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The Murdoch media has recently made much about the need for the Liberal Party to engage in grass-roots campaigning because of the relatively low number of federal metropolitan seats which that party currently holds.  Social Action Australia (SAA) agrees with this focus on the Liberal Party returning to its roots because Australian democracy is enhanced when there is greater public participation in electoral politics.  It will be argued in this article that the Liberal Party needs to revive party branch democracy while remaining vigilant against the threat of regionalization.

By the late 1940s the Liberal Party had a strong branch structure as many recently returned defence personnel joined this relatively recently formed political party. The primary motivation for joining and participating in Liberal Party local branches was because of the recognition that the federal coalition had successfully diverted Australia from an over-bearing statist direction to which the then ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP) had been taking the nation.

Strong Liberal Party branch democracy helped it to achieve a run of twenty-three years of coalition government between 1949 and 1972 until the ALP federal electoral victory in December 1972. Malcolm Fraser as Opposition Leader in 1975 was probably endowed with the political backbone to block supply in the Senate because of the reports he received from Liberal Party branches about public discontent with the Whitlam government. This discontent was reflected in high rates of recruitment into Liberal Party branches accompanied by financial donations to the party. At the time of the ALP’s return to power in March 1983 Liberal Party membership stood at over one hundred thousand members!

The reasons for the Liberal Party’s malaise during the 1980s and 1990s were manifold. However, one of the factors which bears citing is the party’s transition from the Menzies’ tradition by supporting economic rationalism so that the voting public had no effective counter to the neo-liberalism of the Hawke-Keating era (1983 to 1996).

The decline in the Liberal Party’s fortunes during this period coincided with a shift away from party branch democracy and participation in the political process. This decline in Liberal Party branch democracy and consequent political effectiveness can be delineated in the south-eastern state of Victoria due to the impact of Liberal Party power-broker Michael Kroger. At the age of thirty in 1987, Kroger was elected Victorian state president of the Liberal Party. Under his leadership ‘reforms’ were brought in by which the state party executive unfortunately increased its role in pre-selecting parliamentary candidates at the expense of local party branches.

A ramification of Kroger’s political activities was that the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party became factionalized. Kroger’s opponents coalesced around Victorian Liberal Party parliamentary leader Jeff Kennett, who was state Opposition Leader between 1982 and 1989 and from 1991 to 1992 and who served as Victorian premier from 1992 to 1999. This factionalization of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party was either a cause or a symptom of that state branch’s ultimate decline.

Premier Kennett’s harsh neo-liberal reforms were accepted by most Victorian voters as necessary ‘tough medicine’ to overcome the colossal economic incompetence of the Cain-Kirner era (1982 to 1992) when the ALP had held office in that state. Consequently, the Kennett led coalition was comfortably returned to office in the March 1996 Victorian state election. However, due to Premier Kennett’s neglect of Victorian Liberal Party local branches during his tenure as premier he failed to discern that there was fundamental discord in regional and rural Victoria so that this government was voted out in a stunning upset in late 1999.

Jeff Kennett and Sir Joh Compared

Interestingly, the demise of the Kennett government contrasted with the political longevity of the government of Sir Johannes (’Joh’) Bjelke Petersen in the north-east state of Queensland. Sir Joh who served as premier between August 1968 and November 1987, presided over a populist government which consistently kept its ‘finger on the pulse’ with regard to public opinion.

Although Sir Joh was a quasi-authoritarian leader, he still respected party branch democracy. The Queensland premier appreciated that his initially rural based National Party branches were depositories of human resource talent which could be utilized to help maintain his political dominance. It was partly due to this political dominance that Sir Joh’s party was able to reduce the Liberals to a rump in the wake of the October 1983 state election.

This comparison between the respective Bjelke-Petersen and Kennett governments is instructive in helping explain why the former (which was also supported by a loyal and capable state public service) was able to last as long as it did. The Kennett government by contrast conspicuously failed to protect itself by utilizing its party branch structure so that this government lost a crucial component of its electoral base in its loss of government in late 1999. 

Liberal Party Factionalism

Another ramification of the reduction in party-branch democracy is rampant inter-party factionalization. While the Victorian division of the Liberal Party was bedevilled by the division between the Kennett and Kroger/Costello factions, the New South Wales Liberal Party branch is deeply split into three factions, the Moderate, the Centre-Right and the Right factions.[1]

The South Australian division of the Liberal Party has long been delineated by a division between its Moderate and Conservative factions, lasting more than fifty years. Similarly, the Queensland division of the Liberal Party in its post-1983 state was also polarized into two factions with this state branch later being absorbed into the Queensland branch of the National Party to form the Liberal National Party (LNP) in July 2008.

The Western Australian branch of the Liberal Party was also factionally divided, with the previous existence of the eponymous non-ideological Noel Chriton-Browne (NCB) faction and its opponents. This state branch is now endangered by being reduced to a mere two seats following the March 2021 state election!!

However, in the eastern island state of Tasmania, Liberal Party branch democracy is alive and well. The operation of the Hare-Clarke electoral system of proportional representation resulted in the respective factions within both the Tasmanian branches of the Liberal Party and the ALP being able to compete with each other to win parliamentary election at a state level.

Consequently, in this context, there is linkage by both parties to the Tasmanian community’s grassroots. It is therefore no surprise that the Liberal Party in Tasmania at a state level holds office and will still be viable in the future should it lose power. By contrast the Liberal Party in New South Wales, while currently holding office, is still under a fundamental threat should that state division lose the scheduled March 2023 state election due to the predominance of its three aforementioned factions.

The Need of Liberal party Internal Reform

It may be impossible to overcome factionalism within Liberal Party state branches but that does not necessarily mean that branch democracy cannot be revived at a local party level.  For example, in Victoria the apparent demise of the Kroger-Costello faction means that there is now ample opportunity for branch democracy to be revived.

The recent Victorian state election of November 26th, 2022, saw the Liberal Party increase its share of the vote in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne.  This increase in the Liberal Party vote did not translate into increased parliamentary representation because this swing occurred in safe ALP areas.

Therefore, the Victorian division of the Liberal Party should not lose heart and indeed should consequently look at internal reform. One such reform which the Victorian Liberals could contemplate undertaking would be to specifically employ paid party organisers or ‘party agents’ for areas such as the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne who would be charged with the task of developing local branches in those areas.

Similarly, it might very well be a necessity for the Victorian Liberals to have paid party agents for its regional areas who can crucially assist, but not dominate, the process of developing party branches. Indeed, there arguably could be Liberal Party agents throughout Victoria who could be allocated areas of responsibility based upon that state’s parliamentary upper house regions.

Furthermore, for both existing and new Victorian Liberal Party branches the executive positions within them should be based upon portfolios directly related to functions which will enable a seat to be won. For example, if there is to be a local branch vice-president then let the person who holds that position be responsible for recruitment activities. Such specialized responsibility might be very important if the electoral region has several ethnic groups which could be recruited to crucially assist the Victorian Liberals to win a particular seat.

It should also be pointed out that local Liberal branches anywhere in Australia could employ their own staff and/or maintain permanent offices. For example, Liberal Party branch members in the Melbourne federal electorate of Higgins could ‘pass round the hat’ to employ their own party agent with his or her own office base.

