Danslide buries toxic Liberals
The Victorian election was a landmark win for common sense
Melbourne voters slapped the Liberal Party so hard on Saturday that it may even wake up to itself and stop with the interminable culture wars that have laid waste to so much of the Australian political landscape over the past decade. Moderate and conservative Liberals alike have called for a shift in focus: to the party’s electoral base in the real world, rather than its sclerotic member base in the branches. The Liberal Party’s Senate president, Scott Ryan, nailed the problem in what was clearly a heartfelt interview on ABC RN Breakfast this morning: even the party’s supporters have had enough of the “confected fights”, and the “litmus tests” of who is a true Liberal. Victorian voters have stood up for cosmopolitan middle Australia, and perhaps we will see an end to the Queensland tail wagging the Australian dog. From Peter Dutton to Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter to George Christensen, that state’s representatives have foisted their phobias (sorry, “legitimate fears”) on the rest of us for too long.
Set aside conservative versus progressive states, and compare instead the volatility of Queensland and the stability of Victoria. Queensland sucks up so much political oxygen partly because it swings hardest, and all year we’ve heard about how the next federal election will be decided in a string of its marginal seats. There is a straight line from the Longman by-election, which rattled the Liberals, to the coup that brought down Malcolm Turnbull. Queensland voters are rewarded with a lot of attention and spending at election time, but does volatility deliver good government – for example, lurching from Anna Bligh to Campbell Newman to Annastacia Palaszczuk?
In Victoria, by contrast, as soon-to-be-retired state Liberal president Michael Kroger told viewers during the ABC’s Saturday evening election coverage, no first-term majority state government has been kicked out for a century. As Kroger put it, “Victorians vote for stable government, they like stable government.” A bit of voter consistency gives the governing party a chance to deliver on a longer-term agenda. Daniel Andrews’ huge victory means Labor is odds-on to govern for eight more years, after which time the party will have been in power for 23 out of the 27 years since Jeff Kennett was voted out in 1999. (And how spectacularly wrong was he to tip an upset win for outgoing Opposition Leader Matthew Guy?)
The Liberals must learn the lessons from Andrews’ victory, and the PM held crisis talks today amid fears that half a dozen federal seats in Melbourne could be lost. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who is surely firming as the next Liberal leader, echoed Turnbull when he said on AM this morning that the party of Menzies was a progressive, not reactionary, party. Turnbull was unfairly pilloried last year when he said much the same thing in a London speech [$], explaining that is why Menzies deliberately called it the Liberal Party rather than the Conservative Party. As a Labor old-timer told Chip Le Grand in an excellent read [$] on the Victorian election in The Australian, “Every Liberal leader that I can remember has always espoused to follow in Menzies’ footsteps. I am nearly 70 and I can remember Menzies. Mate, Menzies wouldn’t piss on this mob.”
The extremists in the Liberal Party, and their cheer squad of commentators who foisted on us ridiculous, pointless and divisive debates about section 18C, went into paroxysms over the Safe Schools program – which Andrews has staunchly and simply defended because it “saves lives” – or are now brawling over the location of our Israeli embassy … these are not the concerns of everyday Australians. The culture warriors know it. Whatever happened to John Howard’s “relaxed and comfortable”?
Lastly there is climate change, which Ryan mentioned a number of times this morning. Senior Liberals say the issue has become totemic for the Liberal Party, like conscription was for Labor a hundred years ago – they won’t have a bar of it, you have to be against. Perhaps now, after Saturday’s drubbing and in the middle of a drought and with wildfires erupting, the Liberal Party might choose to walk it back a bit. If they don’t, as Saturday’s result and today’s Newspoll [$] both suggest, the federal government is headed for a crushing defeat next year.
since this morning
The Guardian reports that the Morrison government has waved through a motion in support of a new federal anti-corruption body to avoid an embarrassing defeat in the House of Representatives, after The New Dailyreported Coalition backbencher Llew O’Brien was set to cross the floor.
Fairfax Media reports that NAB chief Andrew Thorburn faced intense in today’s royal commission hearing in Melbourne over the bank’s “absurd” fee-for-no-service compensation proposal. He was followed by NAB chair Ken Henry.
in case you missed it
Declassified documents obtained by the ABC reveal that Australian Defence Force personnel were quietly dispatched to US CENTCOM headquarters in Florida in 2002 to begin planning the Iraq War, a year before John Howard announced Australia’s involvement.
The AFR reported [$] that the Morrison government is planning an early federal budget next year, all but confirming its intention to go full term and call the election for May.
As part of an “Implant Files” global investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the ABC reveals that almost 83,000 people have died around the world, including 170 in Australia in the past decade, due to potentially dangerous medical devices.
Paddy Manning has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.
Melbourne voters slapped the Liberal Party so hard on Saturday that it may even wake up to itself and stop with the interminable culture wars that have laid waste to so much of the Australian political landscape over the past decade. Moderate and conservative Liberals alike have called for a shift in focus: to the party’s electoral base in the real world, rather than its sclerotic member base in the branches. The Liberal Party’s Senate president, Scott Ryan, nailed the problem in what was clearly a heartfelt interview on ABC RN Breakfast this morning: even the party’s supporters have had enough of the “confected fights”, and the “litmus tests” of who is a true Liberal. Victorian voters have stood up for cosmopolitan middle Australia, and perhaps we will see an end to the...
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