Is this the last hurrah for the Far Right in Australia?

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The stranglehold of the Far Right over conservative politics in Australia is being broken. The comprehensive repudiation of Campbell Newman tells us that rejecting climate science, trashing renewable energy, and treating the electorate like mugs has no future. Abbott, though, is not listening. Cue Malcolm Turnbull, entering centre stage.

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The stranglehold of the Far Right over conservative politics in Australia is being broken. The comprehensive repudiation of Campbell Newman tells us that rejecting climate science, trashing renewable energy, and treating the electorate like mugs has no future. Abbott, though, is not listening. Cue Malcolm Turnbull, entering centre stage.

If the Queensland election tells us anything about politics in Australia it is that the stranglehold of the Far Right over the conservative arena in Australia is being broken. Emphatically so.

What we will see at the federal level in coming days, weeks or months – or however long Prime Minister Tony Abbott holds on to his job – may well signal the last hurrah of the Far Right in Australia.

The dramatic repudiation of former Premier Campbell Newman tells us that the Australian electorate has no stomach for the Tea Party-style extremism that has manifested itself in all manner of policies – from education, health, the budget, immigration, to its anti-science stance on climate change and rejection of renewable energy, and its total capitulation to vested interests.

Newman and Abbott have much in common in their style and in the substance of their policies – so much so that everyone accepts that the Queensland election has massive implications for the federal scene. As former Treasurer Wayne Swan pointed out on Saturday night, both Abbott and Newman pretended to be moderates while campaigning, but turned out to be extremist once in government.abbottnewman

Swan said both men took the electorate for mugs. Newman’s graceless speech on Saturday night – and his inference that future generations would admire the brilliance of his government even if the current generation didn’t – showed he still didn’t get it.

And Abbott’s speech to the Press Club in Canberra on Monday shows he doesn’t get it either. It was, like every other public declaration since his election 16 months ago, little more than a repeat of the three-word slogans Abbott used in Opposition – although Abbott did try to beat Newman’s record of using the word “strong” so many times in the one speech, as if that was a policy in itself.

It was a warning to the electorate that it should be scared of budget deficits, illegal immigrants and Muslims. When Abbott turned to his future vision, he began with Islamic extremism and ended with the “roads of the future” and had little else between. He also warned us to be scared of Labor governments, but recent voting in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia have shown the nonsense of that approach.

Abbott spoke of intergenerational debt. He was referring to budget deficits, but never mentioned climate change and the environment, probably the greatest liability this generation will leave to its children and grand-children.

He talked of sunrise industries versus sunset industries, and the jobs of the future, but never once talked about the opportunities of new technologies and renewable energy. It was just about roads.

Now the true liberals within the Liberal Party have to work out how to get rid of Abbott, and with him, the Far Right that has installed itself within his inner cabal, his department, and numerous other industries.

It won’t be easy. The most obvious response from the federal Liberal party to the Queensland outcome is to give up on those barnacles that it cannot possibly get passed in the senate – trashing the renewable energy target is one of them. But the moderates within the Liberal Party don’t hold the numbers.

The NSW government has shown how this might be done. The Baird government is the next in line to suffer from the fallout of the Far Right and “Toxic Tony”. Today, it announced it has become the first conservative government in Australia to join the Climate Group, it openly supports the renewable energy target, albeit it a delayed one, it embraces rooftop solar, and supports community energy.

These are similar policies to the new Queensland Labor government, which is supporting rooftop solar and large-scale renewables, community energy, and wants to export jobs and technology from a renewable energy industry.

It will never be clear how much the issue of renewable energy and household solar played in the Queensland election. But with some 400,000 households with rooftop solar, and one-third of these without state-based subsidies, even a moderate impact would have been enough to tip the balance.

But it should not be forgotten that Abbott was installed as leader of the Liberal Party for the sole purpose of rejecting the carbon price, and rolling back environmental and renewable energy policies.

