While in London, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a speech which almost drove former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett to alcoholism1. In the speech, Turnbull stated that the Liberal Party was not a “conservative party”, and that its founder Robert Menzies had “firmly anchored” it in the centre of the political spectrum. Apparently, the cabinet was set for an enormous backlash1 from the right of the Liberal Party and the Murdoch press, but it never came. Perhaps the right realised that Turnbull was actually speaking the truth, hard as it is for them (especially Tony Abbott) to grasp the concept of truth.
Numerous people on the right look upon former Prime Minister and founder of the Liberal Party, Robert Menzies, as a demigod and they often refer to his ‘forgotten people’ speech. However, like many christians with the bible, most of them have probably never read it, or if they have, they ignore the embarrassing parts. In his speech, Menzies praised the middle class who he said represented the “backbone” of the country, and he excluded the rich and powerful from governmental concern because they can look after themselves2. If that is the case, what are we to make of a Liberal Party, and to a lesser extent the Labor Party, whose policies over the last 30+ years have so mercilessly hammered the working and middle classes, and given the wealthy and big business tax cuts and subsidies galore. These policies are all based on the fallacy of trickle-down economics, so beloved of the right, which states that if you give big business and the wealthy more largesse than they could wish for, the benefits will flow through the economy down to the people who actually need the money. There was one problem with this, and that is, it wasn’t even remotely true. The wealthy stuffed the money in their bank accounts in Australia and the Cayman Islands, while their companies made obscene profits to dole out to their shareholders, who often belonged to the same crowd. As billionaire Nick Hanauer said, this cannot continue, but if it does, it is only a matter of time before people with pitchforks will come for the plutocrats3.
If Turnbull wants to even have a chance of remaining Prime Minister in the near future, let alone remaining till the next election, he must get rid of the influence of the right wing trickle-down nut jobs in his party; such as Abbott, Andrews and Abetz. They may well leave and join the Australian Conservatives, and I am sure Cory Bernardi would, as he has said, welcome them. But if they all jumped ship at once and went conservative, who would they vote with in the parliament? I suspect it is unlikely to be the Labor Party, as most of these people foam at the mouth with outrage when even contemplating the concept of that party. The first test as to how much intestinal fortitude Turnbull has, was with his adoption of a limited version of the Gonski school funding which has upset some on the right. The next will be Dean Smith’s same-sex marriage bill4. If it gets a guernsey in the party room and it is discussed and voted upon, and fails, we will all know that Turnbull has either squibbed any further leadership, or he has been rolled by the nutters. In either case, his prime ministership will be shorter than he would like. If he wins, then he may actually have a shot at being Prime Minister when the next election rolls around.
A Newspoll recently asked if people wanted a plebiscite for same sex marriage and most people agreed, but the questions were so biased, that it is doubtful another outcome would have been possible. Previous polls have found that most people are in favour of same sex marriage, and the proportion in favour is continuing to increase. All that is required is a free vote in parliament, not a $170 million plebiscite. Other countries have managed it and their social order hasn’t collapsed, and their economies haven’t failed. I am sure it would get the nod in the party room, especially if Dean Smith assured the religious nutters that his bill would not make same sex marriage compulsory.