It is a disgrace that the Liberals cannot hold a ‘blue ribbon’ seat such as Higgins which takes in some of Australia’s wealthiest suburbs such as Toorak with that seat having fallen to the ALP in the May 21st, 2022, federal election! The emergence of the Greens Party as a viable contender for the seat of Higgins was a factor in the Liberals losing that seat because Greens’ Party preferences helped to deliver Higgins to the ALP.

The Liberals must be able to pre-select early and to carefully vet their candidates if they are to have any chance of winning back seats which are in their heartland. This is particularly the case if the Liberals are to win back the six seats which were won by the so-called ‘Teal’ independents in the May 2022 federal election.

The Teal Threat to the Liberal Party’s Base

The Teals are not a formalized political party as they ran as independents. However, the Teals were primarily funded by Simon Holmes a Court’s Climate 2000 organisation. The campaigns of the Teals were distinguished by their high degree of engagement with the local community. If the Liberals want to take back the House of Representatives seats which they lost to the Teals, then a combination of the Teals’ campaigning strategies and techniques would not go astray. It could be argued that the Teal electoral strategy strongly resembles the original Liberal Party post-war branch structure that delivered so much of its early success.

Although Cathy Mc Gowan was not a Teal, her successful campaign to take the north-eastern Victorian federal seat of Indi in 2013 set the template for the Teals to follow in winning seats.  From a Liberal Party perspective, the community campaigning techniques which were utilized by the Mc Gowan campaign have not been subsequently applied by the Liberals.

Similarly, Zali Steggall utilized community campaigning strategies and techniques to take former prime minister, Tony Abbott’s Sydney seat of Warringah at the May 2019 federal election. Tony Abbott’s loss of his seat was probably a blessing in disguise for the Liberals because he still could have led his party down the ‘garden path’ towards a policy of regionalization.

The Dangers of Regionalization to the Liberal Party

Regionalization is a process which has been analysed in previous SAA articles but is now briefly reviewed and defined in order to provide a critical context. The regionalization process if applied will ultimately involve the dismemberment of Australian states and their usurpation by new super regional councils which would receive direct funding from Canberra. Although the role of states was enhanced by the recent Covid crisis with the state premiers and territory chief ministers serving on the national cabinet, regionalization remains a distinct threat to the states and by extension to the Australian political system.

A future regionalization process will be a means by which political power in Australia may be reconfigured. If the Liberals lose the New South Wales state election in March 2023, then every mainland state will be held by the ALP. It is therefore a viable future scenario that with both a predominately hard- left Albanese led federal government in place and New South Wales possibly in the Labor column that the long-threatened regionalization process will commence.

There well may be elements within the federal coalition which could support regionalization out of a misplaced belief that they will be able to gain control of future regional bailiwicks as a form of compensation for having lost power at both a federal and state level. However, the recent success of the Teals demonstrates that there is a viable voting critical mass which will support an alternative socially liberal political force.

Consequently, a Teal type of political operation could well gain control of some of the future super regional councils at the expense of the Liberal Party so that its future viability could be fundamentally threatened. If the Liberals and Nationals parties are to survive into the future, then they must oppose any referendum question to recognise local government in the Constitution (the Trojan Horse for regionalisation). Peter Dutton as federal Opposition Leader would lose control of the political situation because the Liberal Party would ultimately not survive the onset of this process.

Peter Dutton: Where Preparation Meets Opportunity

It is therefore to be hoped that should there be a referendum question regarding local government recognition in the Constitution that Peter Dutton will lead the ‘no’ campaign. For Peter Dutton is a leader who is highly politically skilled. He first demonstrated his extraordinary political skill in November 2001 when he won the Queensland federal seat of Dickson from the ALP’s high-profile Cheryl Kernot. This campaign was followed by Peter Dutton successfully holding that seat since then, even though it had previously been considered to be a safe Labor seat.

Becoming a junior minister in 2004 Dutton subsequently advanced after holding the Health and Immigration portfolios under Tony Abbott before acquiring the super-ministry of Home Affairs under Malcolm Turnbull in late 2017. Even though Malcolm Turnbull gave Peter Dutton enhanced administrative power, Dutton still launched a political challenge against Prime Minister Turnbull in August 2018.

This leadership challenge cleared the way for Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg to respectively become prime minister and federal treasurer. Peter Dutton probably did not launch his ‘dark horse’ leadership challenge to become prime minister but to ensure that Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg moved into their respective positions so that with Malcolm Turnbull out of the way the federal coalition could pick up seats in Queensland.

Malcolm Turnbull was not popular in Queensland. Consequently, there was more of a chance for the coalition to win seats in that state once he had been removed. Not only did the Liberals/LNP manage to win seats in that north-eastern state, but the coalition overall won the May 2019 federal election overall due to this swing to it in Queensland. This Queensland based swing combined with the broader electorate who had become sceptical about Bill Shorten becoming prime minister which in turn ensured that the ALP did not win seats outside of Queensland to compensate for the loss of seats north of the Tweed River.

The Liberals might have faced an electoral wipe-out outside of Queensland in the event of Peter Dutton becoming prime minister in 2018 in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull’s deposition. However, Peter Dutton was intelligent enough to know that this would have been the case, so he gave his subsequent support to the Morrison/Frydenberg leadership ticket, which may have been his intention all along.

Why Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘Ghost’ Still Haunts the Liberals

Nevertheless, there was still unease among the broader Australian public about the way in which Malcolm Turnbull had been deposed so that the electorate never really took to the Morrison/Frydenberg leadership team. Consequently, despite the Morrison federal government’s adroit, if not brilliant handling of the Covid pandemic 2020-2021 crisis public unease remained concerning Australia’s national leadership. This public scepticism degenerated into hostility which resulted in the coalition being voted out of office in May 2022.

Had Malcolm Turnbull not been deposed in August 2018 then Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg may not have reaped the subsequent whirlwind of electoral hostility. This was particularly the case with Josh Frydenberg stunningly losing his once Liberal blue-ribbon seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s affluent eastern suburbs to a Teal candidate. This turn of events ultimately benefitted Peter Dutton because the way was then cleared for him to become Opposition Leader following the May 2022 federal election.

Even though Josh Frydenberg had been a conscientious member for Kooyong and his formulation and application of Job Keeper subsidy programme was instrumental in saving Australia from socio-economic disaster, both his local electorate and the broader voting community still mysteriously turned on him. However, mysteries should be delved into to be solved!

Analysis of the above scenarios concerning Josh Frydenberg and why the Teals won six federal seats in the May 2022 federal election can be traced back to the way in which Malcolm Turnbull was deposed in August 2018.  Socially liberal voters in the Liberal Party’s heartland were alienated from the Liberal Party because of the way in which Malcom Turnbull had lost office as prime minister. Therefore, had Josh Frydenberg not taken advantage of Malcolm Turnbull’s fall in 2018 then he may have held his seat in 2022.

Commentary within the Murdoch media in 2022 that Malcolm Turnbull should either resign or be expelled from the Liberal Party was from a coalition perspective, extremely ill-advised. Should Malcolm Turnbull leave the Liberal Party then the Teals will not only entrench themselves in the seats which they currently hold but they could go onto win more parliamentary seats in future federal elections.

