Catching a few minutes of Alan Jones this morning while doing some stretching before getting to the keyboard, he responded to a caller who slagged Julie Bishop as a traitor and backstabber. Alan wanted to be fair to Bishop although the thought the display on Channel 9 was a very bad look (I didn’t see it) and he said in her defence that she made some favourable comments on Abbott. Speaking as his deputy she said he worked well with the Cabinet and was a good Chairman of it (one of Hawke’s strengths was the consensual way he ran the Cabinet).
Regarding the election in Warringah Jones noted that the electorate voted overwhelmingly for same sex marriage and is full of doctors wives and young people who are obsessed with climate change. That reminded me of the breakfast event that Abbott held regularly for the party faithful. I attended one where John Anderson was the guest speaker (he is a story in himself, see the Australian magazine two weeks ago).
At some stage a man stood up to address a question to Abbott. This was a rude and aggressive confrontational statement from a party member essentially condemning Abbott for being out of step on same sex marriage. The implication was that Abbott was not the man to represent the electorate or indeed to represent Australia as a leader. Abbott replied in civil tones that he respected the opinion of same-sex protagonists and indeed he initiated the plebiscite to decide the issue. The matter was not discussed further and questions on other matters came up, addressed mostly to John Anderson.
The point is that Abbott’s problem was not so much the 2000 or so GetUp volunteers who descended on the electorate but the body of opinion in his own party on same sex marriage and climate change, both of which a visceral and bitterly divisive issues. Jones made the point that Abbott would have romped home in any other safe Liberal electorate apart from the few that are full of “doctors wives” like his own electorate and Wentworth.
Last night Paul Kelly and Caroline Overington spoke at the Sydney Institute. I took a lot of notes but I don’t have time to write them up, mostly good stuff that we have been reading from the better commentators. Something from Paul Kelly struck me, he is full of admiration for Morrison and his comments are worth writing up at more length but I don’t have time. The one I will mention is the view that Morrison will craft a new position for the Liberal Party that gets past the confrontation between the progressive and conservative forces due to the departure of Abbott on one side and Turnbull, Pyne, Bishop etc on the other.
This will put him in a position to exploit the chronic problem of the ALP in relation to the Greens. I will say a bit more about this because I have been thinking on the same lines. Moderate forces in the ALP have been silent on climate issues – Ferguson is the only person of note who I have heard saying anything sensible on the topic. They can only win with Green preferences (80+%) and their primary vote is critically low. They cannot afford any divisive debate in the party ranks for fear of upsetting the greens and threatening the preference flow and precipitating the defection of members to the Green party.
In my view one of the two killer argument that the Liberals could have used in recent years to win rafts of votes from Labor in their heartland was the power price issue. The other is border security and concerns about culturally incompatible newcomers. With the fall of Abbott they could not pick up climate and power price stick because Turnbull was effectively a Labor man in the wrong party and he was determined to pursue the climate lunacy that generates the power prices.
Here is Kelly’s key argument. Morrison can exploit the Labor dilemma in a way that neither Turnbull nor Abbott could. Of course Turnbull could not because he is committed to the same climate line on climate as the ALP and the Greens. Abbott on the other hand took up the carbon tax and power issue and won a landslide! The Senate and Clive Palmer sank his plan to lower the RET. But with Turnbull and other wets working against him he did not have the clear air in his own party to exploit the potentially fatal weakness of the ALP. Then Turnbull and the backstabbers got rid of him just before the byelection in WA that the Liberals would have won to bolster his position.
Anyway given the dilemma of the ALP there is every chance that they will get at least two terms in opposition so their policies can be better costed next time around!