The Base

Everyone in the building industry will tell you the maxim to ‘measure twice and cut once’. Given the events of August 2018 in the Liberal Party, it is clearly something that failed challenger Peter Dutton and his henchmen, apparently including Finance Minister Cormann, should remember next time. Dutton lost the first ‘spill motion’ 38 to 45 early in the week; you’d have to question his judgement in thinking that he could turn it around so fast to try it again on Thursday. After all, it took Turnbull months to dispose of Abbott!

Regardless of how he got there, Scott Morrison is now Prime Minister, with Josh Frydenberg as Deputy Liberal Leader and Treasurer. They claim to be a generational change and while Morrison is younger than Turnbull (and Abbott), a number of Turnbull’s Ministers either kept their jobs or played musical chairs around the Cabinet Table. While the usual players are promising ‘no wrecking’ and ‘no backstabbing’, to be honest, you wouldn’t be the only one who thought there isn’t a great deal of belief that the promises will be kept.

When Senator Fierravanti-Wells resigned from the Turnbull Ministry in late August, she accused Turnbull of ignoring ‘the conservative base’. So who is this ‘base’?

According to The Conversation, there are about 50,000 members of the Liberal Party in Australia. While 50,000 people scattered across Australia sounds like a lot — really it isn’t. The AFL Grand Final is a few weeks away and there is usually a capacity crowd at the MCG to witness the contest. According to this report the MCG has a capacity of 100,024 people. So, the entire membership of the Liberal Party is around half the crowd at the AFL Grand Final.

Given that around 50% of the Liberal Party seemed to support Turnbull before Dutton and his conspirators started working the phones, and the same sex marriage plebiscite thingy showed (like the opinion polls) that around 61% of those that took the time to vote supported the progressive position, it’s easy to suggest for the purposes of discussion that a little over half of the Liberal Party membership would identify as supporting ‘some measures’ in accordance with Turnbull’s publicly stated positions. The rest wouldn’t. Again, to visualise it, half the crowd at the AFL final is a member of the Liberal Party and slightly under half of those members are apparently conservative, so a little under a quarter of the crowd at the MCG in late September would represent ‘the conservative Liberal Party base’ that doesn’t support managing emissions and if the truth be known, doesn’t see the imminent danger of unfettered climate change.

Turnbull clearly (and some would say cynically) delayed the inevitable by insisting on the Solicitor-General investigating if Dutton was eligible to sit in Parliament as he has interests in Childcare Centres that receive government benefits, as well as asking his Parliamentary Whip to contact each Party Member to confirm they did sign the petition to call a spill. Obviously Turnbull was giving Morrison some time to ‘work the phones’ as well as Dutton. You would have to ask why Turnbull would have concocted any of these plans if he didn’t think that Morrison would be the least-worst option for a change of leadership.

So Morrison has a problem. 2GB’s Ray Hadley fired a broadside across the newly minted PM the day after he was elected to the position by giving ‘free’ advice on how to remain in favour — broadly follow an ultra-conservative agenda that appeals to the conservative base of his political party. So much for the remaining 24,975,000 of us that new PM Morrison claims he is working for, as if the entire population of Australia was considered, the leadership challenges in 2018 would not have occurred.

As discussed on The Conversation’s website, the right wing media has given a megaphone to the reactionary end of the Liberal Party to the complete disregard of those that don’t have the ultra-conservative beliefs of people like Ray Hadley.

Inside Story discusses the successes of the past 18 political leadership challenges across Australia — click through for the gory detail. Let’s just say that there are few ‘successful’ outcomes here. Given that two of Turnbull’s antagonists, Abbott and Joyce, are fervently against anything that could be remotely considered as measuring or managing carbon emissions, and given that people such as Malcolm Turnbull’s son are claiming they couldn’t in all conscience vote for the Liberal Party that won’t help Morrison either.

Even more ironically, the battle for the hearts and minds of Australia mounted by the ultra-conservatives since Abbott overthrew Turnbull in 2009 have been about the politics of reducing carbon emissions from the generation of electricity. The claim is that any reduction through the use of alternatives to coal will make electricity too expensive for ‘the average Australian’. The fact is that power prices don’t even make the top 10 items in the household budget although the price has been increasing at a rate greater than inflation. As far back as 2012, there were media reports that ‘environmental factors’ were not the main contributor to the rising power prices for domestic consumers; it was the excessive expenditure on the ‘poles and wires’ — the infrastructure that moves the electricity from the generating plant to our homes. In other words, the ultra-conservatives have been drawing attention to the increasing price of power, drawing attention to the increasing use of renewables and making the conclusion that renewables have increased the price. The ultra-conservatives’ campaign for the past 10 years has been built on a lie.

Morrison has seen at first hand the damage that Abbott and his bunch of sycophants can do to his political party and the Australian Government. If Morrison’s pitch is about being there for all of us he could start on the right foot by acknowledging the 24,975,000 (or thereabouts) of us not in the Liberal Party’s conservative faction also have a voice. He could demonstrate this by passing legislation and regulation that do care about the economy and environment we are leaving for our kids and telling Abbott and Co to pull their heads in. Then and only then can Morrison start to rebuild democracy in Australia to some semblance of what it should be, rather than assisting to wreck it.

Unfortunately, Morrison’s choices so far demonstrate he doesn’t have the capability to do so, and the minority of the crowd win again.

What do you think?

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