Contributed by Ben Wilson
I didn’t think I’d ever be saying that Malcolm Turnbull’s made a good point. But he has, by saying that the shifty game played by Scott Morrison to keep Craig Kelly on board, a “capitulation” to the reactionary faction and a “weak” response, to the threat to a threat to move to the backbench, if he is not preselected to stand for the Liberals.
Craig Kelly does not have the support of the local Liberal Party to be endorsed to stand for the safe seat of Hughes in Sydney. I thought this might have something to do with inner party democracy. It is now clear that such feely warmy stuff is not so precious, and expendable when it no longer suits.
Scott Morrison has changed the rule, using a provision for emergency powers, so that inconvenient decisions by the member of the party that threaten the position of a sitting member can now be overturned by the leader.
Turnbull tried to get the small l Liberals to resist, but it all came to nothing. In a sense, it might be because Turnbull himself as a prisoner and weak in the face of the same people, when he was leader and prime minister.
The main reason, however, is a sense of panic has set in. With Craig Kelly on the crossbench there would be no majority, and many of them might fall down the precipice of a sudden and unwinnable election. None of them want to go out looking for another job and personal interest triumphed over principle. This is opportunism plain and simple.
Turnbull has no reason to be fond of Kelly, who played a prominant role in his downfall, and represents the faction of Abbott, Dutton and company. Now he can call out enemies with no threat to himself. This should not stop us from recognising the truth of what he says. It is foolish not to. After all, when he is hitting out as his enemies, he is damaging those who most of us would like to see the end of.
It is certain that this game of Morrison’s will have repercussions in the Liberal Parry, not only because it strengthens the hand of the most odious section within it and will anger their opponents within. The shift to top down control over preselection is not only about one seat. A precedent has been set to make it easily apply it to other seats. This has created a new battleground that will soon play out.
The fight over the Kelly preselection is intimately tied up with the war over the future political direction of the Liberal Party, being fought from the grass roots up.
It is a sign of the disarray of a party in a political crisis, where every step it takes gets it deeper into a quagmire it finds impossible to escape. The Liberal Party is in terminal decline, at least in the sense of staying on as the government.
The point is that the longer it stays, the greater the disrepute and disillusionment of Australia, and this builds internal pressure and a series of breaches in unity.
Those of us outside should take sides. We are against the direction the Liberal Party is going in and are mugs, if we don’t find some level of common cause with those who feel the same in the inside. For now, we are on the same side of the dividing line. Together we can defeat our common enemy.