It is easy to sympathise with PM Scott Morrison’s efforts to rebuild the Liberal Party’s broad church after the destruction and division of the Turnbull debacle. Trouble is, all one finds in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and squashed bunnies — or, in this instance, a chimera that is neither fish nor fowl
There’s a common frustration, or so it seems to me and, apparently, those voters who have lately favoured independents above Labor and Coalition candidates. On both sides of the aisle there is discontent amongst supporters. For example, the Labor Party insists that they won’t incentivise the miserable trade in human trafficking which flourished under their previous policies, frustrating and infuriuating open-borders leftists who want every refugee application approved. On the other hand, the Liberal Party insists they can be trusted with the nation’s economy, and yet their borrowing and spending has frustrated conservatives opposed to the immoral theft which is intergenerational debt.
My conservative friends hold little hope for Scott Morrison being the Liberal Party Prime Minister that Australia needs; indeed, they have almost come to accept as inevitable that in a few short months he will not be prime minister at all. They criticise his cabinet choices in particular, charging that he has spurned talents like Andrew Hastie and instead installed a collection of wan “moderates”. Morrison’s decision to recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, rather than Jerusalem in its entirety, and relocate our embassy only when unicorns parade at the announcement of a Middle East peace deal was more of the same — a bid to stake the “safe” middle ground but which actually demonstrated the rare ability to upset Jews, Muslims and Christians all at once.
Mr Morrison hasn’t briefed me on his thinking and strategy behind his various decisions, so I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and speculate he’s trying to unite the left and the right in the ‘broad church’ of the Liberal Party, as did John Howard during what now seems the golden era of Australian politics before Kevin ’07 and Australian presidential campaigns. I suspect he’s trying to compromise: give everybody a little win while steering us as best he can in a generally better direction.
It’s obviously not working. In trying to please everybody, he’s pleasing nearly nobody. John Howard managed his balancing act in an age of 24-hour news cycles and social media. Society since then has become much more polarised, punters are more opinionated and the preference of many is to look for and absord only those facts, real and faux, convenient to rationalising their feelings and already formed opinions. This is a game conservatism cannot play and win. We can’t show a photo of 1,000 people who didn’t drown at sea. But the so-called “progressives” can wholesale the tear-stained faces of children peering through a wire fence, carefully cropping their presentations to omit the open gate just out of frame. They can then claim nasty conservatives are torturing children, and that claim will be echoed and amplified by mainstream and social media. As i said, conservatives can’t win the “feelings debate”.
Polling suggests the next federal election will see an annihilation of Liberal MPs and that Bill Shorten PM is an inevitability. There is no likely path to salvation without a miracle, according to the polls and gut sentiment. How then should an unashamed Christian conservative Prime Minister lead his party and govern for the whole nation?
For my money the only chance for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to continue in that role is to completely ignore the commentary from the Opposition and its spruikers in the leftist media complex. This was the single greatest failing of prime ministers Abbot and Turnbull and now of the current PM. The leftists are never going to vote for you, Mr Morrison, so don’t go after their votes. The commentariat will never review you well, so don’t try to impress or appease them. Don’t just be yourself, don’t be merely likeable or authentic. You must also be assertive.
Given the looming disaster of the imminent election, surely it’s time to risk another approach in hope of a better outcome, rather than repeating the same approach and insanely expecting a different result. Mr Morrison needs to abandon the concessions to leftism that saw Abbot claim ISIS isn’t Islamic and Turnbull attempt to tax Australia’s tiny CO2 emissions in a pointless bid to regulate global temperatures. It’s time, in other words, to tell the media to rack off and let them shriek in their ABC/Fairfax echo chamber. What people will rally to is a clear vision for a better Australia: free of debt and over-government, free of lawfare harassing liberty, free of the march of post-modern relativism enslaving our public institutions.
Mr Morrison doesn’t need to be President Trump and could never pull off the Oval Office incumbent’s in-your-face braggadocio even if were he to try, but the silent majority of Australians are craving a similarly fearless leader who will pick the right battles and hold the line for them, unflinchingly weathering the storm of resultant hate in mainstream and social media.
What we need, in other words, is someone prepared to lose for the right reasons. We yearn for a clear choice, someone who will be pro-justice and stand firm in defence of life, liberty, family and responsibility. A prime minister who refuses to be cowed by the mob for articulating and defending what is objectively right is more likely to win supporters than one who seems bent on squaring impossible circles.
Even if this won’t save the next election, and it might or might not, such a re-positioning and declaration of principles has the potential to save the Liberal Party from total irrelevance in the wake of electoral failure. To seize the initiative and rebuild the party with a momentum away from the moral relativism of The Greens, who have the Labor Party hopelessly trapped in what is effectively a de facto coalition, would be a great result for the leadership of Scott Morrison. Even if only as Opposition leader, to demand honest conversations about the consequences of cultural compromise would be to again give Australians a clear choice at future elections while breathing fresh energy into a lukewarm party that is at the moment neither hot nor cold, fish nor fowl.
This approach could save Australian politics because the choice between the bleeding heart of confiscatory socialism and the liberty of common-sense conservatism. The polarisation of politics will not be fixed in a generation, but a conservative with conviction could end the hopelessness of competing for a compromised centre which is forever lurching further to the left.
The choices need to be stark. Mr Morrison should make them so.
Dave Pellowe is a speaker, writer & political commentator and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.