scott morrison

With the announced non-contest of Chisholm by Julia Banks, the question is starting to be asked: could Labor keep it on track for the next X months and get themselves a landslide?

I don’t doubt Banks’s account that she was bullied and intimidated last week and before; she joined the nasty party after all. Perhaps this one-time corporate lawyer for Big Pharma (Glaxo) among others, might now have more insight into the nature and root of bourgeois power.

And surely this brave exit on principle has nothing at all to do with the likelihood that Chocolate Churchill Jesus himself could not hold Chisholm — in Melbourne’s leafy Eastern suburbs — for the Libs in 2019. We may well see a few more resignations on principle from the marginal marches in the months to come. Does this steady crumbling away, the pitter patter of tiny little political careers falling like rock, serve as the announcement of a possible landslide to Labor and other parties in 2019?

Labor will not hold its post-spill, 56-44 two-party-preferred margin for all that time; but it may well wander away and then come back to it. The pressure from the “brown right” — coal and camps — will not let up on Morrison, and Morrison’s early priorities should not fill one with confidence. The only thing more petty than the Australia pins was Morrison’s announcement that he wore it to be reminded whose side he was on. Yeah, OK. This was followed by — what, by envoys? What the hell is an envoy? To Indigenous people? The right have been telling us for a decade that we are all one people so there can’t be a treaty, etc, etc. But treaties are exactly what envoys — from the French envoi, someone or something sent — were empowered to negotiate.

It’s just nuts, designed for the petty interests of intra-Coalition deals, and the sort of thing that convinces the public that a leader isn’t serious. That may be a warning sign. Morrison is a former tourism peak body and state agency executive, and I suspect that piloting pointless untestable nonsense is most of such a person’s job description. He appears to have been an able minister. But that’s a different thing to being a leader. Admit it. “Drought envoy”, as well as being a great band name, is a little bit “Sir Prince Phillip” isn’t it? Just a little bit.

If Morrison proves to be a dud, not up to the unique role of national leader, then one presumes that after a period of rallying, the numbers would tank again as the election loomed. Up to a dozen Libs would quit, to avoid the taint of a stonking loss, thus making that loss all the more certain in that seat. If Morrison moves to the right to appease the brown right then a series of independent liberals will be running in half a dozen key seats, maybe more. They could win several of those seats, or the Greens could even take them, with a four-way split.

Yes, a lot has to go well for that to happen for Labor. And the thought of an arrogant, swaggering Labor does not fill one with confidence. Give me a hung parliament anytime. But if it did happen, then Labor could have the real possibility of six or nine years in power, even in these fractious times. That would take us to the late 2020s, and by the time the Coalition — if there were still a Coalition — was ready to return, the socio-cultural progressive drift of Australia would have continued apace. If Abbott, Abetz and Co think it’s tough to uphold social conservatism now, see what it’s like coming out of the tunnel in 2028.

By turning Turnbull’s late-stage turnaround into a potential rout, the brown right might have created a disaster far beyond a single election loss, and all based on their delusion that there’s a solid silent majority for them out there. Of course that progressive drift may not be comprehensive; indeed it may be wholly paradoxical. One could imagine that economic shifts, communal tensions etc, might spread anti-immigration, and even ethno-nationalist politics to a wide section of the population, including many progressive people.

But, barring a cataclysmic religious upheaval or similar, such people would remain progressive on gender, sexuality, free speech, and environment issues. The events of last week might constitute not a rebirth of mainstream Australian conservatism, but its suicide note.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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