Five shades of faded blue

How well the ancient Biblical words apply to the Coalition: ”How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle...thou wast slain in thine high places, and the weapons of war perished!”

The true-blue Liberal flag, once graced with rich shades of competence, efficiency, endeavour, diligence and success, now flies tattered, limp and washed out. The Liberal flag is now discoloured with five shades of faded blue: denial, arrogance, anger, confusion and ineptitude.

After its humiliating loss at the Wentworth by-election, and the obvious reason for it – the undignified removal of its well-liked member Malcolm Turnbull, a modicum of insight might have been expected as the extent of the Coalition bloodbath at the recent State Election in Victoria was being exposed on ABC TV. But no, Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg was soon on the airwaves trying to convince us that the disaster unfolding before his very eyes had nothing to do with the disrespectful extrusion of Malcolm Turnbull and his replacement with a novice. ”It was a state election run on state issues” he insisted. Of course state issues were prominent, but only blind and deaf Freddie would not acknowledge the influence of events in Canberra. Coalition supporters handing out how-to-vote cards reported how often voters curtly informed them that they were not going to vote Liberal because of what the party had done to Malcolm Turnbull. Josh was in denial, deaf to what he was hearing, blind to what he was seeing. He even accused Bill Shorten of arrogantly believing he could ‘measure the curtains in The Lodge’. He looked foolish. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis put it: ”It was the rhetorical equivalent of jamming his fingers in his ears and making ‘la la la’ noises. Right on cue his fellow-denialist Eric Abetz, always ready to argue the inarguable, followed him. Peta Credlin soon joined the chorus of denial in The Australian, arguing that the Bourke Street terrorist attack made the Coalition’s campaign on ‘law and order’ tricky because public sensibilities prevented them ‘going in hard’!

This chorus of denial has since been drowned out by a plethora of commentary that has pinpointed the 'toxic Canberra culture' as a potent reason for the Coalition's decline. Defeated Coalition Leader Matthew Guy and John Pesutto, member for Hawthorn, who saw his re-election cast into doubt as he commented on the ABC’s election panel, had the good grace to concede that the Canberra shemozzle was a telling reason for the Coalition’s defeat. Even the State president of the Liberal Party, Michael Kroger got the message and resigned. Now, Coalition members in NSW, petrified about the ‘toxic’ behaviour of their Canberra counterparts, are running a mile to distance themselves for fear of contamination during the upcoming NSW State election.

Next, along came arrogance to further stain the Liberal flag. PM Morrison, who ought to have been a little contrite, came out arms flailing, insisting that notwithstanding recent electoral debacles, the Coalition would triumph at the next federal election. Voters would reward the Coalition for its outstanding economic success and reject Labor’s high-taxing policies, he insisted. And he reinforced his words by angrily shouting them whenever he could – at doorstops, in press interviews, in Question Time, in parliamentary debate. He turned up the volume as he fumed.

But for arrogance writ large, there could scarcely be a more brazen display of it than dark-suited Coalition members walking out of the chamber as Julia Banks announced a few days later that she was withdrawing from the Coalition to sit on the crossbenches. You can hear her speech in the Featured Video. Of course their leader has form in walking out when females are speaking in the House!  

Anger soon stained the Coalition’s flag. Shocked at its electoral reversals, and extrapolating these to the May federal election at which many Coalition members could see their seats evaporating, the prospect of losing a comfortable income evoked much anger and distress.

Although a cluster of Liberals joined their leader to unveil their anger, none could match him; his shouting became more and more raucous. And when schoolchildren organized a rally in school hours to protest against the government’s lack of action on climate change, Morrison exploded. In typical ‘strict father’ mode, so well described by George Lakoff, he condemned the rally with: "Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members' kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments."

Following his leader, Resources Minister Matt Canavan added that he wanted children in school learning about how to build mines, do geology and how to drill for oil and gas, "which is one of the most remarkable science exploits in the world". He warned the students that their protest was ”the road to the dole queue”. Clearly, he not only lacks insight into the motivation of the protesting students; he remains intractably wedded to the outmoded technologies that scientists assure us will bring about global devastation and render the planet inhabitable. He was angry and confused, along with many of his parliamentary colleagues.

In response to the PM’s reprimand, one student said: Mr Morrison’s comments were ‘ridiculous’. It is as if he expects us to be completely apathetic towards the world and its issues until we reach the age of 18, when we are suddenly supposed to become well-informed voters with our own developed opinions…Mr Morrison says that he does not support our schools being turned into parliaments. Well, maybe if the people in our Parliament listened to the science and took action like those of us in school, we wouldn’t have to resort to strike action like this.” A campaign organiser said that Mr Morrison's comments had actually boosted the protest's profile and spurred more people into action. Another example of Morrison’s ineptitude and lack of insight!

Greens leader, Adam Bandt who had met with some of the students involved and backed their actions, said: "The PM is unbelievably out of touch with young people, not only in Australia but around the world…these students want a leader to protect their future, but they get a hectoring, ungenerous and condescending rebuke from someone even worse than Tony Abbott."

So it came to pass that on the last day in November eight thousand students from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour, Bendigo and twenty regional areas did head to the nearest Parliament House or the offices of members of parliament to take part in the strike, quite undeterred by the angry rebukes from their parliamentarians. More protests are to follow. The repercussions will long reverberate.

The next shade of blue to tarnish the now-very-dull Liberal flag was confusion. Clearly the Coalition, the PM and his ministers are rattled, beset as they are with electoral defeat after electoral defeat, abysmal opinion polls that never improve, a confident Labor Opposition, and a cluster of policies that even their own supporters won’t accept, the most recent being its energy policy. And all they do in response is to shout more and more angrily.

Denial, arrogance, anger and confusion bring in their wake ineptitude, the fifth shade of faded blue to tarnish the Coalition flag.

Virtually everything Morrison and his ministers now say and do reeks of ineptitude.

The Coalition is lost. The path ahead is beset with intractable difficulties, insurmountable problems, and an impoverished mindset incapable of addressing them. Ideological shackles restrict their thinking; outmoded beliefs curb their judgment; antediluvian attitudes constrain their reasoning.

Foolishly, they have corrupted their flag. And in the process they have besmirched our National flag too.

The once proud true-blue Liberal flag hangs tattered and limp. Only five shades of faded blue remain.

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