While the Murdoch media have questioned Malcolm Turnbull’s loyalty to the Liberal Party it should be appreciated that this former prime minister’s action when in office of scrapping Tony Abbott’s White Paper on ‘federation reform’ did the Liberal Party a great service. Had Tony Abbott not been deposed in September 2015 then the Liberal Party’s future demise might have become unstoppable. This is because the onset of regionalization under Tony Abbott would have enabled a Teal type of socially liberal operation to emerge to fatally eat into the Liberal Party’s electoral base by their winning control of super regional councils.

There is still the distinct possibility that the federal coalition could move to again toy with regionalization should Tony Abbott fill the senate vacancy caused by the recent death (January 2023) of New South Wales Senator Jim Molan. With a Senator Abbott again within the federal coalition’s parliamentary ranks there might be a renewed push for the Liberals to re-engage with regionalization.

However, given the emergence of the Teals, a regionalized political regime might prove fatal to the Liberal Party so that it would be best from a coalition perspective that the New South Wales Liberals not pre-select Tony Abbott to fill the Senate casual vacancy. Let the New South Wales Liberals instead focus on generating greater grass-roots participation within their ranks so that they can remain politically viable.

Will Bad Public Policy Lead to Liberal Party Renewal?

Similarly, Peter Dutton should examine means by which he can help engineer greater membership participation within his party’s ranks if he is to have any prospect of winning the next federal election.  The contemporary question which currently requires focus is whether Peter Dutton can, given his electoral unpopularity outside of Queensland, win the next federal election for the Liberal Party?

The answer to the above question is yes! This is because the economy under Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is facing an uncertain future threat which may get worse because of the application of dubious public policy. The relatively high inflation rate that the current federal government inherited will probably unfortunately increase as a result of its policies.

The recent introduction of multi-employee agreements (‘pattern bargaining’) will help lock in the currently high inflation rate. This outcome will occur because the facilitation of higher wage rates via pattern bargaining will be offset by consequent further increasing inflation because the wage increases will not be underpinned by productivity gains.

It has been recently argued in an SAA article (‘Pattern Bargaining, NO! Enterprise Bargaining, YES!’) that the Australian union movement should seek to achieve union renewal by applying the union organising model (the organising model) in an enterprise bargaining context. The organising model is strategically designed to devolve key organising tasks to voluntary workplace delegates and other rank and file union members at a workplace level so that union effectiveness can be facilitated.

The Australian union movement’s endorsement of pattern bargaining represents a disengagement with genuine enterprise bargaining. The previous golden age of the Australian union movement which existed between the late 1900s and the early 1990s was due to a combination of external and internal factors. The external factors were the arbitral supports of the Australian industrial relations (IR) system, such as industry-wide award coverage.

However, such an external support could not have had such a beneficial impact for Australian trade unions had it not been for the internal factor of trade unionism being based upon the employment craft to which union members belonged.

The shift in Australia toward industry-based unions in the early 1990s via trade union amalgamation was therefore a profoundly de-unionising process. Although Australian unionism now languishes at just under fifteen percent of the workforce the existence of industry- based trade unions has led to a concentration of power within the ALP.

This is because amalgamated industry trade unions now form voting blocs within the Labor Party at their state and federal conferences. It is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility that industry-based trade unions could, under the aegis of the ALP, gain control of super regional councils should regionalization later be introduced.

It is therefore imperative that the Dutton led federal coalition oppose any constitutional referendum proposal to recognise local government. For if such a constitutional amendment was to be approved then the way would be cleared to legally introduce regionalization.

Political Mastery:  Where Internal and External Factors Align

Peter Dutton is a leader who possesses the political skill to align external political contexts to his advantage and this pattern would re-occur should a constitutional proposal to introduce constitutional local government recognition be opposed by him. Currently, while unemployment is low, external socio-economic conditions do not align to support Peter Dutton’s prime ministerial aspirations. However, it is detrimental to the quality of public policy in Australia for oppositions to win office based solely upon a government’s inadequacy.  Therefore, let the Liberal Party also focus on enhancing the role of its branches to complement it in its highlighting of bad government policy.

The Albanese government’s existing policies of rapidly trying to shift Australia toward energy renewables may adversely impact on Australia economically so that higher rates of unemployment will ensue by the second half of 2023. Therefore, Peter Dutton may then be on track to win the scheduled 2025 federal election.

Instead of rapidly transitioning Australia toward renewable energy and consequently driving unemployment up, the Albanese government will hopefully put the ‘horse before the cart’ by spending more on Research and Development (‘R&D’) with regard to first gaining the scientific knowledge to effectively combat human induced climate change. Because Australia’s contribution to global climate change is relatively small, time is still on this nation’s side so that there can be a more gradual shift toward energy renewables.

What is being asked of the Albanese government therefore in environmental policy is that it create the necessary scope to align external factors to Australia’s socio-economic advantage. If such a public policy balance is achieved, then the Albanese government will be able to emulate Peter Dutton in terms of aligning both internal and external factors to each other. While Peter Dutton should focus on external factors by highlighting inadequate government policy, he can also enhance internal factors to favour him by supporting greater Liberal Party branch democracy.

 

[1] The Kroger/Costello faction appears to have now dissolved due to the breakdown in the political relationship between Kroger and the former federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, with the former apparently reaching an accord with the Kennett faction.

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The 2022 federal election will most probably produce an Australian Labor Party (ALP) victory with newly elected climate change independent parliamentarians (the so-called ‘Teal’ independents) possibly holding the balance of power or at least playing a very influential role in the House of Representatives. The ‘teal’ candidates are backed (and partially funded) by Climate 200 which is organised by the businessman Simon Holmes a Court. With the Greens Party most probably holding the balance of power in the Senate after the 2022 poll a probable Albanese minority government could be in place, very possibly pursuing draconian anti-coal mining and anti-gas extraction policies which could see the Australian coal and gas industries significantly scaled back or even closed down, if not immediately, then in the near future.

The abrupt closures of the Australian coal mining and gas extraction sectors will be a socio-economic catastrophe because this will not only terminate two of Australia’s most lucrative industries which this deeply indebted continent now desperately needs but will also create a scenario in which this nation becomes a profound sovereign foreign investment risk. This in turn could well see Australia lose its Triple A credit rating so that the servicing of the nation’s one trillion-dollar foreign debt will become a very difficult undertaking.

The loss of Australia’s Triple A credit rating will create difficulties with servicing Australia’s massive foreign debt which will be manifested in a domestic context by exorbitantly high interest rates, high inflation as the Australian dollar loses its purchasing power and as a consequence massive unemployment/underemployment outcome that will strain the ability of the nation’s social security system to cope with this economic environment.

The possibility of Australia losing its Triple A credit rating would be increased if the present Opposition treasury spokesman, Dr. Jim Chalmers becomes the nation’s next federal treasurer.  Dr. Chalmers and Andrew Charlton (who is the ALP’s candidate for the federal New South Wales seat of Paramatta in the May 2022 election) were economic advisers to the Rudd government who helped unnecessarily plunge Australia into debt and deficit during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC). 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese (whose public campaign gaffes clearly indicate that he is unprepared to become Prime Minister) will probably give Chalmers and Charlton, should the latter win the seat of Paramatta, a free rein to set a Labor Party federal government’s economic policy direction.   Going by the past experience of the Rudd government and given the current fragile state of the Australian economy, a Chalmers/Charlton economic policy formulation for Australia could be a catastrophe. 

