Leading article Australia

Stand for something, ScoMo

3 November 2018

9:00 AM

3 November 2018

9:00 AM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be bruised by Malcolm Turnbull’s bile-laden farewell present, the Wentworth by-election.  But this atypical Turnbull-loving, Gaia-worshipping patch of trendy Sydney was always going to turn feral on Mr Morrison and the Liberals. What should give Mr Morrison pause, however, is the worrying trend of Newspoll.

Before Wentworth, the Coalition was coming back from the brink with an improved primary vote. This week, 2PP slid back to 54:46 and so too did the primaries. The PM’s net approval rating slid into negative territory for the first time. Coupled with a quarterly Newspoll trend that shows the Coalition in dire trouble in every state except Tasmania (you can’t go backwards from zero!), the government is in, as George Bush the Elder would say, ‘deep do-do’.

The sugar hit of August’s leadership change has evaporated. If Newspoll is right, Australia beyond Wentworth is becoming less convinced about the government’s reboot. That Mr Morrison is more politically able and likeable than Mr Turnbull, who has resurrected himself like a malevolent zombie to damage his successor, is not enough. Voters are concerned about the Coalition’s lack of purpose.

Lately, Mr Morrison has been offering thought bubbles, however worthy, like moving our Israel embassy to Jerusalem where it belongs. (For Mr Turnbull to now oppose this proves his pro-Israel friendliness was always a sham.) ScoMo is, however, not showing much in the way of popular policy, backed by effective and easily-understood programmes, to show Turnbull’s Labor-lite era is history.

Energy minister Angus Taylor’s power bill reduction package is a case in point. It twists and turns to set a default baseline energy price and declare, finally, that this government puts economy before emissions. But who understands it, how is it supposed to work, and how can true Liberals embrace the government intervention that Mr Taylor proposes? What was needed is much simpler. Tear up the economy-destroying Paris Agreement and dump its stupid emissions targets. Without that starting point, stating so starkly the Coalition’s difference from a Labor party captive to Green ideology, it’s hard for voters to see what’s different from before the guns of August fired.

Therefore, the Coalition urgently needs to set out a vision and programme for the rest of this term and beyond: an unashamedly conservative programme. Lower power bills and reliable energy supplies. Keeping our borders secure and the people smugglers out of business. A refusal to participate in UN sovereignty-robbing agendas and summits. More tax cuts, but also cutting wasteful public spending. Putting the interests of hard-working, average Australians to the fore. In other words, show how a returned Morrison government will serve ordinary Australians, not union bosses, globalist elites, factional warlords and special interests.

Leaders with clear visions and programmes appealing to mainstream conservative voters can win big. Just ask Donald Trump and the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro who won unexpected victories by clearly standing for something. Voters responded enthusiastically. As Tony Abbott has written, Mr Morrison has bridged the internal divides in the Liberal party. If he now shows, with a decisive and conservative policy programme, that he too stands for something of substance, the PM will be taking a big step forward to getting himself and his government back into the electoral race against a complacent and increasingly cocky Mr Shorten.

Owler outs himself

It seems the next parliament may contain not just one egotistical former AMA president, but two. Brian Owler, the NSW neurosurgeon who torpedoed the sensible Medicare reforms of the first Abbott budget in conjunction with Bill Shorten, is challenging John Alexander in Bennelong. In the GP co-payment debate of 2014, Mr Owler was a strident critic of the government, working in lockstep with Labor. Disgruntled AMA members, many of whom supported the co-payment, thought he was showboating for Labor preselection: so it finally has proved. As he did Kristina Keneally, ‘JA’ can see off Mr Owler. In spruiking him, Mr Shorten reveals he wants a second Mediscare election. Yet now, as in 2016, the Coalition has no coherent health policy other than spending inefficient billions on hospitals and subsidised medicines. If it doesn’t want to see the horror movie Mediscare 2, the Coalition must develop a coherent health policy to counter Shorten’s and Owler’s populism and lies, or else risk political euthanasia.

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