Policy was reduced to those three word slogans and these continued even in government. Australia has embarrassed itself on the national stage, from Abbott’s performnce at CHOGM, and then at the G20, to Australia’s no show at Warsaw, its sending of a climate denier chaperone to Lima, and the thumbing of its nose to the global renewable energy industry. The proposed knighthood of Prince Philip simply crystallised what everyone had suspected, that this government has lost its grip on reality and is lost in the past.

The question for many Liberals is how much damage has been done to the party brand. Its current policy suite is alien to anyone in the political centre and to the bulk of the population. The membership is small and dominated by the Right.

As one disenchanted Liberal explained to RenewEconomy: Australians want a fair deal. It has a sense of decency and fairness. It supports renewable energy. It wants the Great Barrier Reef protected, not lied about, as environmental groups are accusing the Abbott government of doing as recently as last weekend.

Right now, “Toxic Tony” is looking like the most successful tool in the ALP box. Sooner or later he will have to be replaced.  This is not a matter of if, but when.

The question then becomes, who will replace him? There seems only two options and of those two options only one makes sense for the Liberal party. Technically both Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are both possible but in reality the only decisions the party can take and avoid oblivion is Turnbull.

If, because of the Liberals’ ageing and hard right membership, they don’t, then Turnbull should walk and start anew. A few years ago, I canvassed the possibility that Malcolm Turnbull could start his own party. As a former investment banker, Turnbull knows all about reverse takeovers.

(And, as it turns out, while Newman was preparing to face his political execution in Queensland, and Abbott steeling to stave off his, Turnbull was in California, having a test drive of a Tesla Model S, which he raved about, telling his Facebook followers that there is an “energy revolution” coming through battery storage. Another Liberal MP, Steve Ciobo, also said on Friday that solar and storage would likely encourage many Australians to quit the grid.

“The current Liberal Party is flawed,” my party informant told me. “It is riddled with a dying membership, is ultra right membership and executive leadership who despise new blood. The executive leadership changes like the leadership of the bowls club and the reincarnation of (Michael) Kroger in Victoria demonstrates this “spin” cycle.

“So why would Malcolm actually stay? With him as leader he will battle a highly antagonist party whose membership is not broad-based. He will have policy positions that all need changing but a patronage system built of old financial favours.”

“So Malcolm has a win-win ahead of him now.  He is either made party leader and then has to undertake a full party renewal and restructure, or if not he walks and launches the old liberal party through an established shell, securing the middle ground and leaves the current liberal party at the far right, without a leader and heading for clear electoral oblivion at the next election.”

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46 Comments
  1. Keith 5 years ago

    Good commentary. Note that Abbott in his Press Club speech explicitly referred to having trashed the carbon tax and promised never to bring it back. Thus he continues to encourage those who see him as a climate denier. He is painting the LNP deeper into a corner on climate and fossil fuel exploitation. Nothing has been learned from Queensland.

    Mark Kenny cheekily asked if the reference to the carbon tax was about Labor or a warning to Turnbull. Abbott chose to ignore the comment.

  2. barrie harrop 5 years ago

    Aust PM in denial,Qld voted,Vic voted ,by elections in Sth Aust,it seems he is determined to set the record of being a one term Liberal PM,whatever the cost to his party.

  3. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    Turnbull could call his Party the Centre Left Liberal Party. Judging by the standards set by the existing lot, it appears Centre Left and Liberal are not oxymoronic anymore.

    • SunGod 5 years ago

      Or at least, no more oxymoronic than Centre Left and Labor now.

  4. johnnewton 5 years ago

    To make such a speech with no other reference to climate change is, if we needed more evidence, the clincher. By Bye Abbott. You need to spend some time with your family

  5. Terry J Wall 5 years ago

    Personally I think the ALP keeps getting thrown out for one reason only and that is due to its lack of management experience and skills. You know, like selling stuff to meet the deficits, not that the LNP is much better at that.

    Whereas the LNP keeps getting thrown out because they are too much in “lock step” with the lobbyists trained by the neo-cons in corporate run Washington. They end up saying stuff that has little to do with giving the average Australian a fair go. They end up sounding disjointed and without direction.

