In his victory speech following the 2019 federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared he has “always believed in miracles”. It’s true he defied the predictions of pundits and journalists, but then, perhaps they were simply fooled by push polling, unrepresentative sampling, and their own hubris?
What really does seem miraculous is the recent party room ballot which elected Dominic Perrottet New South Wales premier. After all, given his laissez-faire reputation and the Liberal Party’s continuing embrace of all things Left, his election does have the ring of divine intervention about it. That’s especially so for those who have waited seven years since Tony Abbott was prime minister for a truly liberal, Liberal leader.
But 2021 is not 2015 and compounded by a global pandemic which has so far claimed 5.4 million lives, the political landscape at home and abroad has fundamentally changed. Covid-19 not only ripped through the world economy causing supply chain issues and economic recessions, it precipitated an unprecedented response from governments and central banks. The political, social, and economic reverberations from these policies will be felt for generations and may result in structural changes which could fundamentally change Western democracies forever.
Australia is no exception. While thanks to closed international borders its Covid deaths per million are in the world’s lowest quartile, the pandemic has stress-tested the strength of the federation and the competence of its leaders and found both in need of urgent attention.
New on the block, Perrottet finds himself the odd man out in a National Cabinet which, apart from demonstrating disdain for the federated nation, delights in exploiting the prime minister’s weaknesses. Western Australia could just as well be New Zealand.
Indeed, rather than a gathering of the nation’s top leaders, its members frequently resemble squabbling teenagers. Consumed by parochialism, they are blind to their colleagues’ appalling police-state behaviour, extreme lack of compassion and regular abuses of the Australian Constitution. And they think nothing of jettisoning agreements reached just hours before, nor, spreading conflicting information and unverifiable medical advice.
Of course, before becoming premier, Perrottet was aware of the dictatorial proclivities of his state political counterparts and their equally authoritarian health bureaucrats. Perrottet is philosophically at odds with them all. He believes in personal responsibility and living with the virus. They don’t. He doesn’t believe in mandates. They do. He leads by example.
Fundamentally, Perrottet’s opponents hold that people can’t be trusted and, unless controlled, they will behave recklessly. Reaching the Promised Land is only possible through government coercion. Personal responsibility is a potential threat to state authority.
It’s those with this mindset who practice official discrimination against the unvaccinated minority and encourage the vaccinated to treat the unvaxxed as pariahs. In different circumstances, this would be viewed as totally abhorrent.
National Cabinet members may generally be apathetic supporters of the federation, but when it comes to their share of Commonwealth finances, they are passionate believers.
Once again, Perrottet is at odds with his counterparts. He believes the current federal tax system is overly complex and outdated. Like his predecessor, Gladys Berejiklian, he is a strong advocate of competitive federalism and sees nationally subsidised equalisation of service delivery as a relic of the last century which punishes fiscally responsible governments like his own. Too often NSW has been forced to compensate smaller states and territories for wrong-headed policies.
Perrottet is also a leading advocate of privatisation, once describing his asset recycling strategy as “the golden key that unlocked the door of opportunity for NSW”. Other states have timidly followed, but none have demonstrated his political courage and gifts of persuasion. Despite Covid, the NSW balance sheet remains the envy of other states and territories.
As a practicing Catholic, Perrottet’s convictions on so-called “modern” issues often conflict with the views of many within his party room, the bureaucracy, and the media. Like Abbott, these will be a lightning rod for the Left. Already, as the father of six and, with one on the way, he has drawn the ire of those who would rather open the borders to what they see as an overpopulated world, than have more people made in Australia.
Perrottet also devoutly believes in the sanctity of life. He opposed the bill which removed abortions from the NSW criminal code and voted against the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021. Both were introduced by Independent Green MP, Alex Greenwich and those in the Liberal Party who voted with him, aligned with the fashionable Marxist doctrine that the State should be, to their way of thinking, morally ‘neutral’. Their votes illustrate where the Party’s Left is on multiple social issues.
Perrottet’s faith remains a constant irritant to his opponents. Cultural Marxists are determined to replace traditional religion with ‘social religion’ and, as Abbott found, they will use his religious beliefs to portray him as out of touch with today’s, ie their values.
Despite swimming against the ideological tide, Perrottet has enjoyed a meteoric rise since entering parliament in 2011. He is a rare conviction politician who believes in freedom, the sanctity of life and, the important role of the family in society. He seeks to restore people’s self-belief which has been battered by the cancel culture movement. He also wants to earn back the public’s trust which has been lost following years of betrayal and inconsistent responses to the pandemic.
It is a difficult mission, and he clearly starts from behind. He needs the support of his party room which differs on many key issues. He also needs the support of his bureaucrats. But most important of all, over the cacophony of disinformation and hostility of his political opponents, the self-righteous media, big business, and other superiors, he must reach the hearts and minds of the people of New South Wales and get their endorsement for the course he has charted.
For that to happen will take a miracle. But then miracles do happen.
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