Flat White

Nero walks in Western Australia

24 March 2021

4:00 AM

24 March 2021

4:00 AM

In 64 AD a great fire swept through Rome, destroying much of the city. The Emperor of the time, Nero, decided to blame the Christians for starting it, and launched a violent persecution against them. Since they were unpopular, they were an easy target. Nearly 2,000 years later, it seems little has changed. Politicians will do whatever it takes to escape blame. 

When a major political party suffers an election defeat in a landslide, and the finger-pointing begins, those responsible – party leaders and their close allies – tend to blame everybody else but themselves, losing all sense of reason and, above all, touch with reality. Look at how John Hewson behaved after he lost the “unlosable” election in 1993. It wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t explain his GST, the one he was so wedded to he stated that, if the election were lost, he would resign the leadership, but then didn’t.As far as I am aware, Hewson has never admitted responsibilityfor his “birthday cake moment”, when he could not answer in simple terms for television viewers how the GST would apply to a birthday cake.Malcolm Turnbull’s brilliant effort in reducing a 35 seat majority to minority government was not his fault, naturally. And, of course, him being removed from the leadership was done out of jealousy,because MathiasCormann or Tony Abbott or Christian Porter, take your pick, did not want him towin the forthcoming election. Let’s just conveniently forget thatinternal party polling (as well as Newspoll) showed Turnbull (and the Coalition) tanking towards the point of no return.   

Rather than accept with good grace their defeats and moveon, these former leaders constantly remind us of their existence. They suffer from the dreaded “relevance deprivation syndrome”, coupled with a hateful vindictiveness, almost as if they were jilted lovers.  

In WA at the moment, anybody connected with ZakKirkup is blaming everyone else for the party’s wipeout at the State election, except the right body, him. There are none so blind as those that will not see, and, in the case of West Australian columnist Jenna Clarke, her closeness to Kirkup appears to have left her with some blind spots.  

Clarke out swinging in an opinion piece last week that’s still the talk of the town. 

Analysing defeat is best done by those far removed from it. Instead,  Clarke ‘did a Nero’ and decided to pin the blame for the Liberals’ massacre onthe “religious right” of the party with its “fringe agenda”.No, it wasn’t Zak’s fault, ratherChristians (and Catholics, in particular) were to blame for the disaster. Get a load of this:  

The silver lining (of the wipeout)? The Liberals can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room with crap on its liver and a crucifix around its neck.

It’s only the half of it.   

It’s time to cut the crap, kick out the zealots…

Isn’t the Liberal party meant to be a broad church, accommodating a variety of views? But wait, there’s more.   

The thorn in the side of the party is the so-called religious right… which, allegedly, according to cranky departing and long-departed MPs, wield (sic) too much power…

This infection has been festering publicly since 2016 when then premier Colin Barnett was quizzed about the strong religious stench emanating from the branches around the metro area.

Following this bigoted, ignorant garbage, Clarke asserts the Liberals lost the 2017 election because of the religious right. In her blindness to defend Kirkup, Clarke conveniently ignoresthe factthat the Liberals lost in 2017 not because of the “stench” of Christians, but because, even though they governed well, they broke key promises, namely the building of a railway line toEllenbrook in Perth’s rapidly expanding north-eastern suburbs (among others). Voters don’t like it when politicians break promises. 

NoJenna, the elephant in theroom was your pal’s crazy policies. He had several “birthday cake” moments,none more so than his energy policy. AsJames Bolt noted in Flat Whitelast week, Federal Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said that “we are the party who backs working families and industry.” These are Menzies’ “forgotten people” (many of whom, by the way, would identify as Christians).The WA Liberals ignored this and were duly punished.  

As Bolt states,Kirkup’s New Energy Jobs Plan would have delivered net-zero emissions in WA by 2030 and would have sold two government-owned coal-fired power stations. Even Mark McGowan thought it was too extreme.   

It should have been clear toKirkup that big green initiatives are not vote-winners, and Liberal parties that pursue them will lose far more of their own voters than they will steal from the other side. This is why regional Queensland voted for the Coalitionin 2019.In the WA election, Bolt cites two telling statistics:The mining region of thePilbara swung 17.9% to the ALP. Collie-Preston, WA’s home of coal, had a 5.8% swing toLabor.  

Clarke cites “the forgotten people” in her piece, but appears to have forgotten much herself or made some remarkable conclusions. 

Was Kirkup conceding defeat two weeks before the election, giving him the impression of a quitter, the Christians’ fault too? The West Australian’s – and most of the state’s media’s – adulation andsycophancy towards Premier Mark McGowan’s government? Were Christians somehow involved there?   

As usual, and just like they were in Nero’s day, Christians – and especially Catholics, despite being this country’s most numerous faith – are an easy target.  

Zak Kirkup is a hiccough in the history of Western Australian politics whose only legacy is one of the most catastrophic major party defeats in our nation’s history. The sooner the WA Liberals forget about Zak and get a dose of reality, the sooner they can rebuild. 

Dr Rocco Loiacono is senior lecturer at Curtin University Law School.

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