November 3rd 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY What religious freedoms does the Government propose removing?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Regions are in no state to accommodate immigrants

CANBERRA OBSERVED Wentworth swing least of Morrison's worries

CLIMATE CHANGE Good science contradicts IPCC's two-degree panic

GENDER POLITICS Inquiry needed into why so many kids are identifying as transgender

LIFE ISSUES Truth the first casualty of Victorian bubble-zone law

LIFE ISSUES Culture of death lands killer blow on Queensland

FOREIGN AFFAIRS High stakes in U.S. midterm elections

FREE SPEECH Are university chiefs growing backbones?

HISTORY Chicago: City of the Big Shoulders

LITERATURE AND CULTURE

EUTHANASIA Making death easier makes life harder

RECENT RELEASE BOOK

MUSIC Recipe for groove: pulse is best sign of life

CINEMA First Man; Ladies in Black; Bad Times at the El Royale

BOOK REVIEW FDR's bad example from Depression era

BOOK REVIEW Cartoon hero puts it in black and white

HUMOUR

LETTERS

VICTORIAN ELECTION The left gets ready to scream 'haters'

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
Wentworth swing least of Morrison's worries


by NW Contributor

News Weekly, November 3, 2018

The blame game over who is responsible for the calamitous result in Wentworth will continue for some time, but the Coalition faces a more existential question over the seemingly impossible task of how to marry the diverse constituencies represented by the Liberal and National parties.

A swing to die for

Those constituencies, which include its progressive and conservative bedfellows, and its inner-city and regional bases, appear to be irreconcilable on a growing number of issues, ranging from religious freedom to asylum seekers to the environment.

The first take on the Wentworth result is that it was a visceral display of voter anger for not just one but two Liberal Party leadership coups, compounded by shockingly poor political judgement in the week preceding the by-election and self-indulgence of its MPs.

These factors, combined with the ousting of a popular local member in Malcolm Turnbull, meant that a large swing against the Government was, in the end, inevitable. It should be noted that Mr Turnbull had lifted the Liberal vote in Wentworth from 53 per cent to almost 69 per cent over five elections, during which the result in Wentworth was regularly at odds with the national swing.

Tit-for-tat squabbling over Mr Turnbull’s stubborn failure to support Liberal candidate Dave Sharma – even with a few words in a tweet – will go on as well.

Critics of Mr Turnbull say his churlishness was in fact a key factor in the huge swing and that he could at least have tried to muster his personal following to help the Liberal candidate get over the line.

Supporters of Mr Turnbull, on the other hand, ask why should he have lifted a finger to help the party, after he had spent a million or more of his own money to help at the last election only to see his colleagues dump him mid-term.

The more fundamental issue however is that Coalition policy is unable to accom­modate the interests of its different constituencies. Take climate change policy, for example. According to reports after the Wentworth poll, a key factor in the huge swing against the Government was its climate change policy (or absence thereof).

Nothing better illustrates the diabolical situation the Liberal-National parties now face following the decision to ditch the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) in the final days of Mr Turnbull’s leadership.

The NEG policy was an attempt to walk the line between reducing carbon emissions, keeping a lid on power prices, and preparing for a changing energy network of more solar, wind and other technologies.

Where ‘saving the planet’ does count

Voters in affluent inner-city electorates like Wentworth do want government “action” on climate change, and are appalled that its elected representatives are “walking away” from their responsibility to save the planet. If electricity prices go up, this is a small price to pay for caring for the environment.

Renewable energy is popular with these voters and solar panels are a must-have item for pretty much anyone who can afford them.

However, voters in many regional electorates see the world very differently. They want jobs for their kids, including coal-mining jobs, which pay well.

Similarly, voters in both the bush and in outer metropolitan electorates are against any climate policy that will drive up electricity prices prohibitively.

And climate change policy is just one litmus test of this divide.

Menzies Research Centre executive director Nick Cater summed up the Wentworth dilemma thus: “Barristers outnumber plumbers by almost two to one in the seat of Wentworth. It is home to 210 surgeons but not a single animal slaughterer. If you live in Wentworth, your meat is boned elsewhere.”

Writing in The Australian newspaper, Cater went on: “The issues that came to the fore in the Wentworth campaign – climate change, social justice, the rights of LGBTIQA+ [sic] schoolkids, children on Nauru, the future of the ABC etc – would barely nudge the dial in 90 per cent of the country.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison famously took a lump of coal into Question Time, and is now the country’s leader in large part due to division over Mr Turnbull’s climate-change policy.

Yet even Mr Morrison cannot bring himself to ditch Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement to cut carbon-dioxide emissions for fear of the backlash from the “progressive” wing of his party.

Mr Morrison has a monumental triple task over the coming months: to govern with a minority of MPs in the Parliament; to restore shattered voter confidence in his Government; and to find a unified purpose in a Coalition that is divided over key issues (the hardest task of all).




























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