How can normality return to Australian politics? Paul Dellit has found a simple answer.
No treatise upon the evolution of Liberal Party philosophy, no eminence grise in tweeds delivering weighty history laden insights as he taps the ashes from the bowl of his pipe, no long-winded reminiscences from an aged pub seer – none of these are required to understand how the Liberal Party came to be flailing about in sick dog’s breakfast.
The stomach-turning circumstances in which the Liberal Party is now mired have their origins in more recent political machinations. Before these events began to unfold, the two major political parties in Australia, Liberal and Labor, occupied the centre right and centre left segments, respectively, of the political spectrum.
Enter from stage right, John Winston ‘Broadchurch’ Howard. He was a ‘practical’ political leader, prepared to embrace any view, any prejudice, any tactic, including downright lying (as long as it could not be traced back to him) when it served his political purposes. Before he gained the Treasury Benches, we had all thought the major political parties, post the White Australia Policy, had abandoned overt redneck racism as a political stratagem. But JW’B’H used it to ingratiate himself with ‘Hansonites’ and his ‘Howard Battlers’ whom he fired up with the prospect of them losing their jobs to these ‘unAustralian’ refugees.
Enter from stage left, Kevin07. He had form as a successful political apparatchik. And he also had a kind of innocent nerdish charisma. It worked well for him, and he knew it worked well for him because he could see it every day in the polls and in the vox pops. He loved being popular. It was his drug of choice. And he loved being right. In fact, he was the only person he knew who could do things as they should be done. He didn’t have anyone in his Cabinet who had his credentials as a successful political apparatchik, so if he wanted things done right, he would just have to do them – almost all of them – himself, and he did. ‘Delegation’ was not in his management dictionary. Bottlenecks started to appear. Mistakes began to occur through inaction. The polls started to turn down. Climate policy was one of his now most unpopular, so he decided that it would have to be sacrificed. It went from being ‘the greatest moral challenge of our time’ to a victim of K07’s need to be popular. Labor had begun its poll-driven slide to the centre an possibly beyond.
Enter from under the floorboards, ‘Beaconsfield’ Bill Shorten. Bill had been a union apparatchik’s apparatchik. He and three of his sidekicks engineered the K07 coupe. Anyone without a personal agenda might have arranged a delegation to be sent to see K07 to give him the option of changing his ways to avoid losing the leadership. But K07 was not afforded that curtesy. He was unceremoniously dumped, Gillard was installed, and ‘B’BS went around backgrounding the Canberra press gallery that he would be the next leader of the Labor Party.
The Gillard interregnum was brief, but deep and meaningful. It returned Labor, briefly, to the centre left and introduced a number of long overdue landmark policies founded upon social justice principles. Gillard’s capacity to negotiate her policies through a hung Parliament rubbed salt into K07’s lacerated ego and spurred him on to launch one of the most relentless white-anting campaigns in Australian political history.
Enter, tripping, from stage far right, ‘Accidental Captain’ Tony ‘The Pom’ Abbott, Esq. in December 2009, pushed into the limelight because both the lead actor and his understudy had forgotten to learn their lines. ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq. didn’t know much about this policy business but he knew what his supporters didn’t like and how to attack it, particularly if was female (unless it was rich female and hadn’t practiced birth control). Attacking females was what he was majored in at Uni.
Exit from stage centre left, Ms. Gillard under heavy fire from K07 and ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq.
K07 had hardly made it onto the stage again before ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq. made his triumphal entrance on a deus ex machina of lies. And while all this was happening, ‘B’BS, unnoticed before, or anytime since, slid into the Labor leader’s chair. Following the same moral compass that guided him to the Labor leadership, ‘B’BS has so far exhibited the same predilection for thoughtful policy formulation as ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq. All of his energies are taken up with tracking the polls and working out what catch phrases accord with current poll sentiment.
And so to the thesis of this article.
Howard lowered the moral tone of the Liberal Party so far that it energised the far right wing neocon ideological nut jobs into believing they had a shot at the title. This elevated Abbott from his previous ‘joke candidate’ status to someone whose name could legitimately be placed on an internal Party ballot paper. After cycling through centre right incumbents Nelson and Turnbull, who were leading the Liberal Party back to an unequivocal centre right position, Abbott declared his candidacy and won only because of a stuff up in the arrangements between Turnbull and Hockey which were expected to see one of them win. After so much leadership instability, the Liberal Party was forced to rally behind Abbott’s solidly right wing banner.
Rudd set the Labor precedent for placing polls before principles which inevitably allowed Labor to drift to the more politically advantageous centre, and on some issues to the centre right. When the apparatchik’s apparatchik, ‘B’BS, settled into the leader’s chair, he found that all the necessary preparations had been made for him to slip into his poll-watching comfort zone and inevitably again allow the Labor Party to drift towards the centre. And when it became apparent to all that Abbott was a serial liar who routinely broke election promises, was incapable of competent management and was bent on implementing a hard right wing agenda which was putting him and his party offside with the electorate, ‘B’BS put his feet up and began writing zingers to go with each ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq blunder. Furthermore, it has emerged that when you have a dim witted, ‘away with the fairies’ ideologue leading, his followers are just as likely to stumble and fall. ‘B’BS is spoilt for choice. If this keeps up past the middle of this year, ‘B’BS will be able to sidle into power with lots and lots of zingers and no more than a few populist policies to show for it, which is just the way he apparently likes it. I truly hope I am 100% wrong about this and about him. I hope I have to eat my words.
So, the Liberal Party is stuck with a leader who rivals Billy McMahon as their worst ever because Howard legitimised men of the political leanings of ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq.; then Labor made it almost political suicide to dump incumbent PMs; and ‘B’BS’s drift to the centre and centre right of the political spectrum has left the Liberal Party with no where to go but the far right in company with the Tea Party and people who can see Alaska from their upstairs bedroom window.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, where the Australian mainstream live, it seems that, absent a volte-face in the political demeanour of ‘B’BS, perhaps the only immediate hope of Australian politics returning to some semblance of morality is if the Liberal Party makes the Hobson’s choice of replacing ‘AC’T’TP’A, Esq with a sentient being who has true centre right convictions. This would force the Labor Party back to its natural home at the centre left, with policies to match. We can but hope.
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