Australia's latest Prime Minister

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(Mark David Cartoons / @mdavidcartoons)

After three days of fighting to the death and destroying a Prime Minister, the Liberal Party has a new leader: Scott Morrison. 

He won 45 votes to 40.

Chief reactionary Peter Dutton did not, despite his protestations, have the numbers. Julie Bishop did not survive the first round and will leave the Parliament. So too will Malcolm Turnbull. The only question is whether they will resign immediately and cause by-elections, or hang on till the next election, whenever that is.  

At his farewell press conference, Turnbull gave the strong impression he would resign very soon.

A by-election in his seat of Wentworth might see Labor or the Greens win and the Morrison Government lose its majority in Parliament. They could still govern with the support of the more conservative crossbenchers, although we need to wait and see what their position is on the new Government.

If so it may be this dysfunctional, factionally riven incompetent government can survive until May next year. Certainly, those who threatened retribution if Dutton became Liberal leader will now stay on the Government benches. This means Scott Morrison and the Government he fashions from the walking wounded and brain dead in the wreckage of the last three days will most likely have the confidence of the House when it returns on 10 September.

In a further rebuff to the reactionary faction, Josh Frydenberg was elected deputy in the first round, with an absolute majority of the 85 votes.

Morrison was elected because he was not Peter Dutton. In saying that, however, it is clear he comes from the same gene pool as the Duttonistas. He made his name as the Immigration Minister, running the concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru, and brutalising refugees and asylum seekers.

As Social Services Minister for nine months under Tony Abbott, he attacked poor people. As Treasurer under Malcolm Turnbull, his whole focus has been on attacking workers and the poor, and shifting wealth to capital. He was, until his elevation today, the Treasurer for the big end of town.

He will, like Turnbull, be a Prime Minister for capital. He is a big fan of discredited trickle-down economics. It was Morrison who led the charge for the company tax cuts to big business, based on the myth that this will produce a nirvana for workers of secure jobs and increased wages.

The Senate rejected this signature policy of his. The Party rejected the National Energy Guarantee, the signature policy of his Deputy, Josh Frydenberg.

Morrison will not be able to address the fundamental issue at the heart of the problem for neoliberal governments — neoliberalism. While the Liberal Party has narrowly rejected having Peter Dutton as leader yielding a chainsaw on workers, they have elected a man with what they hope is a scalpel to take to the body of the working class.

Past experience suggests he will have as little ability to sell his tickle down message to workers as Prime Minister as he had as Treasurer. Working Australians want secure full time well-paid jobs and proper health, education and transport services. Capital want profit, and the crisis of profitability that exists globally and in Australia means that wages, jobs and services are constantly under attack from their Governments.

On top of Morrison being unable to achieve the impossible and make stagnating wages, insecure work and declining public services attractive enough for workers to vote for him and his Coalition, he also has the problem that 40 of his own party wanted Peter Dutton. The forces of reaction are not going to disappear. Having destroyed one Prime Minister, they could do the same to his successor. 

That will happen anyway at the next election. It seems clear to me that the Coalition, through its familial slaughter over the last few days, has killed whatever slim chance it had of winning the next election, whenever that might be.

The pretence of unity behind Morrison will not pass any pub test given the deep divisions in the Liberal Party. In these circumstances the, 1% (other than, perhaps, the Murdoch empire) will turn to the Labor Party as their second eleven for stability and a dose of class collaboration to lock in workers to a subtler neoliberal agenda.

The new Morrison Government might limp along until May next year, pretending they love each other, and easing back on the attacks on workers and services. But their real agenda remains – to ensure capital is very profitable – needs be at our expense.

The shit sandwich remains the same. Only the chief salesman has changed.

May 2019 is too far away. If we want real progress in Australia, it is time for the Australian people to enter on to history’s stage, and sweep this rabble away — and in doing that, make sure the new Labor government reflects our wishes, not those of capital.

You can follow Canberra correspondent John Passant on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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