This extremely gloomy scenario will also have very negative political ramifications because the socio-economic consequences will likely lead to an extreme political polarization which Australia has not previously experienced.

The Pitfalls of Political Polarization

It should be noted that there is a sinister dimension to the Climate 200 backed Teal independents because they are mainly running in seats which are held by Liberal Party moderates. Similarly, the decision of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party to preference against moderate Liberals in Victoria and Queensland also increases the scope for post-Morrison political polarization should these parliamentarians lose their seats. Consequently, the Liberal Party will possibly move to the hard right by electing Peter Dutton as Mr. Morrison’s successor!

A Dutton led Liberal Party will be electorally toxic south of the Tweed River so that the very viability of the Liberal Party may be at stake. Consequently, it is even more vitally important that Treasurer Joshua (‘Josh’) Frydenberg hold his Melbourne seat of Kooyong so that he will subsequently lead the Liberal Party should it go into opposition after the 2022 federal election. 

Because an Albanese government will be a socio-economic disaster, it may be tempting to think of it as a one term government.  However, should there be a Dutton led opposition of a then hard right Liberal party, there could be a reconfiguration of the Australian party system, particularly concerning the centre-right of Australian politics.  As terrible as an Albanese government will probably be, it may well be saved by the massive upheaval (if not disintegration) of a post-Morrison Liberal Party if it lurches to the right as a result of its defeat and is subsequently led by Peter Dutton. 

To further facilitate the process of Liberal Party upheaval/disintegration, an Albanese government may well hold a constitutional referendum on local government recognition so that the process of regionalization can be undertaken in which Australian states will eventually be phased out.  As has been analysed in previous Social Action Australia (SAA) articles, the impact of regionalization on the Liberal and National parties will be acutely adverse because parties on the far right and the populist right such as One Nation and the United Australia Party (UAP) could be able to institutionalize themselves within what would be, a vastly changed Australian political system.   

Why Australia still needs Malcolm Turnbull

At present there seems to be little that can be done to avoid the above cited scenarios except to advocate the Morrison government’s re-election or at the very least, hope that Josh Frydenberg retains the seat of Kooyong.  Even if all the moderate Liberals who are challenged by the Teal ‘independents’ retain their seats, the coalition will still probably lose the election to the ALP which stands to win a sufficient number of seats in Queensland and Western Australia to secure a narrow parliamentary majority. 

Nevertheless, Malcolm Turnbull should take the political action of publicly endorsing those Liberals (particularly David Sharma in his old Sydney seat of Wentworth) who have been targeted by the Teal ’independents’ to help save Australia’s political centre.   Therefore, far from preventing a far-right takeover of the Liberal Party the departure of a swag of moderate Liberal MPs will actually have the opposite effect for it should also not be forgotten that these threatened Liberal moderates, who are republican orientated, would not (to say the least) be inclined to vote for Peter Dutton as the next federal Liberal leader should Scott Morrison lose the May 2022 election. 

Public calls by former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett for Malcolm Turnbull to resign his Liberal Party membership are also unhelpful because a Turnbull departure from the Liberal Party will only serve to politically polarize the Australian political party system. 

Any bitterness which Malcolm Turnbull may feel about losing the prime ministership in late 2018 should be tempered by the realization that it was probably Peter Dutton who engineered this leadership change because he realized that the coalition could pick up seats in Queensland if the nation changed its leader.  Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg merely took advantage of this by moving into the vacuum. 

At the very least Malcolm Turnbull should exercise his political influence over the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) to ensure that this organisation successfully campaigns for a ‘No’ vote in a referendum on local government recognition in the Constitution.  

Anthony Albanese has stated that a referendum on a republic will not be held during the first term of his government but rather in the second term.  However, it can be anticipated that a referendum on local government recognition could be held in the first term of an Albanese government.  It may therefore be a good idea for the ARM to gain campaign experience for a future referendum on an Australian republic by deciding to campaign for a ‘No’ vote on constitutional recognition of local government if it is in fact proposed in the first term of an Albanese government.  

Australia’s Brilliant 1901 Constitution

Malcolm Turnbull will also hopefully utilize his influence with the ARM to ensure that this peak republican organisation advocates a parliamentary model for the future election of an Australian president, because a direct election of an Australian president will render the 1901 Australian Constitution non-viable.  

If one was to do a word search of the 1901 Constitution fort the term ‘prime minister’, it would not show up.  However, everyone knows that the prime minister is the most important political person in Australia.  The framers of the Australian constitution in the 1890s knew that there would be a future prime minister under the 1901 Constitution because the conventions (i.e., unwritten laws and rules) that come with the connection to the British Crown would carry over to ensure that Australia functioned as a Westminster parliamentary system. 

Indeed, the main argument in favor of retaining Australia’s excellent current system of absentee constitutional monarchy is that this system brilliantly ensures that there is carriage of the conventions which underpin the 1901 Constitution.  Nevertheless, it would be naïve to say that there will never be another referendum on an Australian Republic, so it is imperative that Malcolm Turnbull utilize his influence with the ARM to ensure that a parliamentary model is put to the Australian people.

For the truth of the matter was that the ARM model which went through to the 1999 republican referendum was the best on offer.  This was because the ARM proposal did not acutely threaten the viability of the 1901 Constitution as a direct election of a president would have done by creating an alternative power source to the parliamentary based executive.

It should also be pointed out that under the ARM’s 1999 model an Australian president would not have been ‘appointed’ by the parliament but rather he or she would have been elected by the legislature.  Indeed, having a president elected by a two-thirds parliamentary majority (which was the requirement under the 1999 ARM model) would have ensured that the president was, while exercising that function, non-partisan.  

The ARM may be wary of again advocating the parliamentary election of a president as occurred in November 1999 when this proposal went down.  However, that this occurred was primarily due to the personal popularity of Elizabeth II.   The Australian people may not again in a future vote on a republic referendum, vote on a sentimental basis which makes it imperative for Australian monarchists in the future to argue upon a constitutional basis as to why the Crown should be retained.[1]

For under the 1901 Constitution the Governor-General is the custodian of the Constitution and it is therefore in this context more important than the prime minister.  As such, if there is to be a future transition to an Australian republic then the Australian president must retain the reserve powers which the Governor-General currently possess.   The mythology concerning the 1975 constitutional crisis must not allow the 1901 Constitution to be undermined by removing a future president’s constitutional right to exercise these reserve powers, including the right to dismiss a government which tries to evade constitutional conventions, such as governing without supply. 

The Governor-General, Sir John Kerr’s action in November 1975 in dismissing the Whitlam federal government was therefore not an egregious abuse of power.  This was because the main and immediate priorities of Sir John Kerr after he had affected the dismissal were to ensure the passage of supply by the Senate and that the Fraser caretaker government went to an early election.  Because these priorities were met, particularly with regard to holding an early election, the myth that the dismissal of the Whitlam government was a political usurpation has never really gained traction, except amongst an intransigent minority. 

