When an ABC reporter visited Morrison’s electorate, one chap said he liked Turnbull and, tellingly, Tanya Plibersek too. That’s Morrison’s challenge right there: to remind voters and colleagues alike that the days of Labor Lite are over, that there is a difference and it matters
I am not a fan of Scott Morrison. He started off well as the principal lieutenant to Tony Abbott in stopping the boats. He’s a Christian (which I personally think is good, others might not care). He opposed same-sex marriage. But, against this, he helped to bring Malcolm Turnbull to the top job. When Treasurer he imposed a discriminatory and distortive tax on the shareholders of five banks. This is simply a bad way to conduct taxation affairs and opens the door for the Labor Party to impose all manner of discriminatory and distortive taxes. And then he applied new restrictive rules on those receiving a part pension.
There were two things wrong about this. First, the new rules actually penalised those who had saved more for their retirement as against those who had saved less. Second, those penalised would have been largely Liberal voters. How’s that for political self-flagellation. Shorten and Bowen would never be so dumb. They know, for example, that their selective doing away with franking credits largely hits Liberal voters or ex-Liberal voters who have migrated to conservative fringe parties.
This all said, provisionally, depending on his policy changes, I am now going to get behind Morrison to the extent of even holding my nose and voting for wet Trent Zimmerman in North Sydney. Morrison is better than Turnbull by a country mile. Can you ever imagine the soon-to-be-ex Member for Wentworth helping to stop the boats when the going was tough? Some dumbos are asking what Turnbull did wrong. Here’s clue in two parts.
At his final press conference Turnbull made a point of giving leftie Laura Tingle the first question. You could feel the affinity between the two. The ABC sent an intrepid reporter to ask residents of Morrison’s electorate what they thought about the turn of events. One chap interviewed expressed his liking for Turnbull and, tellingly, in the same breath, for Tanya Plibersek. He brought the two together as though they were peas in a pod. Which, of course, they are.
So, the thing that Turnbull did wrong was being who he is. I don’t think that was his fault but it made him incapable of adopting and selling policies which have any chance at all of bringing estranged Liberal voters back to the fold. Immigration and energy are key but so is retirement income. Morrison has the opportunity to change course with, I assume, no inbuilt philosophical objection to popularism. I recommend Donald Trump if he needs inspiration.
He needs to materially cut immigration numbers – with the ready excuse that infrastructure has to catch up. Then he can be a good guy by showing how the government is supporting the development of the necessary infrastructure. It is such an easy sell, even for a drover’s dog, as Bill Hayden put it in another context.
He needs to get much more coal into the future energy mix. Exactly how that is done is less important than that it is done. And that a lot is made of it for jobs and prices. I recommend Tony Abbott if he needs help on how to pitch that to the electorate while excoriating Shorten at the same time.
Finally, he needs to revisit his quite awful decision to financially penalise retired Liberal voters. I recommend he talks to John Howard on how best to do that. Howard was great at ‘listening’ and changing course as required. It would be nice too if he reversed the bank tax and put meaningful company tax cuts back on the agenda; and had the skills to sell it. But even I think that would be too hard a sell in the current climate.
Politics is the art of the possible, they say. And mostly they are right. Peter Dutton is more attuned to conservative values than is Morrison. But, sadly, I doubt he could win the loyalty of the many wets among his parliamentary colleagues or win over a majority of voters in time to stymie Shorten.
We shouldn’t make any mistake about a Shorten government. This isn’t just the usual overspending and overtaxing lot whose damage can be rectified. Aiming for fifty percent renewal energy will wreak enormous damage on the Australian economy. Industries and jobs will be irretrievably lost.
Shorten is like a menacing figure in a dark alley ready to pounce. We can’t be too choosy about who is best placed to fight him off. My guess is that right now Morrison is best placed to do that. Let’s hope he proves to be a much better street fighter that Turnbull. And sensible enough to arm himself with winning policies.