For the first time in our history a candidate representing the left has won the federal seat of Kooyong. This result does not surprise me. At the 2018 Victorian state election three of the four electorates within Kooyong were lost by the Liberals to Labor. I held Kew, where Bob Menzies lived, because the locals, many of whom don’t like me, knew what I stood for. Until my forced retirement from state politics this November, I will be the only lower house Liberal MP representing a part of the seat of Kooyong. The Liberals or its predecessor parties have held the seat of Kew for 95 years, Kooyong for 121 years, and I suspect before this year is out, based on last Saturday’s results, the Liberals will have no lower house representation at all where the party was founded.
The causes of the defeat in Kooyong to the ‘teals’ can be applied across Australia, indeed it’s a global phenomenon that wealthy inner-urban elites are voting for the Left.
The Liberal campaign in Kooyong had no message, aside from ‘Keep Josh’, but most importantly it said nothing about what the Liberal party stands for that will improve the lives of the people of Kooyong or anywhere else in the years ahead. Nothing about repaying the enormous debt our country now owes, reducing the cost of doing business, improving the standard of teaching or the national curriculum. The good idea of allowing first-homebuyers to access their superannuation for a deposit was too little too late.
This was the Liberal party’s problem for the last seven years of this government. Essentially Morrison argued he could manage the federal government better than Labor. In 2019 the government successfully argued that it had a point of economic policy difference with Bill Shorten and unfortunately they assumed it could be repeated in 2022. Albanese didn’t make the same mistakes as Shorten, and because the government failed to provide a vision and an economic narrative for why they deserved a rare fourth term, they lost, and the Treasurer lost his seat.
The government failed to land a glove on Albanese, despite his gaffes, because Scott Morrison did not provide a vision for the future of Australia. Further, Morrison had been mortally wounded during the pandemic by elevating state Labor premiers to positions of national leadership by the madness of the national cabinet experiment. Take for example the vaccine rollout, delivered on time, the largest peacetime logistical exercise ever undertaken by the Commonwealth government, yet the Labor state governments tore it to shreds.
The Liberals leave office with literally the largest debt the nation has ever had. Why? Because the federal government funded state governments, mainly Labor, whose only response to the pandemic was to shut down businesses, lock people in their homes and force children to attempt to learn from home. Victorians either felt attacked by the prime minister from Sydney as Melbourne endured the world’s longest lockdown or abandoned by him, particularly when he ended up backing Daniel Andrews’ incessant lockdowns.
In an electorate as highly educated as Kooyong, not a single attempt was made to point out the irresponsibility of what Dr Ryan, the new MP for Kooyong, was promising; a 60 per cent reduction to emissions by 2030. Labor is promising 43 per cent. The impact on our energy supply, reliability and electricity prices would be extreme at 60 per cent, yet the Liberals never challenged this, nor did they ever raise the alternative base-load energy policy solution of nuclear power. The Liberals in Kooyong were completely out-campaigned by an affluent political amateur because as much as I disagree with her, she stood for something, and it was unclear what her opponent stood for. The Liberals didn’t begin to attempt to hold her to account until it was too late. The last nine years of Coalition government will be regarded similarly to the Fraser years; no economic reform, no real legacy aside from aspects of the pandemic response and the Aukus nuclear-powered submarine agreement.
Tony Abbott will be forever regarded as a legend for tearing apart the most dysfunctional Labor government since Whitlam. But he was undermined from the outset and torn down by Malcolm Turnbull, who then squandered Abbott’s landslide, and almost lost the 2016 election. But it is the government that was led by Howard, Costello and Downer that younger Liberals must aspire to replicate when we win again.
It is now time for the Liberal party to reset, stop obsessing with the woke causes of inner-urban elites, and focus on the true forgotten people in the middle and outer suburbs as well as rural and regional Australia. Swings at this election against Labor in their working class heartland prove this is where the Liberal party must focus. These are the Australians who will bear the brunt of what the ‘teals’ are demanding in terms of emissions reductions by 2030. The people of Kooyong, Wentworth, Goldstein, North Sydney and Mackellar aren’t forgotten or quiet. They are loud, entitled, and privileged. The future of the great party that Menzies founded was never about the top end of town. It was and will always be the party of John Howard’s battlers. When Menzies founded the party, the eastern part of Kooyong was still orchards. As late as the 1990s, suburbs like North Balwyn, that I represent, were resolutely quiet and middle-class.
The Tories worked this shift out in 2019. Boris Johnson broke the ‘red wall’ by winning dozens of seats in working-class northern England. Tony Blair’s old seat of Sedgefield is held by the Conservatives but at the 2017 election the Tories lost the extremely wealthy inner-London seat of Kensington which includes Belgravia and Knightsbridge. The Tories now hold it by a mere 150 votes. In London, Labour holds 49 of 73 seats. Inner-city elites are the embodiment of post-material politics and they are voting left. The Liberals must accept this, and understand that only when inevitably the economy crashes under a federal Labor government can they be retaken.
Given generations of school students have been indoctrinated into the new religion of climate change extremism and identity politics, and the new national curriculum reinforces this, is it any wonder the Liberal party finds itself in the position it does?
The Liberal party in Victoria requires more fighters, more true believers and fewer careerists and cowards. Labor’s national vote dropped at this election, as did the Liberals’. This was not a great endorsement of Anthony Albanese, this was a loss by the Coalition. Australia needs a strong Liberal party led by men and women that will be warriors for the quiet Australians as Menzies said almost 80 years ago to the day; ‘…the kind of people I myself represent in Parliament – salary-earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers and so on. These are, in the political and economic sense, the middle class. They are for the most part unorganised and unself-conscious…They are taken for granted by each political party in turn…. And yet, as I have said, they are the backbone of the nation’.
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