rupert Murdoch. According to this argument, the case against Turnbull only got going when Murdoch and son arrived in Australia and started to weave their Svengali-like powers over the parliamentary party. In other words, the argument is that Murdoch journalists are so weak and unprofessional that they live in a zombie-like state and only come to life when ordered to do so by their master. The same journalistic luvvies also conveniently overlooked the fact that the dark forces hell-bent on destroying Turnbull included the luvvies’ beloved Fairfax, as it owns 2GB, the alleged source of so much of the anti-Turnbull rhetoric. But the idea that Alan Jones and Ray Hadley say what they are ordered to say, by Murdoch or anyone else, stretches credulity to breaking point. The argument itself is, therefore, completely absurd. Worse still, the criticism of the anti-Turnbull media is really that they actually expressed views. Heaven forbid that journalists and particularly columnists should express an opinion! The leaders of the pro-Turnbull push, particularly Chris Uhlmann, who started it, instead of accusing their colleagues of being automatons, should have been at the forefront of defending their right to express opinions even if, and particularly if, those opinions were different from their own and different from the pro-Turnbull love-in that much of the press seems to have had with Turnbull, particularly the ABC. Isn’t this what a free press is supposed to be? While they were at it, they should also have told us why, when so much of the media was pro-Turnbull and obviously relished abusing Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott, only criticism of Turnbull is regarded as crossing the mythical journalistic line. Isn’t this what it all amounts to: criticising Turnbull is out of order, but criticising Dutton or Abbott is legitimate. Worse still, the Uhlmann-Nine camp thinks it appropriate to ask how ministers could appear on Sky News, part of the dark media forces so unjustly trying to take Mr Turnbull down. This is certainly a new development, to find journalists opposed to the free expression of ideas in rival media outlets. Perhaps it is the media as well as the Liberal party that should sit down and articulate some basic principles to which it subscribes.
Finally, it seems that one thing the coup has not changed is the continued expansion of government and the undermining of our constitution, no matter what the colour of the politicians involved. The announcement by Morrison that there will now be (so far) two Special Envoys is the latest example, although it builds on the similar nonsense of having assistant ministers. These new hybrids, a sort of government in exile, must inevitably expand the size and scope of government because, like all agencies, they will want to expand their own powers and they will feel useless unless they suggest expensive new things to do. They also undermine the constitution because we already have a perfectly good one with a balance between executive and parliament that should simply be left alone, as we keep telling the High Court to do. But where do envoys fit in? Are they ministers? Do they have a seat at the cabinet table? Do they speak for the government? Are they answerable to the parliament and subject to the ministerial code of conduct? Whatever, they are highly dubious.
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