Contributed by Joe Montero
Something is happening. There are signs of growing division within the Liberal Party and between the Liberal and national parties. At the same time, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp has suddenly flipped from being the leading climate warming denier in the country, to headlining the need to taking decisive action to stop climate warming.
Both make perfect sense when considered as symptoms of an early stage of a crisis of government. Sure, the Morrison government is riddled with problems and finding it infuriatingly hard to find its way. On its own, this is not enough to explain a crisis that affects much more than the Morrison government.
Photo from AP: Rupert Murdoch is taking aim at Scott Morrison
Australia faces the four headed crisis of economic failure for most people, consequences of the warming of the planet, growing social problems, and the declining regard for politicians failing to deliver and seen as an elite in the pocket of big business. This cuts across political ideologies.
It is these failings that are making the business of being the government increasingly more difficult, and the pandemic has taken this to a new level.
The popular wisdom is that politicians in general are crooks, bought off by big money, can’t be trusted, and will do nothing in the interests of ordinary people.
Over the last few years, Australia has been a slow shift from the two party political system. There are the greens. One Nation came. The number of independents in parliament has been on a rise. There is the usually untold story of the growing proportion of Australia that wants none of the above. The pandemic has seen a modest but important rise of the ultra-right in the Australian political scene. The nation is beginning to politically polarise.
It may be that we are entering a new era, where the polarisation becomes more intense. The Morrison government is already finding it harder to navigate its way forward, and it can’t be explained away as merely incompetence. Disaffection is narrowing the political base, and this is feeding division into increasingly hostile factions.
One of these has been the breakaway of that which called itself the Liberal Democrats. The counterpoint are those factions more closely tied to the mining industry and ultra-right. Many of the factions remaining within the coalition have come to see Scott Morrison as a problem and out of step with the present realities. But none have the capacity to replace him with a leader more to their liking.
The Liberal Party image is not so easily appealing to its base
This is electorally comforting news for Labor. Despite this, Labor has its own problems. The main one is that many see it as a pale version of the coalition. Make no mistake, a Labor victory at next year’s election will be the preferred option. This will give a chance to put a stop to the worst of what the present government is doing, and maybe even provide some space, and maybe provide some space for discussion on how to move forward.
Those who question this musty put forward a viable alternative in Australia’s existing political conditions.
It would do Labor’s leadership well to recognise that its own political base is shrinking because of disaffection. Good evidence of this some fall away in its heartlands. Nor is it managing to win over those who have moved from the Coalition.
The Greens are not doing any better. The forces usually regarded as being to the political left of the coalition, have so far failed to successfully put forward an alternative vision for a future that Australia can believe in. Although the reasons are complex and not the subject of the present discussion, the failure is extremely important.
Labor may still win next year’s election. But we should not be blind to the fact that this will be because the Morrison government is so much on the nose and the direct or indirect backing of Rupert Murdoch.
The media mogul has not changed his spots. He is tilting against the Morrison government. The astute mogul wants to reshape the coalition, and it may be that Morrison is now seen as a stumbling block that has to go.
It does not mean an automatic transfer to Labor. It may just stop at undermining the Prime Minister. Murdoch eye is always on the longer term, and from this perspective, changing the leadership of the Liberal Party is the means to shift it further to the political right.
Climate warming is being sued as a wedge to widen the cracks within the Coalition because this is an issue that Scott Morrison is vulnerable on. And as he tries to maintain an impossible consensus within the government, he comes out looking increasing vague and paralysed.
The Australian Business Council, representing the biggest corporations operating in Australia has joined Rupert Murdoch in this attack.
Labor is in a good position to benefit from Morrison’s problems.
But beware. Labor must deliver meaningful change, and this will prove to be difficult, if there is too much dependency on Murdoch, who will not hesitate to undermine the new government. This is a scenario that has the potential to send Australia in Trump style politics on steroids.