Malcolm Turnbull

Most of the discussion of the Liberal Party council's vote to privatise the ABC last weekend has been focussed on the amateurish boneheadedness it demonstrated about the party's organisational ranks. All eyes were on the reactionary ideologues, untainted by political realities and how the party will look to the electorate when it publicly attacks one of the most trusted institutions in the country. All fair enough. Although the irony is that it was Bill Shorten and Labor who were supposed to be under threat of embarrassment from the ALP party conference, not the other lot.

The focus on the embarrassment inflicted by the party, and the land speed records set by the Prime Minister and senior ministers -- not to mention the one-time supporter of ABC privatisation, Mitch Fifield -- to distance themselves from what their own members demanded by such an overwhelming majority, isn't the full story. At a deeper level, there is congruence between the government and the Liberal Party on the ABC, not conflict. A profound intolerance of dissent and criticism has emerged on the right, and while party apparatchiks and media commentators don't have direct access to power to express that intolerance, government ministers do, and have used it.