SCOTT MORRISON MUST HIT US WITH THE BIG AND THE BOLD
Gaping Liberal Party wounds need attention, but the mob needs a plan
Loyalty is important in any sphere of endeavour. In politics, loyalty to colleagues and party groupings is important in the way a politician is regarded. For some, like Malcolm Turnbull, loyalty is never given but is expected. This is in keeping with the view Turnbull has of the world. He has always believed that humankind exists merely to serve him. I found it odd that so many stuck with him after it was wise to do so — our new Prime Minister and Treasurer included — as he swayed to and fro like a boxer being wantonly battered while refusing to throw in the towel and lose the title. They were still there as the death knell was sounded. Yet they have been treated with treachery and betrayal by Turnbull.
The Wentworth by-election where Turnbull refused to lift a finger was a disaster for Scott Morrison. Had Turnbull supported Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, the government might well have kept the seat. Instead, the biggest by-election swing in the history of the commonwealth was laid at Morrison’s feet. The PM is a slow learner when it comes to his former boss. Despite Turnbull’s behaviour, Morrison allowed him to represent the government at a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bali. Once again, the PM’s generosity was met with disappointment. Turnbull attacked Morrison’s decision to consider moving the Australian embassy in Israel.
I doubt that anyone would have complained if Turnbull had rung his successor and told him, privately, that the embassy thought bubble was going down poorly in the most populous Muslim nation. That Turnbull chose to do his nasty work publicly says more about Turnbull than it does about the announcement he was criticising. You would be entitled to ask which country was Turnbull representing.
Now a combination of gaping wounds in party unity and a difficulty in communicating a clear difference between the government and the opposition has Morrison in dire straits. Before he addresses the urgent need for points of difference with Labor, he needs to reset his own side.
The mob has stopped listening, and to regain its attention requires much more than a bus ride through Queensland repeating tired mantras. The mob needs something new. Morrison must stop being the one who replaced Turnbull at the head of the Turnbull government. The same team, the same policies — it’s not going down well.
There is a trick to getting the mob to listen again. You need something bold and big. It is not to fire up your base. It is to attract those deserters who remain nor- mally uncommitted. When you are starting a conversation with someone for the first time, it is a good idea to begin with something you know they will agree with. I have not yet met anyone who thinks it a good idea to give $440 million or so to a small charity that never asked for it and that in any case will have to turn to the government agencies to whom the money should have gone (the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science). This always looked like nonsense. Turnbull had lunch with his mates and pulled one of the worst cards from the bottom of the deck I’ve ever seen. What is more, the money was shovelled out in one huge whack. Normally this would have been doled out over five years or more.
For the Prime Minister, being a decent bloke is not enough. Noth- ing replaces substance and when Newspoll came down with that 46 per cent to 54 per cent result, that alone should have been enough to spark new thinking. Those who tell you not to worry because there are six months to go are getting fewer and are speaking sotto voce. A rout awaits those frozen into inaction. What was good enough yesterday won’t cut it now.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor is doing well. He at least looks like he is threatening major power companies with a big stick if they don’t cut prices significantly. This bloke is one to watch in the future. In the rebuilding of the Liberal Party after the next election he will play a major role.
Now that a truly desperate NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has moved on from viciously slurring outgoing Opposition Leader Luke Foley, she has called for significant cuts to immigration numbers. She has a reasonable point and no doubt will find many a sympathetic ear. Sydney and other capitals are overcrowded and desperate for huge lumps of money to fund infrastructure needs. The Prime Minister is a believer in the Treasury line that without substantial immigration numbers, our growth will decline, so I doubt he is up for turning on the issue. But he could pick up ground dressing up his backflip by talking about a return to the Howard-era numbers. If he continues to refuse to buckle on this then I am running out of ways to work out how this government saves itself.
In days gone by you could often rely on the Labor factions going to war. These days that just doesn’t happen.
Liberal disunity remains at the forefront of party business and there remains another tipping point for trouble. The controlling left group in NSW, headed up by lobbyist Michael Photios, seems determined to dump prominent right-winger Craig Kelly from his southern Sydney seat.
When I first hit some high notes in my party, the Victorian branch was headed up by plumbers’ union heavy George Crawford and serial idiot Bill Hartley. They saw it as their main task to continue to lead their patch and scuttle any real chance of winning elections, state or federal. Photios may well preside over the loss of NSW and the federal election, and he will not escape responsibility.
In days gone by you could often rely on the Labor factions going to war. These days that just doesn’t happen