The Federal Liberal Party needs to take a long hard look at itself, because at the moment it is an absolute bloody shambles. Right now — with Peter Costello sneering ineffectually from behind cover, with Brendan Nelson leaping to the defence of Alan Stockdale, with Cory Bernardi dissing Christopher Pyne — it is right where it was a year ago, mired in leadership talk, focussed on internal sniping, split between moderates and conservatives. The Liberals are doing what they have done best since November 2007 — making themselves and their myriad of pettiness the issue, not the Government.

Crikey said back then that Australia needed a functioning Opposition, not the divided self-absorbed rubbish we were being served up. Since then, we have plunged headlong into what could be the worst economic crisis in 70 years. There has never been a greater need for our parliamentary democracy to function effectively, to keenly scrutinise how the Government is responding to the crisis and propose alternative approaches. The last thing Australia needs is an unchallenged, arrogant Labor Government coasting to re-election amid a severe downturn. The last thing we need is the rise of PM for life Kevin Chavez.

Instead from the Opposition we have destabilisation, internal brawling and incessant briefing of the media, a media happy to encourage the frenzy for its own narrow ends.

There are a few good men and women in the Coalition who are dismayed by this apparent inability of the Liberals to stay focussed on the job of Opposition for more than five minutes at a time, who try to do their jobs effectively and simply wish their colleagues would do the same. And then there’s the rest, men and women for whom the real job of politics is making trouble for their factional or personal enemies. And, of course, there’s the Member for Higgins, who simply appears to enjoy causing trouble because he can, and more significantly, because he has nothing better to do.

The Liberals have a responsibility to their party members, their supporters and all Australians to start focussing on the real enemy across the chamber, not on each other. A responsibility to the health of our national discussion in troubled times; adding constructively to it is their job. 

You have to wonder on the week’s evidence whether many in the party seriously care.

Peter Fray

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