Yesterday’s turmoil between the Liberal and National parties has adverse effects extending to governance of the country and it comes after the Coalition’s Newspoll fell first to 49/51 and then to 48/52 on a TPP basis. It also came after a “stoush” within the Liberal party over climate change following Senator Molan’s indication that he had an “open mind about whether or not climate change is human induced” (see first attachment above). To add to the political turmoil, following the resignation of Richard di Natale the Greens announced an even further left new head, Adam Bandt, although this might help the Coalition.
The Coalition now faces a major problem not only because Labor appears to be ahead electorally but also because it lacks a set of policies which it can present aggressively to the electorate. As argued in yesterday’s Australian, “the loss of political skin has largely been of Mr Morrison’s own making, given his dominance of the government’s sales pitch and decision-making. The government lost its way in three areas — bushfires, sports rorts and to an extent the coronavirus response — for different reasons. Mr Morrison’s pre-Christmas family vacation to Hawaii was a misstep with voters and poorly handled, end to end. The trip allowed critics to portray the Prime Minister as uncaring and missing in action as the bushfires crisis deepened. Certainly the obfuscation around Mr Morrison’s absence overseas was a mistake when the public needed clarity and reassurance. A chance to assert leadership was forfeited. Was there a touch of hubris after a triumphant year against expectations?
“Whether voters hold on to the gaffes and forget the good moves made hinges on what Mr Morrison does next. Since his return six weeks ago, Mr Morrison has been front and centre in the national media. He has held press conferences on every issue facing his government, visited bushfire zones and drought-affected areas, and kept up a stream of policy announcements. Yet critics have had a field day and Mr Morrison has been playing rhetorical catch-up. After the scathing Auditor-General’s report into the $100m Community Sport Infrastructure Program, the government was utterly immobilised, defending and dodging an episode of blatant pork barrelling. The principles were clear but, rather than confronting the breach and being open, Mr Morrison set in train an artificial process. Not releasing the report by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens only serves to raise more questions on a topic that should have put laid to rest a fortnight ago”
Of course, much of the media attention has gone to the rift within the National party. But while the retention of McCormack has arguably confirmed his position, his failure to present publicly the policies of the Coalition injured both his party and the Coalition. Morrison failed to make McCormack do his job but he now needs to persuade him to resign unless he does so. He also needs to persuade the members of the Coalition to reduce the emissions target and to have published the view of the many scientists who accept that bushfires were not started by climate change. That would be real leadership.