Contributed by Joe Montero
For the coming 11 march election in West Australia, the Liberal party has just stitched up a deal that gives One Nation preferences above the National Party in the upper house and above Labor in the lower house.
This shows a new shift in the direction of the One Nation and the range of grouplets on this side of Australian politics.
Cori Bernardi’s departure did have an impact. The South Australia Senator left to form a new party, because he believed that the Liberals had betrayed principle. To him this means that it had not gone nearly far enough on banning Muslims, been indecisive on the marriage equality issue and on supporting climate warming denial. The Liberal Party has been left trying to accommodate itself and prevent further walkouts.
Less well known is that he is a close to Tony Abbott . He was the one that moved the original motion to topple Malcolm Turnbull the first time. Although Bernardi seeks to exploit disquiet amongst true conservatives over the Liberal party’s ongoing rightward drift, he is not really one of them and does not share their concern. He wants to accelerate the shift, not hold it back.
Some have scoffed about the prospects for a new party. However, there is one person who is prepared to put big money into it – mining tycoon Gina Rinehart. In combination with growing dissatisfaction in the Liberal camp, the existence of One Nation and the Xenophon team, the political scenario favours the Liberal radicals and works against the moderates., who have been seriously compromised by an extraordinary lack of resistance and weakness of leadership from Malcolm Turnbull. The prime minister has turned out to be the consummate opportunist.
All this has a lot to do with the Western Australia preference deal. It is much more than a short-term tactical ploy. The Australian government is being ideologically shifted, to be reborn in the image of Donald Trump. And to do this, it needs to establish an alliance with its right flank.
It is no accident that coalition members of parliament have been handling lumps of coal in the house. Gina backs Bernardi. Behind her there is the rest of the coal industry and the rest of the major mining companies, with only one item on their agenda; more mining less alternatives. West Australia happens to be the industry’s heartland and it is on the cards that plenty of money is flowing to get mining friendly candidates elected.
It doesn’t stop here. The Coalition is being nationally pressed by the corporate sector as a whole and its organisations are becoming more strident in demanding higher goals and a faster pace of action on key issues, such as cuts to government expenditure, less taxes and more subsidies for them, reverting the industrial relations system back to the Howard WorkChoices era for the expansion of casualisation and cutting of wages and less protection of the environment. It is no longer so certain that these corporations will continue to fill Liberal Party accounts.
Labor is ahead in the polls and it is likely that increased backing of One Nation by donors is the best bet to channel dissatisfaction with the liberals and Nationals in a manner that avoids Labor becoming the government. Labor is wanted on the outer, because at this point of time, it is not regarded as the best option to give the mining industry a green light.
This poses a challenge to Labor. Will the party find a way to extricate itself from its own dependence on big business? Or will it inch closer to the position of the Coalition? Recent political developments in West Australia and every other part of Australia would not have come about, if so many Australians hat not become so disenchanted with the big parties and political institutions. The choice for Labor is simple. Be a pale reflection of the Coalition, or be a real alternative.