Malcolm Turnbull is now facing another problem. The radical right has gained significant ground in the Liberal Party’s Victorian branch.
It was not long ago when young upstart Marcus Bastiaan stirred the pot at a party conference. He is now the state’s party vice-president and has wasted no time in bringing in other like-minded individuals.
Bastion and his supporters have been busy recruiting religious fundamentalists, including Mormons and various evangelical groups, to stack branches, and using this to get votes to propel its members into positions of influence and get the votes to win preselection for its members to contest parliamentary seats.
These religious groups have been getting increasingly restless and were angered to their loss of the marriage equality debate. but their participation, enabled them to establish a political network, which still exists and can be put to work on a range of issues and a political strategy to gain more influence. They were ready to move into the Liberal Party, and come in kicking.
The faction now dominates the Liberal’s State Council, with 721 votes against 448, for the more moderate wing. The cudgels are out for perceived enemies within, including politicians like Senators Jane Hume and James Paterson, because they have been warning about the danger of pandering to and the increasing influence of the far right.
Ultimately, they are also after Malcolm Turnbull and anyone else they don’t trust to follow their agenda, which is much wider in scope than the marriage equality issue. It includes a much bigger push in matters like pulling the government out of the economy, reducing company tax, stepping up opposition to unions, being anti-Islam, denial of climate warming and support for fossil fuels, and the bringing in of more law and order.
Victoria’s state election later this year is also a target the faction’s positioning strategy. And this may well lead to another fierce preselection battle.
The longer-term ambition is to pressure out the traditional conservatives and transform the Liberal Party into a more openly and decisively radical right political party.
The rise of this tendency is one of the by-products of the failure of the political system in today’s circumstances and growing disillusionment with it. When manifesting in this form, it poses a considerable risk to Australia. To combat it, a clear and credible alternative must come into existence, which is capable of giving hope and an entirely different vision for the future.