In this week's column, John Wren takes a look at more Liberal blunders, the unravelling of the Nationals and encourages striking students.
THE LIBERAL PARTY omnishambles has continued unabated since my column last week. It’s actually getting hard to keep up. I’m being forced to keep a notebook with comment-worthy events noted down as they happen. Otherwise, I’ll forget. If it wasn’t happening before my own eyes, I’d struggle to believe a government could be so inept.
“We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated to ensure that their overall place is maintained.”
Let’s pull this apart. As usual with Morrison, everything is about competition. What he says here is that if women rise, then men must fall (comparatively). Apparently, there is only limited seating on the bus. This is a similar argument to the one he used during the same-sex marriage debate. He argued that gay marriage would somehow downgrade “traditional marriage”. It’s also the same moronic logic that he used during the Medevac debate, stating that asylum seekers brought to Australia for hospital treatment would push Australians down the list for treatment — a claim utterly rebuked by Australian hospitals.
Australian conservative Christian PM Scott Morrison’s government refuses to sign on to UN International Women’s Day Statement.https://t.co/tG8YGVCCAf— Brent Allpress (@BrentAllpress) March 14, 2019
But the second sentence is even more concerning. If everybody rises, what he is saying is that as women rise, so, too, will men and that women’s “overall place” will remain (that is, secondary to men). In Morrison’s medieval mind, women will always be subservient to men. Welcome to The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s no wonder the Liberal Party has problems attracting women. It also explains why Julie Bishop was never given a guernsey to lead the party, despite her being the Liberal’s only chance of beating Labor in the May election.
On the same day, the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, confessed on national TV that low wages growth was a “deliberate design feature of their economic architecture” of his Liberal-led Government. Gobsmacking honesty from Cormann who has a habit of putting his metaphorical foot in his mouth. It is no secret that wages growth under the coalition has been near zero over their time in office.
To put this in context, if CPI is running at 3%, this means that Australians, on average, have lost about 19.5% of their real wages value during this Government’s tenure. While this has been happening, of course, prices have been going up by 3% CPI per year, so Australians are earning almost 20% less yet paying nearly 20% more for their goods and services than they were when Labor was last in power. This will explain why consumer confidence has tanked and the economy is now in a per capita recession. This is the government you voted for, Australia. Do you think you deserve it?
To rub salt into our wounds the next day, newly-minted Cabinet Member Linda Reynolds was interviewed on TV and asked about Cormann’s comment (his name wasn’t mentioned). Her knee-jerk response was to say it was a lie of Bill Shorten’s. When the interviewer told her it was Cormann’s statement, she abruptly changed her stance saying she agreed with it. What a muppet. Reynolds was rushed into her new position as Minister for Defence Industry after Steve Ciobo’s resignation the week before.
Morrison, under intense pressure to appear female friendly (see above), gave her the role so that he can have another woman in cabinet. She is clearly not up to the task. Fortunately, she’ll only be in the position for another month or so.
The rats are leaving the sinking ship. It was reported that another moderate, Craig Laundy, wants to leave politics but has been asked to hang around until a star candidate can be found for his marginal electorate of Reid. The candidature had been earmarked for former NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas, but it has transpired that he has turned the job down. This will be a very challenging preselection for the Liberal Party. Reid is a marginal Liberal seat (1.36%). It has historically been almost continually Labor-held before Laundy won it for the Libs in 2013. Under the current polling, it is almost a certainty to return to Labor in May.
Which begs the question — why would a star recruit want to contest a seat they will almost certainly lose? And even if they surprise everyone with a win, they're likely to be in opposition on the backbenches. Being a candidate for a major party is a tough gig. It involves near-round the clock activity, significant personal investment of reputation and money. It’s highly disruptive on family life. It often requires a leave of absence from private employment (and, if publicly employed, a resignation). It will be nigh impossible for the Libs to find a high-profile candidate for Reid. Good luck, I say.
And finally, the Nationals. What can be said about this motley crew? Ostensibly a party that is meant to represent rural folk, they have sold their soul to the coal lobby. Their support is haemorrhaging. Michael McCormack has been an uninspiring leader since he took over the role from Barnaby Joyce when Joyce was dumped from Parliament over his then dual NZ citizenship. Joyce, in turn, this week announced he was ready to step back into the leadership role stating bizarrely that he was the “elected Deputy PM” of Australia. Utter nonsense. When he was re-elected in the New England by-election, he was a mere backbencher. Regardless, under the Westminster system, we voters do not determine who is PM or Deputy PM, that’s the work of the party room. Presumably, if Joyce is still the Deputy PM, then Turnbull must still be PM. Barnaby is nuts.
Barnaby Joyce declared himself the "elected deputy PM" and signalled interest in regaining the Nationals leadership. While MPs declared support for party leader Michael McCormack, do questions of confidence remain? @michellegrattan talks #auspol Full vid: https://t.co/q0Kf3i29n7 pic.twitter.com/UJbCFkdNFf— UniversityofCanberra (@UniCanberra) March 15, 2019
Well known for receiving “donations” from coal-magnate Gina Rinehart, Joyce announced that the Government should be building coal-fired power stations in Queensland. This was strongly backed by fellow Nat Matt Canavan (brother of former Peabody (coal) Mining CEO John Canavan). These statements are in direct conflict with the Coalition party room, that has decided to keep its unpalatable love for coal hidden until after the election. Building coal power plants in Queensland is probably a vote winner in a few northern Queensland seats, but would be terminal in the big southern states.
What this lack of party discipline underscores though is the realisation amongst the Nationals that they have tethered themselves to the wrong horse who has led them to the political knackery. In opposition, the Liberals and Nationals have no need for each other. As I understand it, the Coalition agreement only applies when the parties are in government. The Nats know the election is lost, so they are positioning themselves for opposition. They don’t give a toss about the impact they have on their Coalition partners anymore. Indeed, they face an existential crisis. What is the point of the Nationals?
And good luck to all the school kids on climate strike yesterday. This issue has galvanised the kids and anything that engages them politically is worthwhile in my book. The future is theirs, not ours — they deserve a voice. There is truly nothing the Liberals fear more than a massive politically-engaged youth vote that will almost be universally progressive. Stay strong, comrades, Australia is with you. Do us proud!
You can follow John Wren on Twitter @JohnWren1950.
Think we should be at school? Today’s climate strike is the biggest lesson of all | Greta Thunberg and others https://t.co/eRKWqVlLSf— The Guardian (@guardian) March 15, 2019
BREAKING: 150,000 people lined the streets in #climatestrike marches in 60+ locations around Australia today!! Do you hear us @ScottMorrisonMP @billshortenmp? Our movement is growing! Read our release here > https://t.co/kZQTAw1slK #climatestrike #ss4c #StopAdani pic.twitter.com/sCbznJoA7H— School Strike 4 Climate (@StrikeClimate) March 15, 2019
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