Features Australia

Morrison, Dutton and the Coalition

23 February 2019

9:00 AM

23 February 2019

9:00 AM

Over here in London, politics is boiling down to a battle between perfidity (of Theresa May, her Remainer-stacked Cabinet and the myriad Remainers in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy and the managerial university and business class) and incompetence (of all of the above who cannot figure out how to deliver a fake, wholly emasculated Brexit-lite without also severely weakening themselves and empowering the Nigel Farage-like true Brexiteers down the road).

Believe me when I assure you that I don’t say this lightly, but Theresa May makes Malcolm Turnbull look like a virtuous and extremely competent choirboy in comparison. And should anyone tell you that he or she has any clue how this Brexit thing will play out over here, well that person is lying or self-deluded. It’s all massively depressing having to watch so much of the political class betray its lack of self-awareness while exhibiting so much de haut en bas aristocratic arrogance.

In comparison, then, but of course only in comparison to the cesspit in Britain, it is a cheery task to turn one’s mind to politics in Australia. From my temporary vantage over here in the UK how do things look for right-of-centre politics Down Under? Well, some readers will recall that I was something of an unbending Del-Con when Malcolm the Usurper was leading the team. I preferenced Labor last election to help get him out in the belief it was better to get that over with as soon as possible, before Turnbull pulled the Liberal party even further to the left.

Eventually, as we all know, the Libs did unto Turnbull what he had done unto Tony. Alas, poor Malcolm could not seem to grasp that as ye sow, so shall ye reap. In what must be an ongoing embarrassment to many of his former supporters (in the press and in the party room) Mr Turnbull proceeded to throw one of the great political hissy-fits of all time. It’s still going on. You know it’s bad when even Niki Savva (more on her in a moment) no longer bothers – metaphorically speaking you understand – to bat her eyelashes and praise the slayer of the wicked Tony as the greatest PM ever to be.

And in that important sense, of course, things are better now for the Liberal party since they threw out Mr Turnbull. To be blunt, Scott Morrison is a huge improvement on Malcolm Turnbull. But alas that is not saying very much. The problem may be Mr Morrison’s own political instincts (just how conservative is he?) or it may be the fact that the party room is a complete mess, stuffed as it is with some 40 out of 85 MPs who even at his deathbed would vote for Malcolm and to varying degrees look better suited to be Labor-lite MPs. Whichever it is, here is the present scorecard.

On energy policy this Team Morrison sucks. It’s running what amounts to a ‘hey voters, we’re a teensy-weensy bit better than Labor’ set of policies. God knows how they’ve managed to emasculate Angus Taylor but what is clearly needed is to pull out of Paris and kill off the $3 billion or so dollars of yearly subsidies to the renewables rent-seekers. In my view, as it happens, had Peter Dutton won the leadership that’s what we would have gotten. He would not have had a choice but to put a chasm of policy differences between the Libs and Labor as Mr Dutton could never run on ‘being a likable bloke’.

Ditto immigration. Again, we see this Team Morrison taking to the election what amounts to nothing more than a ‘we’re a scintilla of a fraction better than Labor on this’. They should be cutting Australia’s world’s highest per capita immigration intake. Their core voters want it; the country needs it; but in Oz as in the US the entrenched business interests are against it.

For one thing, the whole ‘Australia’s economy hasn’t had a recession since Noah and the flood’ type line of politicking is premised upon really big immigration numbers. Why? Because we’ve all been sucked into letting the politicians talk in terms of GDP growth – a measure of economic activity, and a distorted one that favours government spending at that – rather than GDP per person. The latter is the one that matters. It’s the one that has some relation to how each of us is doing. The former cannot help but go up if, say, you let 10 million new immigrants in each year – or 5 million, or 3 million, or whatever it is that keeps up this useless facade. Remember, Japan has basically zero immigration. Over the last decade its per capita GDP growth is more or less the same as ours. But Team Morrison won’t make meaningful cuts. Under a Dutton government we would have got them in my view.

I could make the same sort of point as regards taxes. Again, Team Morrison looks a lot like a ‘hey, we’re a teensy-weensy bit better than Labor’ outfit, at least if you ignore what we did to superannuation.

But instead let me say that despite all of that, I think Morrison and the Libs can win the next election. I think they can do it on border security and I want them to, too. One thing that can bring home even the most disappointed of Liberal party voters, people like me, is Bill Shorten and Labor’s border policies.

This ‘find a couple of doctors and you’re home free’ policy is a disaster. Once Labor gets into office the boats will come again.

And don’t tell me about doctors. I work in a university. Students can get a doctor’s note for anything these days. There is a regular tide of students ‘having to miss exams’ due to doctor-certified reasons. And there’s nothing you can do about it. At Oxford University however if you miss an exam you wait a year to re-sit whatever the cause, full stop, and for some strange reason almost no students miss them. Medicalise an issue – and you get the outlooks and ethics of the doctoring class. Yuck!

Last point. In my view Morrison should have called a snap election on this. He should have gambled all on a border security poll that focused on nothing else and not let that egregious Bill be enacted. In saying that I realise I’m agreeing with Niki Savva. Hmm! Well, Transits of Venus do happen.

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