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August 21st 2018 print

Philippa Martyr

Labor, the Coming Penance

The ALP deserves to win the next election. Not because they’re any better, but because the Liberal Party ate itself alive years ago with  branch-stacking, back-stabbing and a contemptuous indifference to the grass-roots. Bill Shorten and Labor's wretched crew are no more than we deserve

shorten sssh IIMy detestation of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership has been a matter of public knowledge literally since Day 1 of his Prime Ministership, when he ruined my otherwise pleasant London morning.

Being a kindly soul, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and to see if RMIT’s roving libertarian economist Professor Sinclair Davidson was perhaps on to something when he painted Turnbull as a closet conservative and quasi-libertarian. But being also a complete cynic, I opened a running book on the duration of the Turnbull premiership, the only fault of which was that it was a tad premature in its speculations.

I mentally gave Turnbull the same length of time Tony Abbott was given to redeem himself as Prime Minister, and created key performance indicators for this. Imagine my complete lack of surprise when he failed to meet almost all of them in the time specified.

Thus ended one of my most satisfying online slow-burn gags. Or so I thought. It seems that Malcolm Turnbull is determined to have more farewells than Elton John.

It’s been a standing joke in conservative circles, whenever anything completely unconnected to Tony Abbott happened, to ask what his possible role in this could be. The origins of the joke are partly lost in the mists of time, and partly completely traceable to an idiotic tweet by Tanya Plibersek.

Sadly, I am going make that joke in all seriousness. The day ‘Bill Shorten PM’ became feasible was the day Tony Abbott decided not to use his substantial electoral mandate to push ahead with major spending and tax cuts.

When he spoke to the IPA in April, 2013, before his election, Abbott promised much. I think many of us, myself included, believed him. We didn’t really care about the fringe stuff; just the major economic reforms were enough, including the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes. The boats thing was also good governance.

And he did those three things – carbon and mining tax repeal, and putting a stop to the vile trade in human flesh by predatory people smugglers between here and the Middle East. All good, and somehow the basket-case Senate – everyone’s favourite excuse for the years 2013-2015 — wasn’t able to stop him.

But he didn’t go near the economy. That first budget with Joe Hockey looked like a badly-made patchwork quilt of pointless rearrangements, suspensions of some spending, and ridiculous promises. It was not the fiscally responsible budget we had hoped for. It was, in fact, a Labor budget.

Abbott’s electoral tin ear, terror of the media, and internal office disputes didn’t really bother me, although I was a bit disappointed by the 18C washout. What did bother me was his epic betrayal of the free market principles he had espoused before the election. I have no issue with him being a son of the DLP, but he shouldn’t have pretended that he was anything other than that.

The other thing I must wax lyrical about today is another favourite theme, namely the utter baseness and lack of redeemability of the Liberal Party of Australia. The party ate itself alive years ago in branch-stacking, back-stabbing, entitlement, and complete lack of contact with the grass-roots, all of which to me are exemplified in the person of Julie Bishop. It’s beyond saving. You can’t reform it from within.

If you want to belong to a big tax-and-spend party with a right and left wing that fight like financially over-extended suburban parents, join the ALP. If you want to belong to a small, subversive, lower-taxes, lower-spending party, join the Australian Conservatives. That’s really it. Anything else is just decorative. I do have a soft spot for the Liberal Democrats, but given that they’re currently trying to legislate us to death, quite literally, that soft spot is rather limited.

I look forward to the Liberal Party being reduced to fewer seats than an SUV in the House of Representatives. Nothing will satisfy me but the complete and utter electoral annihilation of the Liberal Party, and its erasure from history. I would gladly come and toast marshmallows at the bonfire, and purchase extra-large containers of the finest Himalayan rock salt to plough into the ruined foundations of the federal secretariat at Menzies House.

The ALP deserves to win the next federal election. Not because they’re any better, but because there is just a ghost of a chance that – as in Western Australia – someone might decide to do some serious financial management.  I have been pleasantly surprised by our local Labor government in Western Australia on this front. I have no real hope that its successes will be emulated nationally, but to be honest, years of appalling decision-making under the unpainted garden gnome that is Bill Shorten is no more than we deserve.