If Australia is to become a republic, then a president is to be looked up to by not being relegated to a mere prime ministerial cipher as would occur if Australia became a so-called ‘Crowned Republic’ (sic).  Advocates of this constitutional model want to ensure that the role of the British monarch in ‘signing-off’ (i.e., formally approving) the prime ministerial nomination of a Governor-General is removed so that Australia becomes a de facto, if not de jure republic.  While a Crowned Republic would ensure that the 1901 Constitution is formally retained, the removal of the Crown within this Constitution would effectively deny a Governor-General the necessary capacity and the requisite legitimacy to exercise the reserve powers.

Why the Morrison Government faces an Inhospitable Political Climate

The constitutional upheaval which Australia will possibly face in the advent of an Albanese government being elected in 2022 is in the future but what is required now is to analyse the present situation.   At present there is an election campaign in which the responsive and effective Morrison federal government is facing electoral defeat because a substantial part of its electoral base has been indoctrinated over the last ten years concerning human induced climate change.

Press baron Rupert Murdoch’s maxim that the climate should be given the benefit of the doubt is astute and it should be pointed out that the Morrison government’s approach to climate change is brilliant.  Prime Minister Morrison has correctly pointed out that the challenge of human induced climate change can be and is being met by the facilitation of scientific discovery in which new technological alternatives to fossil fuels are being found and applied.  

A recent development reported in the Weekend Australian, newspaper as late as April 29th-30th 2022, page 2, was titled, “Laser fusion firm in energy ‘dream’” by Graham Lloyd, told of “significant advances in the development of small fusion reactors by an Adelaide company, that had the theoretical potential to provide limitless cheap electricity free of harmful radiation.” While this technology is unlikely to be available by 2030, there is a much stronger possibility that the research will be completed and in use by 2050 and what an effect that would have on emissions if it did come to pass.

By contrast the federal Greens leader Adam Bandt’s draconian climate change policy proposals, such as phasing out the coal and gas extraction industries, would massively disrupt Australia’s market economy to the point of further imperiling Australia’s Triple A credit rating. 

Furthermore, the Greens policy of terminating Australia’s alliance with the United States and reducing defence spending in the midst of Communist China’s threat to the Republic of China on Taiwan is as ludicrous as it is dangerous.  Alas, an Albanese government’s posture toward communist China is little better given the revelation concerning the ALP’s federal deputy leader Richard Marles’ advocacy of closer defence ties between Canberra and Beijing!   The bipartisanship which has previously characterized Australian defence and national security policies is now at risk given the growing political power of the Greens.   

At any rate, the Greens have previously demonstrated an orientation toward putting politics before the environment when they voted down an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in early 2010 and voted for a Carbon Tax in early in 2012 which consequently doomed the federal ALP Gillard government.  Indeed, this draconian approach to climate change policy on the part of the Greens might indicate that their real intentions, or agenda is to utilize the current climate crisis as a means to facilitate massive disruption to the Australian economy so that the nation will polarize politically. 

Supporting the Political Centre  

It is therefore imperative that the Morrison government is re-elected and that Bill Shorten return to the ALP’s federal leadership or that Jason Clare be elected as the next Labor leader following the 2022 federal election to restore the political balance in favour of Australia’s political centre.  However, these outcomes are probably exercises in wishful thinking.  At any rate, SAA does not advocate that a first preference vote (except in the ACT) be given to the coalition parties in the Senate.  This reservation is based on the past experience of the Howard government introducing the so-called Work Choices (sic) industrial relations legislation in late 2005 which grossly violated employees’ working rights.

For reasons which have been previously outlined in this article, the Greens must be countered.   It is for the purpose of countering the Greens that a first preference is accordingly advocated for the Liberals in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) because they (i.e., the Greens) could well win the second Senate seat in Canberra.

Otherwise, where possible social democratic ALP Senate candidates, similar to the Labor Party’s late Senator Kimberley Kitching, (such as Labor’s 2022 lead Senate candidate in New South Wales, Senator Deborah O’Neill) should be preferenced ahead of the coalition parties and the Greens, One Nation and the UAP.

However, SAA advocates the return of the Morrison government by urging a vote for the Liberal and National parties in the House of Representatives on the basis that the current federal government has adroitly handled the Covid 19 pandemic crisis.  The Morrison government is also well positioned to lead Australia out of the stormy seas which still confront this nation and which a possible future Albanese government would be incapable of so doing.

Authorised by Social Action Australia Pty Ltd ACN 130 894 469, Box Hill, Melbourne.

 

[1] Even though this correspondent advocates that ARM advocate a parliamentary election of a president under a future hypothetical republic he still, in the final analysis, argues that Australia’s system of constitutional monarchy be retained

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Yesterday (July 23rd 2021), the national cabinet rejected the request of the NSW government for the other states to provide additional supplies of the Pfizer vaccine to assist in combating the spread of the far more contagious Delta variant of Covid 19 in its state.

The rejection of this request by the other states was not sensible!

It seems that premiers such as Dan Andrews (Vic) and Mark McGowan (WA) were more concerned to punish what they saw as an indulgent response to the initial virus outbreak in NSW than to address the real problem of containing and addressing what could well be a far more serious matter if the virus is to continue its spread through NSW and eventually to other states.

Perhaps WA (and Tasmania) may be far enough away and sufficiently isolated to avoid this spread, at least for a while.

However, there seems to be a failure to grasp the serious nature of the Delta variant and its ability to avoid containment so far in any lasting fashion in NSW and in overseas locations where it is present.

The strategy behind the NSW request.

It is acknowledged by NSW that the present measures have been ineffective in that state. The conclusion in NSW is that lockdown, no matter how severe will not be an effective solution. NSW has concluded, based upon its experience so far, that it needs to deal with the problem by vaccination. Because younger people are seemingly more susceptible to this variant of the virus, additional supplies of the Pfizer vaccine would be necessary to do the job of comprehensive virus suppression.

The virus has already spread widely in the community in NSW. If it is not stopped it will eventually be so widespread that it will not be possible to contain it in within the state boundaries. It will spread, at least to Queensland, South Australia and further into Victoria than it already has. It may be that Victoria will contain the spread with its policy of draconian lockdowns in place at the present, but ultimately that will be but a temporary solution.

What Premier Gladys Berejiklian of NSW was proposing was to fight the incipient spread of the virus on the ground where it is in place now. To restrict its spread by the application of targeted Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines in strategic areas of NSW that will assist in preventing an uncontrolled spread to other states in Australia. In this way it will be contained in situ and we as a nation will not be required to deal with a much larger, more vicious, and more uncontrollable outbreak than the present one.

It is time to think nationally, strategically, and more selflessly in order to achieve an outcome that would preserve Australia’s record in successfully combating the spread of the virus in our nation compared to the experience of less happy countries in dealing with it.

For the good of the country, it is necessary that we put aside decisions motivated by resentment, parochialism and political advantage and make our decisions for the good of all Australians irrespective of where they live or the ideological complexion of the government that is in power in the state that they live in.

