December 15th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Christ child: a life lived for the whole world

WATER RESOURCES Murray-Darling management delivers the worst of both worlds

CANBERRA OBSERVED Libs fish around for explanations

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwanese agree to stick with nuclear power


VICTORIAN ELECTION Coalition collapse

ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY Mondragon Corporation: humanity at work

BREXIT December 12: D-Day for Britain's EU vote

EUTHANASIA WA Government ignores objections and lessons

TAIWAN Referendum stems homosexual tide

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Free trade and the WTO in the Trump era

MUSIC Teacher teachers: The jarring note in music courses

CLASSIC CINEMA The Adventures of Robin Hood: The one and only

BOOK REVIEW A triumph of determination

BOOK REVIEW An escape from futility and addiction



HIGHER EDUCATION Massification: it's the name of the game

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Libs fish around for explanations

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, December 15, 2018

Pessimism is pervasive inside the Morrison Government following the Victorian election, with political commentators already “calling” the coming federal election and recalcitrant MPs adding to the black mood.

Perhaps the indefatigable Scott Morrison is the only person left who believes he can turn the show around by selling the improving news on the economy and a likely return to a budget surplus for the first time in a decade.

But the Victorian election result was a brutal reminder to all federal MPs of the consequences of cutting down an elected prime minister not once but twice.

It is the Liberal brand that is in trouble.

Can the Liberals resize the net. or are they sunk?

Affluent city seats that had reliably returned Liberal MPs for decades in Victoria are now vulnerable to a voter backlash against disunity and discord.

But the Liberal woes run much deeper, because underneath lies an even more fundamental question: What does the Liberal Party stand for today?

Before exploring that issue, one factor contributing to the Liberal Party’s woes that has been largely overlooked must be stated: the Senate gridlock. Maverick senators flagrantly disregard the Government’s agenda to the point of paralysis, and when a Government cannot deliver its policies, the frustration and impotency contribute to its internal problems.

When he became PM, Tony Abbott brought in an unpopular first budget but he was never able to deliver it. If he had, the public would eventually have adjusted and both the budget and the economy would have been in even better shape than it is today: and most likely Abbott would still be prime minister.

Similarly, the Turnbull government’s legislative program had been frustrated and blocked at every turn. With little to show, that government gradually began to lose the faith of the public that it could deliver.

The Senate has forgotten its role of being a genuine house of review. That said, the Liberals problems are worse than the previous Labor government’s because the Liberals are suffering from an existential crisis of identity, not just leadership rivalry, and Parliamentary gridlock.

The conservatives and the progressives each seek to claim the mantle of the Liberal Party because they are unable to find a middle ground on key policies.

Certainly, Australia is changing. Affi­liation to churches, to service clubs and to political parties is falling away. Meanwhile, our public institutions, the schools, the universities, the ABC and so on, have become vehicles for predominantly left-wing views.

Paul Kelly, editor-at-large at The Australian, argues that the Liberals have misread the times. “They struggle to talk to their own voters because they are unsure of their core beliefs,” he wrote.

“Australia has changed dramatically and the party is being left behind. It is no longer the party of the establishment with a dominant call on the nation’s power centres and loyalties – in big business, media, finance, family homes and elite institutions. Australia is a more fragmented, tribalised, complex entity where people have competing loyalties and where Victoria is more culturally different from Queensland than two generations ago.”

While not rejecting Kelly’s premise, the conservatives argue instead that the Liberals must differentiate themselves even more – to have a more stark point of difference on policies such as energy, immigration, and social issues.

Tony Abbott told The Australian after the Victorian election fallout that Scott Morrison’s problem was that he had not differentiated himself enough from the Turnbull prime ministership. But, having been elected in part by former Turnbull supporters, how could Morrison possibly do this?

Some elements of the Liberals are hoping an election loss will jolt the party out of its malaise, but the truth is even a much smaller party room is likely to be just as divided on ideological grounds as it is now.

Trying to find a broad middle ground between the “older” Australia that still exists in many of the outer suburbs and in the regions and more affluent socially progressive inner-city voters is becoming an impossible quest.

The Liberal Party has been the most successful political party since Federation – yet it is entering its most tumultuous period.

Senate president Scott Ryan argued that seats such as Goldstein, Higgins, Menzies and Kooyong, once “the cradle of the Liberal Party”, had sent the party a strong message in Victoria.

Ryan called on the party to mend its ways and “to cast the net wide in the Menzies and Howard tradition”.

The real question is, will this net still reach a sufficient portion of an ever more diverse electorate to make meaningful unity possible?

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm