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Australian Politics after the Spill: Far Less Than Generational Change

By Denis Bright

In the populist traditions of the federal LNP, the political ascendancy of Scott Morrison is being steered along by most of the mainstream media as transformative generational change. All this is a good spin on the most dramatic political week in Australia since The Dismissal of 1975.

As the veteran of Operation Sovereign Borders, Prime Minister Scott Morrison now invites community consultation in a renewed Governing for Us Phase. This has been a catch-phrase of most federal LNP governments since 1949.

Let’s revisit some of its key foundations which have been set in concrete since the Menzies Era. Scott Morrison will continue work within this flexible framework in the best traditions of Menzies’ radio address to The Forgotten People on 22 May 1942.

This initial appeal to mainstream Australians to defeat the Labor Party gained little initial political traction in a wartime emergency. Japanese midget submarines caused havoc in Sydney Harbour just a few nights later (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Online).

Freshly elected in 2013, Prime Minister Abbott would offer a lesson in bad diplomacy by declaring Japan as our “closest friend in Asia”. This was quite an affronting remark to many attendees at the East Asia Summit in Brunei (SMH Online 9 October 2013).

Ongoing Governing for Us Rhetoric

The federal LNP attempts to command the national respect by communicating with a strong rhetorical flourish. It is often populist in style and often directed at the foundations of Labor’s support base.

Despite high levels of market-led economic growth, Labor’s potential support base has been enlarged by a growing income divide.

Coalition government permits both conservative and moderate forces to use a differing style of communication for differently targeted communities. I noticed this in reporting on the differing style of LNP campaigning well-choreographed but unsuccessful campaigns for Braddon and Longman on 28 July 2018.

The moderate LNP wing still eulogises market ideology with varying degrees of liberalism at a personal level.

On one hand, there are new-found rights to sexual and personal identity in a more complex multi-cultural society.

This tolerance co-exists with the cruel liberalism of the workplace in lax labour laws, the drift towards regressive taxation, systematic tax avoidance as well as Scott Morrison’s own tax packages from the 2018 budget favouring corporate giants and elite families.

The conservative wings of the LNP are strong on Australian jingoism in migration policy, militarism and stocking up international tensions through subtle interference in the domestic politics of neighbouring countries such as PNG, Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Melanesia.

The Unifying Appeal of Market Ideology?

Commitment to market ideology remains the core foundation of the federal LNP. The quarterly economic growth rates of the Turnbull Era have been generally impressive.

Over-commitment to market ideology has been accompanied by inevitable social stresses.

Falling real wages for lower income workers co-exists with million-dollar median housing prices and social pressures to make impulsive purchases on credit. The latest smart phone is always so essential even if the good times are interrupted by faulty National Broadband Networks generated by cost-cutting in the delivery of new infrastructure since 2013.

The electorate is not particularly at ease with market ideology which was not the preferred option for federation era leaders. Now the real beneficiaries of discontent are the far-right parties and the conservative wings of both arms of the federal coalition.

As the leadership spill week dawned, the Ipsos Poll showed a 19 per cent primary vote for One Nation and other right-wing parties (Financial Review 20 August 2018).

Time for a Paler Version of Australian Jingoism?

Hopefully, the arrival of Scott Morrison will spare Australia from the worst excesses of a Peter Dutton prime ministership.

Comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry come as a hopeful sign that some sweeteners are ahead in our productive economic relationships with China:

Beijing is looking forward to developing a good relationship with Australia’s new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

“We congratulate him on his election,” the spokesman said, answering a question from The Australian.

“China’s policy towards the relationship with Australia has always been consistent and clear”.

“A healthy and stable relationship is not only good for the two countries but also good for the regional and global peace, stability and prosperity.

“We look forward to working together with Australia to further develop the relationship in the right direction.”

The comments come as relations between Australia and China came under new pressure following the federal Government’s decision to effectively ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from supplying equipment for Australia’s 5G network.

China did not comment on the infighting which led to the resignation of Malcolm Turnbull, but the election of Scott Morrison as his successor paves the way for a better relationship with China than if former home affairs minister Peter Dutton had been elected.

China’s Global Times this week called Mr Dutton a “semi Trump” who had been described as a racist.

A Dutton government could have presented new challenges for the relationship given his more conservative stance.

