When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the date of the election (May 18), he said that there was a clear choice, and so there is. It is a choice between a government which is incapable of even having a working policy on climate change or energy and an opposition that does. No doubt many people would point to the Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) and Morrison’s rebadged version, the Climate Solutions Fund (CSF)1 and say ‘but they do have a policy!’ Nothing could be further from the truth. The ERF has been so spectacularly unsuccessful insofar as emissions, which were decreasing under the ‘carbon tax’, have climbed dramatically since the ERF’s introduction. As a consequence, a rebadging was necessary to at least give the impression the name wasn’t a lie. However, the aim of the ERF was not, despite its name, to reduce emissions, but to shovel public money to prospective donors to the Liberal Party. It is simply a money laundering scam2.
The main problem with the Coalition is that sufficient numbers in the party room have lurched so far to the rabid right, and become so unruly, that it is impossible to get anything vaguely approaching a progressive policy, let alone one based on science, up and running. This happened with the National Energy Guarantee, the previous attempt at an energy policy by the government3. While nobody could construe it as progressive, the policy got through the party room, but enough of the climate change denying recalcitrants threatened to cross the floor, that the government was not game to put it to a vote in the House of Representatives for fear of losing3.
This is the problem the Coalition has. They are beholden to a far-right rump totally incapable of understanding the concept of compromise, and incapable of understanding the concept of a policy, let alone actually formulating one. The Coalition have backed themselves into a corner because, as they are almost entirely incapable of developing any policies of note, all they are able to do is resort to Abbottism; i.e. to always oppose, and oppose everything, and lie if necessary. This was patently obvious when Labor announced their policy on electric vehicles. Despite the Labor policy being very close to that laid out by now Treasurer Josh Frydenberg a year before, the Coalition immediately opposed it to the extent that their statements were either deliberate lies or were ludicrously uninformed4,5,6. I suspect that if the Labor Party announced a policy supporting motherhood, the Coalition would oppose it.
For a functioning democracy we need political parties to compete on policy in what has been termed the marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately, ideas are almost entirely lacking in the Coalition. Many people talk about hung parliaments not being able to pass legislation, but the Coalition cannot even get that far. They have a hung party room, and can accomplish almost nothing. This has led to what used to be considered the bulk of the Liberal Party, the moderates, leaving the party in droves. In retrospect, it is clear that the recent dramatic rise in conservative independents running against Liberals is caused by this lurch to the right by the party. These independents, such as Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Cathy McGowan, Kerryn Phelps, Zali Steggall, Oliver Yates, and even Rebekha Sharkie, would have been (and were) a natural fit for the Coalition parties prior to the Howard prime ministership7,8. Not any more.
If the far right-wing, often religious, nutters further increase their control of the Liberal Party, as seems to have happened in Victoria9, Western Australia10, and is occurring federally, then the Liberal Party will cease to exist as an electable party.