  6. Doug Evans 5 years ago

    Depressingly none of the assembled media pack thought to question the chasm between Abbott’s stated concern for inter generational debt and his nonsensical stance on climate and energy.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      chooks just wanna be feed

    • RobS 5 years ago

      Don’t see why you would bother asking the question, he doesn’t believe in the impacts of climate change therefore he would argue that it is taking “expensive” action which would actually harm or “steal” from future generations

      • Doug Evans 5 years ago

        I think it was important to ask not because his answer would tell us anything the assembled scribes didn’t already know but because the position he holds has been repeatedly shown to be rubbish and asking the question might have shown his hypocrisy in respect of his claimed concern about inter generational debt.

      • mike flanagan 5 years ago

        The frightening truth of the impacts in train from climate change must be exposed to the public and Abbott’s denialism, obfuscation and relentless lying on the subject has to be constantly exposed.
        Poliing indicates the publics exposure to the discourse and information, together with their observational anecdotal information confirms the gathering isolation of the extreme right wing agenda Abbott persists with, as the fraud he and it truly are..

    • SunGod 5 years ago

      Of course Doug, the reason why they refuse to confront Abbott on an issue like this is the same reason most of them try to avoid any kind of impartial reportage, or indeed any reportage at all, about anything to do with the Greens, except for the purpose of specious mudslinging.

      The “official” media made it clear what they’re about long ago. Preservation of the capital of vested interests and propping up the parties and politicians in their pay.

  7. Chris 5 years ago

    The questions directed at Mr.Abbott at today’s Press Luncheon were abysmal. Journalists level of informedness on issues such as those presented here is appalling. If only they kept up to date on Renew Economy. Thanks for the local political commentary of late.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      Murdoch has a lot to answer for…

  8. Marg1 5 years ago

    He’s a dead man walking – hallelujah!

  9. Rob G 5 years ago

    Giles, you have hit the nail on the head as did Wayne Swan on ABC. Abbott and Newman have failed in their assessment of their sliding demise. No where do you see any realisation that the publics growing climate concerns had anything to do with it. They just missed it. They continue to fall back on excuses that they just didn’t explain themselves better, but we know exactly why they do the things they do (and who they really serve). Each step they make worsens the LNP cause, the never ending slagging off of Labor, the tiresome slogans (Labor’s mess, stop the boats, tough decisions, open for business…) If the LNP backbenchers don’t oust Abbott, he will take the federal government the same way Newman just did.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      The LNP’s Supreme Court injunction against GetUp! handing out How to Vote Cards aiming to protect the GBR suggests they knew environment and coal was an issue they just refuse to give it oxygen. Jane Prentice didn’t even mention CC regards the reef just mentioned Ag run-off which is of course an issue for the near reef but dwarfed in scale by AGW. MP Swan said it’s ocean warming but acidification from increases dissolved CO2 is the big issue for all coral reefs in the world.

    • Alan Baird 5 years ago

      The Libs are cussedly abysmal but let’s not forget Wayne baby held off taking action on pensions until some actually did a demo dressed in barrels and underwear… but had been obscene in his haste to get yet ANOTHER tax cut for the well off. Of course the Libs waved it though. The Libs may be appalling but the “modern” ALP has pretty poor form. Labor may be better but I haven’t voted for them for decades… and won’t if Bill’s anything to go by AND they tolerated knuckle-dragging tools like Martin Ferguson nobbling mining tax effectiveness (etc!) without a murmur.
      PS. If Labor in Queensland DIDN’T tote up those numerous cases where Green votes of up to the 20% mark got them over the line then they’ll soon be reverting to form and privatising with the best of them. Wayne strangely didn’t remark on Green help. Can’t think why.

      • SunGod 5 years ago

        They – the “modern” parliamentary ALP, most of them at least – hate the fact Green preferences were the reason why the LNP lost that election, as do the hardcore duopolists in their ranks.

        Some of the less scrupulous ALP operatives scurried around Twitter during the couple of days afterwards, abusing the hell out of the Greens for daring to point this out.

        • zynismus 5 years ago

          most would be less than scrupulous if they thought no one would notice ; )

          • SunGod 5 years ago

            Yes, a lot of us have seen how much more unscrupulous they can be when they think people won’t notice.