As DFAT staff continue their splendid professional work, criticisms of the excesses of the Trump Administration are completely absent from speeches and press releases of even the more progressive Turnbull era ministers. However, even Scott Morrison had to be more sceptical about President Trump’s trade war strategies with China and Europe when pressed by journalists for impromptu comments.

Ministers from both factions of the federal LNP always eulogise the Trump Administration in public. US and associated allied intelligence services would be aware of their real private opinions. Living Beyond the Pale carries new meaning in an electronic age.

Attending the annual meeting of the policy arm of the Australia United States Ministerial Council (AUSMIN) both Julie Bishop and Marise Payne offered crucial support to the Trump Administration at a door-stop interview in Palo Alto, California:

JULIE BISHOP: Well if you look back over the last 18 months we have a very strong working relationship with the Trump Administration. We have had that from the outset. We are in constant contact with the Trump Administration, with the White House and we’re working very closely with all levels of government and we’re seeing the results of that very close cooperation. The Prime Minister has a good working relationship with President Trump—they speak often. I know Marise speaks often to her counterpart Secretary Mattis, and I’ve developed a very strong friendship with Secretary Pompeo. So we’re continuing to work closely on a whole range of issues. The importance of this Australia-US Ministerial meeting was that we were able to articulate areas of cooperation and collaboration, as Marise said. We have a joint work program that Australia and the United States is working on together to achieve peace and further prosperity in our region. So it’s a very close and deep relationship at the moment.

Minister Payne was keen to deepen strategic relationships with the US Global Alliance at the AUSMIN Forum:

MARISE PAYNE: This has been a very productive couple of days with Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo. Both of them opened their remarks with observations about 100 years of mateship. So that message about the depth, the history and the breadth of the alliance is not lost on any of us in the engagements we’ve had over the past two days. They’ve been very valuable opportunities to talk around cooperation, collaboration, particularly the work that we do together military to military both in the region, here in the United States and more broadly. We’re of course both engaged in key missions in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The United States is very supportive of our engagement in the Philippines, particularly in terms of our counter-terrorism work after the siege of Marawi last year. So the opportunity to consolidate those efforts of cooperation and collaboration, develop further habits of cooperation, as we were reminded is a very important one, and it’s certainly one we’ve taken advantage of in the last two days.

This cosy rhetoric from two of Australia’s key leaders makes the path towards a more independent Australia extremely difficult in the future. What can be done to smooth the path towards a more independent Australia under the just announced ministerial mix?


Barriers to Change Ahead

During a likely honeymoon period of the Morrison Government, political progressives on both sides of the aisles could assist in defusing the perennial divisive issues facing a relatively successful market economy.

Alternatives to budgetary debt levels, energy transition problems, Trump Era trading and investment strategies need public discussion with the support of parliamentary committees and academic think-tanks of varying persuasions.

Administrative law changes to raise the standard for the registration of fringe parties and their ruthless use of the preferential voting system can attract some bipartisan support.

An early federal election needs to be anticipated. This would eliminate the need for by-elections in Wentworth and other key seats.

Should Bill Shorten become Prime Minister, the remnants of the conservative wings of the federal LNP can be expected to re-emerge with a vengeance.

Tony Abbott made real headway against the Rudd Government as it struggled with the worst days of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Like Robert Menzies of old in 1942, Tony Abbott showed scant concern for Australia’s recovery from the GFC.

While mainstream leaders may have overlooked the need for independent foreign policies, the value of Australia as a captive strategic ally has not been overlooked by the Trump Administration. Our future within the US global alliance has been well defined at a recent meeting of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Indo-Pacific Forum in Washington DC on 30 July 2018:

Key members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, will address the US Chamber of Commerce’s Indo-Pacific Forum on Monday (Monday 11.30pm AEST).

Pompeo will deliver a keynote speech titled “America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision”.

It comes as the region braces for a potential US-China trade war, Trump slapping tariffs on allies and his pursuit of bilateral trade deals with Japan and other nations after pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Pompeo flagged the importance of the US Chamber of Commerce speech at last week’s annual Australia-US Ministerial (AUSMIN) meetings in California with US Defense Secretary General James Mattis, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne.

The return of an All the Way with the USA Formula under the Trump Administration takes Australia back to the Cold War Strategies of the 1950s with added financial commitment by Australia for the defence equipment needed for the military containment of our most profitable trading and investment partner.

