Failure has many fathers, most doing their best to deny paternity, but when it come to the loss of the newly minted ‘teal’ electorates in the federal election, it is a bit rich to blame Liberal conservatives, as the party’s left wing has tried to do since we all woke up to a Sunday breakfast soured by the devastating verdict of voters.
There was a Darwinian brutality about the results. The wettest and greenest Liberals, in the wealthiest seats in the country, were washed away in a teal rinse. Gone with the windfarms. This was painful but it happened because the government refused to understand why it won the 2019 election and is now forced to learn the same lesson in defeat.
The key failure was to allow the teals to frame climate change on their terms. Teal is the colour of a Tiffany’s gift box. Teal climate policies are trophies for rich women, diamond necklaces to flaunt at harbourside parties. They are not signs of virtue; they are vanities. Ordinary Australians can no more afford them, than they can afford to replace their Toyota with a Tesla (interestingly, an anagram of teals). Or fork out the $100 million paid by green rich-lister Mike Cannon-Brookes for his Point Piper mansion ‘Fairwater’ in 2018.
The hard work that former treasurer Josh Frydenberg, and every Liberal that lost to a teal needed to do, was to show how selfish and futile it is to rush to reduce Australian emissions, at enormous cost to ordinary Australians. This is what the then minister for energy and emissions reductions, Angus Taylor, brilliantly did in the 2019 election, using the independent report of Brian Fisher to show that Labor had not even bothered to cost its ruinous policies. The Coalition won the 2019 election because it framed the issue of climate change not as the greatest moral challenge of our time, but as an economic issue, which it is fundamental to manage in a way that does not pointlessly drive up the cost of living and export jobs to China.
This time around, prime minister Scott Morrison took the advice of Crosby Textor, and commanded his team not to fight on the issue of ‘climate change’, thinking that he had neutralised it by his commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. Big mistake.
The jobs lost and the price hikes due to Labor’s emissions reductions targets of 43 per cent by 2030 and 50 per cent renewables should have been hammered home to an electorate that is already wincing at rising energy prices and interest rates. The teal targets of 50 to 60 per cent emissions reductions by 2030 and 80 to 85 per cent renewables by 2030 should have been eviscerated.
Instead, the commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 has been a bugbear to both sides of the Liberal party, not enough for the left, too much for the right. Both sides should rethink. 2050 is 28 years in the future. To put that in perspective, 28 years ago, Bill Clinton was president of the United States, Boris Yeltsin was president of Russia, Paul Keating was prime minister in Australia, China gots its first connection to the internet and the Rwandan genocide occurred.
Imagine locking in energy policy for 2022 back then. Sensible people realise it’s crazy but not teal zealot, Zoe Daniel, the incoming member for Goldstein, who says she will be pushing for emissions targets to be legislated to prevent any ‘wriggle room’ on net zero.
Conservatives are concerned that a Coalition commitment to aim for a net zero 2050 target means that they cannot win the argument on climate change. That is not true. The economic cost of emissions reductions is an argument that the Coalition can win every time, including in 2022 because the costs that matter are the ones imposed now, not in 2050. This will become apparent as Labor’s policies drive up the cost of living and will prove fertile ground in 2025.
But there is a deeper lesson that Liberals must learn from the teal wave. When Robert Menzies delivered his ‘Forgotten People’ speech 80 years ago, on 22 May 1942, he specifically wrote that he was not speaking to ‘the rich and powerful: those who control great funds and enterprises and are as a rule able to protect themselves’. Rather he addressed himself to the middle class, ‘salary-earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers…’.
These people continue to vote for the Coalition, including in ‘teal’ seats but they were drowned out by the advocates for the ‘rich and powerful’, pushing climate policies that will benefit wealthy investors, particularly if they are gifted generous subsidies by government fiat that will be paid for by taxpayers or consumers.
Green and teal rent-seeking elites have been helped immeasurably by an education system that indoctrinates children and young adults, from kindergarten through to university, in the cult of climate catastrophism, legitimising climate ‘strikes’ during school hours, which are openly attended by Greens and the Socialist Alliance. This gives these parties unparalleled recruitment opportunities and casts over their extremist policies a dangerous legitimacy they do not deserve. It helps explain the disturbing rise of the Greens in inner city Brisbane, giving them two new MPs to keep Adam Bandt company in the lower house and the balance of power in the upper house, where the party is on track for a record twelve senators.
The ABC has also played its part. At least now Ms Daniels, its former employee, has openly declared her politics, unlike Laura Tingle who nonetheless editorialised during the ABC’s election coverage that Mr Albanese should abandon the climate policies he took to the election and adopt the targets of the Greens and teals. How disappointed she must be that Labor is likely to govern with a majority, leaving the teal ‘independents’ all dressed up, with nowhere to go.
Unable to dictate policy from the crossbench, the teals will lose their allure. That will give the Liberal party the opportunity to win back wealthier seats, but it must do so not by pandering to the economic folly of the teals and the Greens, but by exposing it. And it must recognise that elections are won and lost not in the mansions of green hypocrites with carbon footprints to match their egos, but in the suburbs and the regions, where Menzies forgotten people wait to be remembered.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10