          • zynismus 5 years ago

            hence all the SMOKE …

          • SunGod 5 years ago

            The “Look over there” thing, yep. Lately looks like it’s the tactic of choice. Derailing serious topics into one or other kind of political gamesmanship, and playing the man, like that character I just saw again on IA with his silly fantasies about me and a few other mates, trying to provoke us into entering a slanging match with him. Like any of us would seriously do that.

            Was a good point you made, and DJ did too, about that issue of intimidation, putting people off posting on that site. That intimidatory stuff is exactly why there’s no way I’d jump into comments there any time soon. It’s an odds-on certainty I’d be setting myself up for unnecessary trouble if I did, and I know the other guys feel the same.

          • zynismus 5 years ago

            heh : ) R A ? it’s a funny old world. there is almost enough time left for trouble. ein Herz aus Diamant ! nevermind the bollocks keep your eye on the ball : )

  10. Pedro 5 years ago

    If the LNP wants to survive and be relevant it needs to get rid of at least one big barnacle…..Toxic Tony and his cronies.

  11. Sharyn Lacey 5 years ago

    Do it Malcolm, walk away and startanew party

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      As if…

  12. Ken Dyer 5 years ago

    As an older baby boomer living in an aging electorate that has two Libs “representing” me at State and Federal level, I get really annoyed that these “old white men” have been continually returned to power, and applaud the electors of Victoria and Queensland, and soon, hopefully those in New South Wales.
    Like me, many of the people who voted for them have about 20 years of life left, but seem determined to continue to vote for conservative politicians who have no idea and less commitment to the issues of climate change and fossil fuel pollution.
    It is as if these people have adopted the mantra, “Stuff you Jack, I’m alright”, a theme that the old white men of the Liberal Party know how to exploit through fear and propaganda.
    Maybe in what remains of their life, these oldies might consider what is in store for their grandchildren, and hasten to put in place a government that will accelerate the efforts to combat global warming, and to try and lessen this inter-generational debt they and their forbears are passing on to future generations.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      Support you local Greens candidate at the next election. There’s a good chance she’ll not be male and not be white. Certainly she will not be stupid 😉

      • Richard Koser 5 years ago

        Well, the Greens in Australia tend to be invisible, flaky and clueless – at least in my electorate. No media, no public appearances. As much as I loathe the career politicians in the Laboral party, they know how to play the game. Bob Brown was a giant who couldn’t stoop to the level of the electorate and Christine Milne reminds me of a prissy teacher who was disgusted by pornography. They could have supported a mediocre carbon policy but instead we’ve got nothing. Truly a case of the pristine being an enemy of the slightly grubby, and giving the filthy the floor.

        • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

          Which electorate? Federally Greens Senators are some of the smartest MPs in Canberra I would say. Certainly their policies are most intelligent, which emerge from the party membership involvement. Milne is anything but prissy in my opinion, overly feisty more like it. And she gets better every year in the top job I think. But Greens are less about personality politics and more about evidence based policy outcomes.

          • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

            If you are referring to ALPs climate policy when Rudd was leader (first time) it was garbage and worse than not good. Would have locked in unworkable climate policy for decades and polluters would be going on their merry way and making money for it. Greens have the right to object and were correct to object, Bob Brown says so too.

          • cliffd_7 5 years ago

            Scott Ludlum for PM , I say.

        • SunGod 5 years ago

          Holy crap, you think that Carbon Pollution Reinforcement Subsidy, with its planned $16 billion in extra handouts to polluting companies, and no guarantee of any emissions reduction at all, was somehow worth voting for?

          Pristine my bum. All we wanted was any real action on global warming at all, and that bill was worse than nothing.

          Billions of taxpayers’ money handed away to polluters isn’t what I call carbon policy.

          As if the $17.6 billion/year already going out in handouts to them courtesy of both major parties isn’t bad enough.

        • John McKeon 5 years ago

          Christine Milne, Scott Ludlum – to name just two of our federal parliamentarians who are of the Greens party – are each worth at least 10 times the best politician outside of the Greens that you can think of.

