The tragedy is that even if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were to ‘take the gloves off’ in his battle with Labor’s Bill Shorten, all that would be exposed would be a pair of marshmallow fists incapable of landing a solid blow. On so many fronts, Mr Shorten and his modern Labor party sit naked and vulnerable. A strong Liberal conviction politician with centre-right or conservative leanings should, in all truth, be capable of decimating Mr Shorten, and exposing the fraudulence of his gang of quasi-socialists’ political posturing and nonsensical economic policies.
Climate change and energy are Labor’s weakest, but by no means only, exposed flank. As power prices soar, everyday Mums and Dads along with the poor and the elderly – Mr Howard’s famed and now long-forgotten battlers – are having their life savings and lifestyles plundered by greedy energy providers. These providers, whilst disingenuously claiming they are ‘saving the planet’ by investing in renewables, are simply taking full advantage of the ludicrous volatility in electricity prices brought on by the twin climate change ideological prescriptions of renewables targets and subsidies. The Herald-Sun reported last week that some struggling families have energy debts of over $25,000. This is a disgrace. That current energy policies are a ‘mess’ is no excuse. ‘Mess’ is another weasel-word and smokescreen conveniently used by the Left to disguise the real culprit, climate change alarmism and deception. A conservative politician of the calibre of John Howard would long ago have abandoned any ideological ‘commitments’ and focussed his or her firepower on genuinely assisting such families not by handing out more and more subsidies or pay-outs but by putting on hold our so-called international obligations under the Paris Agreement. (The original Agreement was voluntary, so the word ‘obligations’ is also misleading.) As Donald Trump so easily demonstrated, if you believe the Paris Agreement to be stealing your wealth and destroying jobs (which it plainly is), the best policy is to simply abandon it. The political and economic dividends for our Liberal National Coalition from such a dramatic gesture would be immediate and substantial.
As Labor state governments led by Jay Weatherill seek ever-higher subsidies, and as Bill Shorten abandons the working classes of Queensland by demonising the much-needed Adani coal mining project, Labor would be a sitting duck for a Liberal party not beholden to the ‘progressive’ climate change ideology.
Put simply, the Coalition has a golden, once-in-a-generation opportunity to put itself squarely on the side of the great aspirational working class of Australia and to stand in direct opposition to the inner-city elites that Labor and the Greens have so successfully captured. Again, as Mr Trump demonstrated, and as recent European elections suggest, electoral victory is lying there waiting to be grabbed if you pursue an unequivocally conservative agenda.
Similarly, the Coalition could demolish Labor on the question of education, where we have sunk to below Kazakhstan levels thanks to the Rudd-Gillard policies, and gender identity politics. Yet where parents across the nation are recoiling at the perversity of the Safe Schools agenda, the Prime Minister makes a point of taking a grinning pinkish selfie at the charmless gay Mardi Gras.
The Coalition has been gun-shy on Industrial Relations since the dishonest anti-Work Choices union campaign that arguably brought down the Howard government. But nowhere in the history books has victory been won by covering your eyes and pretending your opponent doesn’t exist. It is long overdue for the Coalition to form a strong anti-union suite of policies and narrative in order to tackle the enemy with conviction, strength and determination. The merging of the frequently lawless CFMEU with two other unions was the ideal opportunity to sell a new narrative, again unbelievably ignored by this government.
The question of immigration numbers is another hot button issue that the Coalition could easily have owned but for reasons that beggar belief has chosen to ignore, thereby yet again passing up an issue with which they could have hammered Labor. Common sense dictates that you must separate the theoretical benefits of immigration from the practicalities of the actual numbers (or rate) involved.
To which we must add the chronic failure of Scott Morrison to sell a credible economic message, largely, it must be assumed, because of the lack of support from his leader.
This is all the more frustrating because of the much-vaunted economic leadership Mr Turnbull was supposed to have provided.
As Ross Fitzgerald points out in this week’s cover story, the question is not so much whether Mr Turnbull is preferable to Mr Shorten (the answer is self-evident), but rather, whether Mr Turnbull is hindering the Coalition’s ability to pursue numerous agendas which the public crave and which would almost certainly guarantee a Coalition victory at the next election.