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It is time to clear the mists concerning the coup against Malcolm Turnbull as Australian prime minister in August 2018.  This leadership change was always intended to make Scott Morrison prime minister with Josh Frydenberg as his deputy.  It was never the intention of Peter Dutton to be prime minister but rather to be a stalking horse for the Morrison/Frydenberg ticket. The real question which now needs to be asked is: will the transaction cost of this leadership change will be too high for the coalition? 

Prime Minister Turnbull fell into a trap by announcing the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) which precipitated this pre-meditated parliamentary leadership coup.  This series of events was redolent of the time when Malcolm Turnbull had announced his support in late 2009 for the Rudd government’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).  Even though Malcolm Turnbull had in 2009 previously gained majority partyroom support for an ETS, this policy endorsement became the trigger for the so-called conservatives to depose the then opposition leader in one of the best executed leadership coups in Australian political history.  The real motivation for Turnbull’s 2009 deposition was his support for states’ rights. 

The more recent August 2018 leadership coup was however even more audacious.  Even though the then prime minister had again (as in 2009) obtained majority partyroom in August 2018 support for the NEG this policy announcement precipitated a full-scale rebellion by anti-Turnbull MPs who ostensibly announced their support for Peter Dutton. 

However the prospect of Peter Dutton becoming prime minister sent shivers down the spines of most Australians.   Dutton was smart enough to know that had he become prime minister that the Liberal Party faced an electoral wipe-out which threatened his party’s continued viability.  Even though Dutton had no real prospect (or intention) of becoming prime minster his destabilisation tactics still succeeded in a spill motion been passed in the Liberal Party partyroom which ended Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership. 

Elements of the ABC and the Murdoch media have since attempted to divert the public’s attention away from the fact that the August 2018 coup was always really about making Morrison prime minister with Frydenberg as Liberal Party deputy leader.  Commentary that Malcolm Turnbull displayed tactical shrewdness for Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop to stand in as the anti-Dutton alternatives is nothing more than sophistry. 

With Malcolm Turnbull out of the way it was almost inevitable that the moderates would swing their support behind Morrison even though he previously had a reputation as a hardliner based on memories of his time as Immigration Minister.  Nevertheless, anyone can come across as a relative moderate when compared to Dutton! 

Even more intriguing (and illuminating) was the contest for Liberal deputy leader.  Then Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop was dudded into standing for prime minister thereby vacating the deputy leadership-consequently giving Josh Frydenberg a clear run at that position.  It should not be forgotten that it was Frydenberg as Energy Minister helped who had place Malcolm Turnbull in the position of announcing the NEG which became the catalyst for the August 2018 coup. 

The fact that the intention of this coup was always to place Morrison and Frydenberg in the Liberal Party’s leadership positions was reflected by Senator Mathias Cormann canvassing for Scott Morrison instead of for his friend Peter Dutton.  Similarly, Senator Mitch Fifield’s ostensible shift in support for Dutton to Morrison reflected the pre-meditated nature of this coup in favour of the Morrison/Frydenberg ticket.

The Cause of the Prime Ministerial Churn

Now that Malcolm Turnbull is gone as prime minister we Australians are left wondering as to why this latest coup had to happen?  The answer to this question, beside the motivation of ambition, was to pursue the agenda of fatally undermining Australia’s states.  The pursuit of this objective by centralist elements within the two major parties has led to this bewildering churn in Australian prime ministers which commenced in 2010. 

Concerning this prime ministerial churn it has been pointed out by the media that John Howard was the last prime minister to serve a full term.  However, it should be noted that Prime Minister Howard could have been deposed by Treasurer Peter Costello on the eve of the 2007 election. Peter Costello was however too shrewd to fall for the trap of deposing Howard because he knew that the 2007 coalition campaign was going to be sabotaged from within so that that the Rudd-led ALP would win the November election held that year. 

The reason for this internal sabotage was derived from centralist anti-states elements within the coalition intending that a Rudd government would Balkanize Australia via the process of ‘regionalization’ whereby a new tier of local government will be created by recognising local government in the Australian Constitution. It is intended by these rent-seeking centralists that regional councils will eventually usurp the role and functions of states so that power is concentrated with a Canberra based bureaucracy.  Standing in the way of implementing this agenda was Malcolm Turnbull, who as prime minister supported states’ rights.

Indeed it was because of Malcolm Turnbull’s support for states’ rights that he was first deposed as Liberal leader in a dramatic partyroom coup in early December 2009 so that the process of regionalization would be supported by the federal coalition. Prime Minister Rudd’s May 2010 Hospitals Agreement with the ALP premiers whereby they agreed to hand over their public hospitals and GST health revenue to the Commonwealth was integral to this process of fatally undermining states’ rights. 

At this time the ALP at the instigation of Bill Shorten overwhelmingly drafted Julia Gillard to become prime minister in June 2010.  This dramatic move was precipitated by the fear that exposure of the possible wastage of funds spent in Building the Education Revolution would politically destroy Julia Gillard thereby paving the way for the then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner to prime minister even though he was then struggling to hold his inner Melbourne seat which the Greens (i.e. the Reds) actually won at the 2010 election. 

The deposition of Rudd caught the nation by surprise but with Tony Abbott as opposition leader there was still scope to keep Prime Minister Gillard to an anti-states agenda. This was demonstrated by Prime Minister Gillard publicly announcing on the eve of the August 2010 poll that a government which she led after the election would never introduce a carbon tax.  The then prime minister knew that had she not made this misleading public promise it could be arranged by anti-state elements within the two major parties for her to lose the 2010 election.

By making this public announcement Prime Minister Gillard was able to cling to office heading a minority government.  During her 2010 to 2013 tenure as prime minister, Julia Gillard was subsequently remorselessly attacked by Tony Abbott who declared that the carbon tax ‘was a bad tax based on a lie’.  This Abbott mantra was so effective that had Julia Gillard not made way for Kevin Rudd in June 2013 then the ALP would have been close to being wiped out at the election which was held later that year. 

 

 

 

John Howard and Tony Abbott: Traitors to the Menzies Tradition

That Tony Abbott won the September 2013 election was testament to the covert help he received from anti-state elements within the ALP who had coerced Prime Minister Gillard into making and then breaking in 2011 her no carbon tax announcement.  As prime minister, Tony Abbott was the political heir to John Howard who had wanted to abolish states.  Howard was someone, who despite his professed admiration for Sir Robert Menzies was outside of the Liberal Party tradition because of his anti-states’ rights agenda and his opposition to industrial arbitration. 

Indeed, Howard’s neo-liberal ideology was outside of Australia’s socio-political traditions that he plunged the coalition into a crisis in the 1980s.  The then Hawke government’s economic rationalist policies were harming living standards as well as undermining the nation’s economic capacity.  The Liberals were however unable to harness the widespread discontent due to Howard being a critic of the ALP’s economic rationalist policies not going far enough! 

Howard was also assisted in pursuing his economic rationalist stance because his then principal opponent within the partyroom was Andrew Peacock who also shared this neo-liberal outlook despite the support he received from the so-called ‘wets’ who were more anti-Howard than pro-Peacock. 

That John Howard eventually re-took the Liberal Party leadership in January 1995 and won the March 1996 federal election was due to the support he received from Peter Costello.  The ensuing policy successes (and by extension political successes) of the coalition federal government between 1996 and 2007 were mainly due to Peter Costello’s adeptness as treasurer.

