Contributed from Queensland
One more sign of the growing division within the Liberal Party has broken out now. In an interview on 2GB, Tony Abbott launched another attack on Malcolm Turnbull. This is not surprising. Abbott has a track record of sniping from the sidelines.
What is of note this time around, is the revelation of how the efforts of the leadership to maintain control and sell an illusion of unity has led to attempt to impose an internal gag. It is obviously not working.
Abbott told Chris Kenny that there’s “pressure to conform.”
“I got to say that there aren’t many opportunities for dissent in the party room these days. Party room procedure has changed under prime Minister Turnbull,” he said.
This might be in part sour grapes by a deposed former leader, who is losing his personal support base among the party leadership. But to dismiss it as just this is to overlook that this is only one incident in a catalogue incidents and stumbles, which have given a clear picture of a party stuck in a groove and achieving very little.
Many others have commented on the disconnection between what is happening to most of Australian society and the world view of the government as a basic cause, and that this taking the form of an ongoing battle for supremacy between the more flexible traditional conservatives and the emergent radical right, to which Abbott belongs.
Neither side has been able to gain overwhelming dominance. This has produced the twin effects of forcing the conservatives to take up some of the agenda of the radical right and keeping the prime minister hostage. The result is a government that comes across as incompetent and heading for a great fall.
Tightening the internal screws will not change this. Only by disengaging form their close entanglement with wealth and power would change the game. If they did this, they wouldn’t be the Liberal Party. It’s not going to happen.
The differences are deeply ideological. They are also based on competing economic interests existing within the ranks of big business. One lot tends towards the powerful financial industry and its closely associated mining industry for example. The other is more closely associated with industries that are having a harder time or in a decline, such as manufacturing. The line separating the two groups is not always all that sharp. Both want to go in a similar direction. The differences are usually over the protection of sectional interests, or whether to use the velvet glove or the boot.
The first group tends to be bigger and largely foreign owned and pushes to remake the Australian politico-economic landscape more thoroughly that the other, which tends to be have a larger proportion of Australian ownership.
This is a complex matter of forces and counter forces that cannot be explained away in just a few words. Together, they generate significant tension, and this is carried into the Liberal Party. The result is not good for most of Australia. Every problem that calls for urgent answers, is met with the worst possible response, in terms of the collective interest of society.
This is a government that is particularly toxic that need to go.