Contributed by Jim Hayes
Speaking at the Liberal Party State Council meeting on the weekend in Melbourne, Malcolm Turnbull warned against the party drifting to the right.
In doing so, he invoked the Liberal’s founding father Robert Menzies to make his case.
“Menzies rejected the populism, the authoritarianism of both left and right. He knew that the future … was in the sensible centre; was in the politics, not reactionary, but liberal, proudly liberal,” Turnbull said.
Few would fail to note the discrepancy between the words and what the Turnbull led government is actually doing.
Turnbull may be a moderate at heart, but, as his critics often suggest, he lacks the backbone to stand up to those pushing to do exactly what he has warned against. Compliance with the push has made him part of the problem. This is seen in a range of issues, culminating with the Xenophon company tax cut deal last Friday.
Policy after policy, from energy to industrial relations, has had the stamp of the ultra-right militant faction. Even more telling is that government policy is often written in the offices of peak employer organisations, like the Business Council of Australia (tax, energy, industrial relations and de-regulation of business obligations) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (tax, energy, industrial relations and penalty rates).
Nothing illustrates the connection between the corporate world and government more clearly than the company tax cut. Before the ink is dry on the legislation, the sector is already calling for a doubling to the $50 billion cutoff point.
The CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, James Pearson, urged Turnbull to channel his “newfound political courage into further cuts, while recognising this might be unpalatable to the public”.
The bottom line is that the political direction of the Liberal Party is driven by its main backers, who can pull the numbers. And Malcolm Turnbull has no stomach to take them on, knowing that the moment he does, it will be the end of his party leadership and his role as prime minister.
Meanwhile, carrying out the agenda penned in some of the biggest boardrooms in the country is turning public opinion against both Turnbull and his government. Not only this, it is undermining further the standing of politicians, often seen as an utterly corrupt élite.
Turnbull may have promised more humane government when he took over from Tony Abbott. The reality is that business has continued along the same lines and is now being ratcheted up a notch or two. This will lead to his eventual downfall and the only question is when?