By Joe Montero
The ongoing brawl within the Liberal Party and the dumping of Malcolm Turnbull is proof that something big is happening on the Australian political landscape, and it is not limited to the usual numbers games of parliamentary politics.
Only the most naïve, would expect that the brawling has come to an end. This is less about the personalities than it is about the rise of a new political movement. Malcolm Turnbull was telling the truth, when he said that this had been an orchestrated campaign being waged, inside and outside the Liberal Party. Murdoch’s News Corp and its flagships Sky TV, the Australian and radio station 2GB have been linked to it. All of it is true.
This is the reality that most of the media has chosen to ignore. It chose to focus on trivialities instead.
Turnbull himself has unwittingly contributed to it with is flexibility of principle. He has worked straight into their hands. Nevertheless, the outcome didn’t turn out as the movers expected. Turnbull’s nominee Scott Morrison came out on top. If Peter Dutton had been successful, the crisis would have deepened more seriously. Perhaps this is a good reason why he could not get the numbers.
The politics of this movement cannot be passed off as merely a plot by some powerful forces and ambitious individuals. There is a changing political climate, and this is what is giving rise to the division. Changing the guard cannot overcome this.
The way in which society considers politicians and political institutions is undergoing an important change. The level of trust in them have never been so low. And the reason for this is that they are seen to be the servants of a rich and powerful minority and not delivering for the majority.
When this happens, the political climate becomes less stable, and this instability enters the political parties and political institutions.
Many words have and are being written about the succession of betrayals of leaders from within since John Howard. These have not been the cause of instability. They have been the result of it. Just as the lifespans of governments are tending to become shorter.
At the risk of repeating the obvious, we must remind ourselves that this is all coming about, because as large part of society feels it is becoming worse off, its rights are being trampled on and there is little hope that the future will be any better. This is the sense that has given rise to One Nation and similar minded views within the Coalition parties on the one hand, and encouraging a completely different direction on the other. In short, Australian society is beginning to polarise politically.
Come in Murdoch and those sections of big business on the same train. They are ultimately in the business of making a profit. Economic uncertainty and political instability are not a good scenario for this, and they seek to engineer the situation to impose discipline on society.
To do this, they seek to narrow the scope and flexibility of government. Its role is being more clearly defined as a resource to ensure the profitability of big business, while seeks to control political instability through the curtailment of democratic rights.
One only needs to refer to the major organisations of big business, like the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Liberal Party related Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) to see that big business’ major concern is that the community is turning against big business, and getting in the way of labour market reform, corporate tax cuts and the imposition of a more severe form of austerity on everyone else. Traditional politicians are regarded as incapable of bringing about these changes.
This brings us to the present squabbles and the push to build a political movement. This is the purpose that Abbott, Dutton and others within the ranks have been playing. Remember the same forces have been behind the rise of Pauline Hanson, and they are now reshaping the Coalition parties in the image of the worst aspects of this party.
Positions that were once regarded as the stuff of the fascist movement of the early twentieth century is now being transformed into mainstream. Things like the profiling and punishment of sections of the population, attacks on the freedom of speech and other basic rights, the shift to big brother politics, the disciplining lifting exploitation at the workplace, and the rising appetite to become involved in conflict overseas.
This poses a real danger to Australia, which calls for an answer. And this must take the shape of a movement for democracy. Such a movement would seek to defend what has been gained through history. If it is going to have a chance of succeeding, it must also go further than this. To focus on a status quo that is failing is a dead end. Change is needed. This must involve the extension of democracy downwards. Power must be taken from the minority at the top and taken up by the majority.
A movement that works to empower the base, by giving it a decisive say at work and in the communities, that shows the value of working together and uniting society, has the capability of enlisting enthusiastic participation, bring hope and offer an alternative.