As vital as Peter Costello’s support was to John Howard, this prime minister never had any intention of reciprocating the loyalty which his treasurer had given him.  Indeed, Howard as prime minister successfully assembled an anti-Costello faction during his time in office so as to deny his deputy the prime ministership. 

The Regionalisation Agenda

Alas, for Howard, this anti-Costello faction turned on him on the eve of the 2007 federal election to pave the way for regionalisation to be introduced under a Rudd ALP government.  Thankfully, the initiation of this regionalisation process has been stymied to date by the ascension to office of Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull respectively in 2010 and in 2015.  The Morrison government will probably hold a referendum to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution*to coincide with the next federal election.

(*This referendum was authorised by legislation in one of the last acts of the Gillard government in 2013).

From a coalition perspective it ultimately makes no sense to introduce regionalisation because this will enable hard left industry unions and associated left-wing groups to gain control of massive resources by creating this new regional tier of government.  Under a regionalised regime the Liberal Party (and to a lesser extent the National Party) will not have the capacity to avoid eventually balkanizing into competing micro-parties as had occurred following the August 1943 federal election after which the United Australia Party (UAP) imploded. 

There may be factional leaders within the Liberal Party who under a regionalised regime may gain regional bailiwicks.  However, this will come at the expense of a virtually permanent national dominance by left wing groups, including hard left trade unions, which regionalisation will facilitate. 

Australian Trade Unionism: Past and Present

Much has been made that Australian trade unionism now has 15% of the workforce with this figure possibly dropping still further. While Australian trade unionism has steeply declined (down from 51% union membership of the workforce in 1976!) there is still the phenomenon of social movement unionism which is empowering the contemporary Australian union movement.

Social movement unionism is where unions link up with left-wing non-government organisations (NGOs) such as Get-Up to campaign on the ground to affect industrial and/or political change.  The most effective manifestation of social movement unionism to date was the anti-‘Work Choices’ (i.e.  No Choices) campaign utilized during the 2007 federal election campaign. 

Undoubtedly, the social unionism model will be deployed for the next federal election which will consequently place the Australian Council of Trade Unions Council (ACTU) in a powerful position should there be a future Shorten ALP federal government.  Such a government at the behest of the hard-left of the Australian union movement will probably ensure that legislation is passed so that employers can be ‘roped’ into bargaining with trade unions in a context of where non-union members will be charged a bargaining fee.

It should also be expected that a Shorten government at the behest of the hard-left of the Australian union movement will close down independent superannuation funds so that this sector will be exclusively controlled either by big business and/or by industry unions. 

The power that the hard left of the Australian union movement will exercise under a probable Shorten federal government is reflective of the fact that Australian unions have more often than not relied upon external institutional supports to be effective.  A tacit admission of this reality by the ACTU is its ‘Change the Rules’ campaign, which in reality is laying the groundwork to bring in the union equivalent of a No-Choices industrial relations legislative framework. 

The institutional supports which had historically supported Australian trade unionism were derived from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (the 1904 Act).  The 1904 Act created an industrial tribunal which issued sectoral awards ensuring that the pay and conditions of Australian employees were safeguarded.

Relatively small craft based trade unions by utilizing the arbitration system, were able to effectively represent their members’ interests.  That is not to say that industrial action was not undertaken or was not important to Australian trade unionism.  However, the fact was that the utilization of arbitral supports by Australian trade unions created a favourable environment to advance employee interests.   

A flawed left-wing critique was formulated called the ‘Howard Dependency Syndrome’ (which is not to be confused with John Howard) which inaccurately maintained that utilization of external arbitral supports weakened union power by supposedly creating an over-reliance upon external institutions at the expence of developing internal union industrial strength.   

The fact of the matter was that the pursuit of an arbitral strategy enabled relatively small craft based trade unions to effectively represent their members’ interest without compromising their integrity.  This was due to the impartiality of the industrial tribunals, the independence of the unions which went before industrial tribunals and because smaller trade unions by their nature are more democratic because they are responsive to their members’ interests.  Furthermore, the inclination of employees to join unions was also precipitated by them feeling a sense of belonging to their craft.

The onset of union amalgamation in the 1990s was given impetus by the loss of the Federated Clerks Union, FCU to the Socialist-Left, (SL).  The FCU under the leadership of John Maynes had vitally supported a range of craft based trade unions.  Without the FCU anchor to support craft based unionism, the scene was set for millions of Australian workers to refuse to shift their allegiance to these new industry super unions to which they felt no sense of connection.  Nevertheless, the newly amalgamated unions gained control of billions of dollars of superannuation funds while establishing powerful (and arguably unrepresentative) bureaucracies which constituted union oligarchy.  This vividly contrasted with union democracy associated with craft-based trade-unionism. 

It is now impossible to unscramble the trade union amalgamation egg.  However due to Julia Gillard’s Fair Work Australia Act 2009 (FWA) there is now ample scope for enterprise bargaining.  By applying the organising union model (the organising model) Australian unions can utilize workplace based rank and file delegates to potentially ensure favourable bargaining outcomes.  The application of the organising model can also possibly bolster informal union democracy.

Unfortunately, ACTU Secretary Sally Mc Manus has effectively forsaken enterprise bargaining as the means by which union renewal can be achieved.  Instead the hard left of the Australian union movement has opted for a top-down industrial relations system to be brought in by a probable regionalist Shorten government which will be economically detrimental. 

Why are the Liberals Actually Lemmings? 

That regionalisation will usher in dominance by the left-wing of the Australian trade union movement begs the question as to why neo-liberals within the coalition support this process as demonstrated by the Turnbull deposition?  As previously mentioned, the reason is probably because there are party-power brokers who really believe that they can gain control of regional bailiwicks but the price for reasons which have already been articulated will be too high!

Consequently, the August 2018 deposition of Malcolm Turnbull is an historical development of epic proportions.  Indeed, it could be said that with Malcolm Turnbull out of the way by resigning from parliament, there is apparently no substantial barrier toward the implementation of regionalization.

However, Malcolm Turnbull is still a substantial figure who should, when the Morrison government holds a referendum to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution (a ‘Yes’ vote would be a vital pre-requisite for regionalization to be implemented) he can still lead a genuine ‘No’ campaign to save the federal system of government. 

Malcolm’s Merits

Because Malcolm Turnbull is still a very important political figure a review of his time as prime minister is warranted.  Under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership there was a return to a collegiate cabinet system of government, the implementation of fiscal discipline (even if the public foreign debt continued to grow) and an impressive record of negotiating with a fractious senate cross-bench. 

Indeed, when the Liberals replaced Abbott with Turnbull in September 2015 it seemed as though the coalition parties had returned to their pre-Howard traditions which are associated with Alfred Deakin and Sir Robert Menzies.  Therefore, Malcolm Turnbull’s support for states’ rights put lie to the assertion that he was ‘labor lite’.    

While more could have been achieved had the Turnbull government had more than a one seat majority in the House of Representatives, the standout policy success was legislating for same-sex marriage.  This achievement was all the more impressive due to the extensive opposition to Malcolm Turnbull’s consultative approach on this issue from the ALP, the Greens and the left-wing of the LGBTI community.  These groups opposed holding a de facto plebiscite on same sex marriage via a postal survey (an initiative, which to his credit, Peter Dutton formulated).

As prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull correctly predicted that this measure would be approved by popular vote (62%) so that following the plebiscite, parliament subsequently overwhelmingly approved this reform.  Amid the euphoria from the parliamentary gallery there was no public acknowledgment by either Bill Shorten or from the Greens MP Adam Bandt of the role which Prime Minister Turnbull had fulfilled in securing the passage of same-sex marriage. 

It is true to say that no-one should do what is ethically correct so as to be praised.  Nevertheless, when someone does what is correct, and displays courage in doing so, then there is nothing wrong with publicly acknowledging it.  So three cheers for Malcolm Turnbull for bringing in marriage equality!

It is therefore unfair to say that Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister was unduly compromised by the hard right of the coalition.  For the truth is, Malcolm Turnbull not only had to stand up to the neo-liberals in his ranks but confront non-cooperation from left-wing critics who hypocritically withheld their support.  This was illustrated in early 2010 when the Greens voted down an ETS.  Furthermore, the Greens voted for a carbon tax in 2012 knowing full well that this would pave the way for a professed climate sceptic such as Tony Abbott to become prime minister!

 

The question emerges as to why did the Greens move successively against Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull and in doing so supporting the hard right of the Liberal Party and the rent-seeking elements of the ALP?  The answer to this question is that the Greens support the effective de-establishment of states via regionalization so that they can entrench their power within a new tier of local government.  Therefore when the Morrison government holds a referendum which recognises local government in the Constitution then the compromising of genuine environmental principles from a Red perspective will have been worth it in the long run.

However, the creation of a new regional tier of government will (to say the least) be detrimental.  Even if states are nominally retained, the locus of power via regionalization will have occurred with a shift of power to Canberra been effected where a national bureaucracy can interface with the new regional tier of government.  More frightening is that Leninist China will be able to exercise its patrimonial power over this new regional tier of government.

Why Australia Must be Beware Leninist China’s Dragon

The risks of Leninist *China subverting and ultimately politically and economically dominating Australia were first clearly apparent when the Rudd government introduced the Mineral Resources Rent Tax (the dud tax) which would have allowed the mega-mining companies to collude with Leninist China to squeeze out the smaller mining companies so that Beijing could gain effective control over Australia’s trade in its mineral resources. 

(*Wariness concerning mainland Leninist China’s designs on Australia is not a manifestation of racist anti-Chinese sentiment but rather a caution concerning Beijing’s repressive socio-political and economic system).

It would be naive to think that Leninist China’s president and dictator, Xi Jinping does not want to gain ultimate economic control over Australia.  For to be blunt, Canberra is such a soft touch due to elements of its political class being prepared to sell out their nation’s interests by recognising local government in the Constitution. 

For Leninist China can only survive as a dictatorship if high economic growth rates are sustained by gaining access and domination over the resources of the nations which Beijing has economic links with.  This is why President Xi it trying to gain economic control over the resources of as many countries as possible so as to sustain China’s hybrid state capitalist system as well as enhancing his personal power. 

Rupert Murdoch’s Duplicity

The main commentary as to the dangers of possible domination of Australia by Leninist China is alerted to by Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper.  However, Rupert Murdoch is a sophisticated political operative.  Having established his press as the main siren against possible Chinese Leninist domination of Australia, Murdoch can still facilitate a shift for such domination to occur on terms favourable to him by supporting regionalization occurring via constitutional recognition of local government.

 

It should not be forgotten that elements of the Murdoch press were instrumental in precipitating Malcolm Turnbull’s fall and perpetuating the contemporary line that the Morrison/Frydenberg ascension was not pre-meditated.  The question therefore emerges as to what will happen next for Australia? 

At the moment the political priority for the Morrison/Frydenberg leadership team is to divert attention away from how they actually undermined Malcolm Turnbull so as to minimize the transaction cost of the leadership change.  The formidable leadership combination of Morrison/Frydenberg will, for the moment, do their best to win the next federal election with the backing of the Murdoch press. 

Scott Morrison has a populist touch, which combined with Josh Frydenberg’s high powered competence, provides the coalition with their best prospect of winning the next federal election or at least saving the furniture.  Should the coalition win the next federal election, Morrison will probably some-time in the future honour a succession plan with Josh Frydenberg so that he can take over as prime minister.  Alternatively, should the coalition lose the next federal election there seems little doubt that Josh Frydenberg will be elected opposition leader with Peter Dutton (should he retain his seat) as his possible deputy. 

If the opinion polls go badly for the coalition between now and the next federal election then the ALP may ‘run dead’ in certain seats to ensure the re-election of anti-state coalition MPs.  This major concession would only be made if the coalition were to concede (as occurred in the 2007 election and in 2010 federal election) the 2019 federal poll to Labor. 

 

Why Malcolm Turnbull Must Continue the Fight

The Morrison government will probably hold a referendum on local government recognition at the time of the next federal election.  If this is to occur then bona fide pro-state rights components within the coalition and the ALP will have to begin now forming a genuine pro-federal umbrella organisation to counter a dud No campaign being run by the pro-Abbott Samuel Griffith Society.

(*Alternatively pro-state rights MPs within the coalition can now place pressure on Prime Minister Morrison to scrap the referendum proposal so as to protect Australia’s federal system of government.  Such a measure would also serve to protect serving coalition MPs from being sacrificed by their parties at the time at the next federal election).

To protect genuine pro-states’ rights coalition MPs at the time of the next federal election, Malcolm Turnbull can use his influence with the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) secretariat to form a genuine pro-state’ rights campaign organisation.  Such an organisation can send out a questionnaire to all federal MPs asking them if they will support a no vote in the constitutional referendum and offering them help with their re-election campaigns in the event that they answer affirmatively.  

Why It’s Time to End This Farce

While states’ rights is not the most exciting issue to campaign on the stakes for Australia’s future could not be higher.  Malcolm Turnbull lost his prime ministership due to his support for states’ rights but his still can secure his legacy by utilizing his talent so that a No vote prevails should a referendum question on local government recognition in the Constitution proceed. 

Indeed, the Morrison government will probably only announce the referendum on the eve of the federal election so as to maximize the opportunity for the ‘Yes’ vote to prevail.  It can be anticipated that the referendum on local government recognition will coincide with the next federal election.   With Prime Minister Morrison and Bill Shorten probably supporting a yes vote, combined with the Samuel Griffith Society running a dud ‘No’ campaign, it can be anticipated that the yes vote will prevail.  To avoid this scenario, a genuine pro-states’ rights campaign organisation needs to be organised between now and the next federal election. 

Australia has already suffered too much (as manifested by the prime ministerial churn) from this push to fatally undermine states.  It is time for there to be a genuine re-assertion of the Australia’s national interest by ensuring that the No vote prevails when a referendum on local government recognition is held.

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The 2016 Australian federal election, (as well as the 2007 and 2010 federal elections) demonstrated that avowed political opponents can enter into covert alliances to advance their respective causes. The ensuing analysis in this article examines the need for political actors who engage in such collusive practices to maintain their integrity if they are to avoid disaster.

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