The need for political mobilisation in Australia has never been greater. In this fractured political environment, the old progressive commitment to become more politically active might be diverted by campaigns from the Greens to defeat Labor members in inner-city electorates.

Working for change within Labor is surely a more productive outlet for political activists if the minority status of the Gillard Government is to be avoided.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalisation.


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  1. Rusty

    The Libs don’t want an early election Dennis, because they need to show they’re on our side and other stale nostrums going back to Hokey-Hoary Howard times. It’s a wonder they don’t coin a very original motto as an election approaches: “We are Aussies too, and we CARE about YOUSE”. Maybe add “OI OI OI” in really problem electorates where large numbers are older or unemployed. The Libs, folk who care for the battler farmers, who champion the less well-off and, more relevantly, must stop Labor from gaining a victory in areas like Dickson and Corangamite.

  2. Mia

    Last week’s political patch up is hardly generational change.
    Thanks for this portrayal of Liberal populism.
    Even the blokie nickname ‘ScoMo’ is a problem for me.
    The country needs a federal election now to clear the air and move forward.

  3. Lalnama

    Tha greatest damage last week was to the Australian political system
    What took place in Federal Parliament last week was a total disregard for the well being of Australians & Australia
    The only way forward is to have a general election now
    Hopefully Labour will win . I can’t see how they won’t.
    The Liberal Coalition needs to look in on itself & decide on their future direction & the policies they wish to present to the Australian people , in the interests of all of us
    No matter what you always need a good opposition.
    Great & timely article Denis

  4. Patrick

    I thought that Malcolm Turnbull might hold off on his resignation from parliament to avoid a messy by-election. Now that the seat of Wentworth is being vacated quite soon, I still think that the Labor Movement should mobilise for an early election. If the Victorian state election date is set for 24 November, there is still time for a snap election in October which can mob up any vacated seats to avoid a by-election swing as in Longman.

  5. Zathras

    With the latest change I suppose good government will start now.

    In the end it’s the same dog but just different fleas.

    From “The Shovel” – New Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government is 100% focused on the concerns and issues of his government.

    Speaking on radio this morning, Mr Morrison said he and his party were totally committed to the day-to-day concerns of ordinary backbenchers. “We know people aren’t sitting around talking about intangible issues like climate change or trade. They’re interested in real things, like personal vendettas and petty party bullshit. That’s what we’ll be focused on”.

    Mr Morrison said cost of living pressures were a particular concern to the ordinary Aussies he spoke to. “I’m hearing it a lot. I’ve spoken to several people who have no idea how they’ll pay off their mortgages if they lose their $200k parliamentary salaries. I want to say to those people, ‘We’re listening’”.

    Above all, Mr Morrison said would focus on jobs. “My job. Tony’s job. Peter’s job. We’re all about jobs”.

  6. Tessa_M

    A strong Yes to political activism to renew the Labor Left. Thanks for your interpretation, Denis.

  7. Paul

    What an uninspiring week in Australian politics! ! !

    Time to mix it up a bit politicians. Let’s get some real passion, motivation for change and make this planet and country better than it is.

    There’s no planet B.

    Thanks for an excellent article Denis.

  8. James Robo

    The Conservatives have reformed an Australian working class but the far-right has weakened its thunder. Mainstream Liberals want us all to be obedient consumers who greet elites by repeating colourful nicknames constructed by mainstream news networks.

  9. Matters Not


    An early federal election needs to be anticipated.

    And then quickly dismissed as being somewhat fanciful. The notion that the LNP is in danger of losing control of the HOR any time soon is a nonsense. Can you imagine any of McGowan, Sharkie and Katter, suddenly deciding they want to face the electors via crossing the floor in a crucial vote is incredible because it just isn’t going to happen.

    Morrison needs time – and plenty of it – so he can (re)build a current unappealing brand. And that’s no easy task.

    It’s not the Opposition who decides when an election will be called but the Government – in particular the Prime Minister with the co-operation of the Governor General.

  10. Zara

    Denis, thank you for a thought provoking commentary on the Australian political situation. Bring on a federal election and the Australian people will be able to have a say on the latest antics.

  11. zara

    Denis, thank you for your thought provoking article. Looking forward to the next election.

  12. Chris

    Our nation is still in crisis. Changing the deck-chairs by the Coalition in the new ministry is hardly real generational change.