          They have worked very bloody hard for a better world … and they haven’t been bought by the fossil fuel mafia.

  13. wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

    “What this government, this Abbott Government is working to deliver for you” might be one of the last times he gets to say that.

  14. Cooma Doug 5 years ago

    Perhaps it will be best to continue a policy of “emporer’s new cloths” with Abbot. Let him soldier on to an election. (Hopefully he will be wearing some red undies with the invisible cloths) I say this because the swing voter and the concerned forward thinking people will be expecting too much of Turnbull, to have him put in charge of the Titanic now. He would only get to re arrange a few deck chairs and down she goes.
    There is a famous quote, often used in science and problem solving ” Complicated problems often have simple soultions and they are always wrong.”
    Lets not do this to Mal.
    What must be done is for Bill Shorten to stop his Abbot style slogan opposition and become a Malcom style solution revealer.

  15. Ben Rose 5 years ago

    Great article, Giles. Wonderful summary of what Abbott, Newman and their extreme right have done and why they are on the way out. It comes down to the fact they are not for a ‘fair go for Australians’ but rather a ‘free go for their corporate elite cronies’.

    Another factor you have not mentioned here is that the scope and influence of the Murdoch propaganda machine is now common knowledge. Voters thumbed their noses at the Courier Mail’s exhortations.

    This has happened because of the impact of rigorous, truthful journalism from internet based news/ blogs such as this one, ‘The Conversation’ and The Australia Institute. Murdoch will never again be allowed to rule as he did for >40 years when most people thought the Oz and his other news dailies could be relied upon to print factual news and analysis. Up until a few years ago, few were aware of the insidious extent of his world- wide propaganda empire but now it’s common knowledge.

    Next step is for volunteer donors to put print copies of the Guardian and the above-mentioned internet news on tables in coffee lounges to counter the free copies of his rags.

    • Harry Verberne 5 years ago

      I note that the Murdoch rag the “Herald Sun” is very common in cafes. I sometimes urge the owners and staff to replace them with a “real newspaper” such as the Melbourne “Age”, the Sydney Morning Herald or the Guardian.One factor is that the HS is cheaper than quality papers.

      • mike flanagan 5 years ago

        It is a dishonest ploy to boost his ‘audited’ circulation figures.

      • Ben Rose 5 years ago

        Yes Harry, good on you for that. I did same at the library in Kalamunda where I live and they now have added The Age to their papers. I’m thinking of actually sponsoring a paper for some local coffee shops (Age and or Guardian).

        I think you are right Mike it is a ploy by Murdoch – he gives them out free to coffee shops to boost his circulation. I think this along with his inane tweets are indication of the man’s inflated ego syndrome – he’s so desperate to get his propaganda out.

  16. Catheryn Thompson 5 years ago

    I’m unable to Share this: logo links to facebook etc are not showing – help?

  17. Catheryn Thompson 5 years ago

    I’m unable to share to FB – logo link is not showing at base of article – where it used to be.

  18. marty 5 years ago

    Malcolm should leave this bunch of rusted on profiteers, the only sane future puts sustainability high on the agenda, he could join the Greens and make it an ethical business choice to focus on Earth Repair technologies

    • John McKeon 5 years ago

      “… an ethical business choice to focus on Earth Repair technologies”. I’ve got news for you, marty: it already is.

  19. I hope Giles Parkinson is right – that far right will no longer dominate Australian government. However, let’s not forget the huge donations on which the Liberals rely. The largest donations come from the coal industry. And don’t let’s forget the Institute of Pubic Affairs, funded by who knows whom, and pushing the agenda of USA’s Tea Party. (The Koch brothers in USA will be putting 1 $billion into the Presidential campaign)
    I heard a report that Dennis Jensen MP will back Malcolm Turnbull as PM, PROVIDED THAT TURNBULL GIVES AN ASSURANCE THAT THERE WILL BE NO CARBON PRICING.
    Perhaps it IS time for Turnbull to start his own party. The liberals hate him anyway – jealous of his intelligence.

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