    Where are the musical groups to re-focus our national politics away from power trips and personality rivalries.

  13. Peter F

    Turmoil in Australian politics started approximately a decade ago. Tony Abbott became leader of the Liberal Party on 1.12.09.

    This is NOT a coincidence.

  14. Patrick

    Contrary to the popular assumption, Australian society and its political processes are very disciplined. Our country contains many aspects of a colonial society which has lasted beyond its due date.

    Leaders are closely monitored by our own intelligence services the Five Eyes Network, Mossak and many others.

    The clearance for British nuclear testing in Australia commenced even under the Chifley Government and proceeded at break-neck speed under Robert Menzies.

    Released archives confirm that such matters were not even cleared by Cabinet at least during the Chifley Government.

    Strategic leaders like the attendees at AUSMIN Meetings who are mentioned in the article all toe the US Alliance Line even if it not their personal opinion.

    But colleagues and intelligence services are always aware of the private opinions of their colleagues on both sides of Parliament (

    Developments in the release of Wikileak’s documents are available online ( The ongoing saga is well covered by ABC News Services.

    What is also concerning is the extent to which employers in non-classified jobs are able to pay for searches of Facebook comments and perhaps private emails of applicants on their short-lists for employment. The latter may require additional search fees and can be completed outside of Australian legal jurisdiction.

    In our larger academic institutions, there is only a qualified right to privacy even on internal email networks. The internal email addresses of every student and staff member are known as are details of library loans, research projects and archival material requested if administrative searches are persistent enough and justified on security grounds or office politics with a vengeance.

    These processes control dissent and interfere with career paths in all sectors of society.

    Mainstream opposition parties become over-cautious in working for change in unjust structures which carry no real threats to national security.

    It is alarming that the US Chamber of Commerce has a plan for Australia’s future when the LNP does not really care a jot about long-term planning which is a priized priority in countries like Japan, Singapore, Germany and Sweden which are hardly global security risks (

    I thought there might have been a typo in the article but the Indo-Pacific Forum on 30 July 2018 was in fact convened by the US Chamber of Commerce and not the US Department of Commerce. The latter has its own global intelligence network that is supported by satellite eaves-dropping and perhaps our own Pine Gap Base.

    The LNP is indeed a major security risk with its leadership antics and its concern about surviving the next election. That opportunism is hardly in the ANZAC spirit of service to country which has universal respect. While LNP leaders played politics to talk up brave spirit of shop-keepers in The Forgotten People Broadcast, those Japanese submarines caused havoc in Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942.

  15. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Robert Menzies broadcasts on behalf of the Forgotten People commenced on the Macquarie Radio Network at the height of Australia’s wartime emergency on 22 May 1942.

    ABC News to its credit paraphrased the first speech on the 75th Anniversary of the Address on 22 May 2017:

    The epic address is on the Liberals.Net site:

    Federal Labor was at zenith of its political influence under the leadership of John Curtin in 1942 in a nation in real peril of invasion from Japan.This was confirmed by the landslide victory for Labor at the wartime election in 1943.

    Menzies knew that Labor had captured the imagination of the nation and feared that LNP influence might be lost permanently.

    “You may say to me, “Why bring this matter up at this stage when we are fighting a war, the result of which we are all equally concerned?” My answer is that I am bringing it up because under the pressure of war we may, if we are not careful – if we are not as thoughtful as the times will permit us to be – inflict a fatal injury upon our own backbone”.

    Menzies’ solution was to revive the stabilizing influence of the Middle Classes who would build a national consensus through a coalition of conservative parties that transcended the old Whig-Tory Divide in British society. He foreshadowed a classless society under the patronage one set of values.

    Our current LNP coalition still acts out these hopes. It is for the wider Labor Movement to point out the limits of such political visions in a complex technological age dominated by globalized corporate giants.

    The current cult of colouurful nicknames for our LNP leaders from ScoMo to Dutto does not make them one of us. When the nicknames are transmitted in the headlines of The Weekend Australian, the exercise is particularly nauseating.

    Chipping away at the LNP’s ongoing elitism might commence with a full report on Peter Dutton’s absence from Cabinet today and his attendance at the Five Eyes Forum, possibly on the Gold Coast.

    Let’s see how much coverage of this event will appear in tomorrow’s Australian Newspaper.

    Background Article from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute:

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