Julie Bishop announced her retirement from parliament a few days ago and blew through from the chamber before she was forced to suffer the drivel uttered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in ‘tribute’ to her career. After departing, she said it was important that local branch members, rather than party powerbrokers be allowed to decide who would replace her as the candidate for the seat of Curtin in the next federal election. As if to emphasise this she said: ”People become members of the Liberal Party to support the party, but one of the rights that they have is to preselect the candidate for the seat in which they are a member, and I would never want to take that right away from party members.”1
Clearly, the party powerbrokers, including Mathias Cormann, thought differently. They have installed (now former) Vice Chancellor of Notre Dame University, Celia Hammond as the candidate to replace Bishop, after secret negotiations recently. How long these negotiations have been going on is not stated, but it is perhaps pertinent that Hammond only joined the Liberal Party in December. The powerbrokers seem to think that Bishop will acquiesce and endorse Hammond, despite what Bishop has said previously2. This may be optimistic, as Bishop’s relationships with Western Australian Liberal powerbrokers, especially those in parliament, is strained, as none of them voted for her in the leadership spill that installed the laughably incompetent Morrison as leader.
Hammond has stated that she is “passionate about Catholic higher education, with its commitment to the harmony of faith and reason, to the rigorous pursuit of truth and wisdom within a Catholic moral framework”2. It is therefore clear that her Catholicism is important to her, and is seemingly more than higher education itself, while the ‘catholic moral framework’ has taken a bit of a battering recently, with so many churchmen being nailed for paedophilia. It does make me wonder how much her selection to run in Curtin was contingent upon her Catholicism, not so much because she was specifically a catholic, but because she is religious. She has also said that she has rallied against the ‘militant feminist movement’ which told women it wasn’t acceptable to stay home and raise children3. This coming from an academic and vice-chancellor, positions to which she would not have been able to aspire, if it weren’t for ‘feminists’. This speaks of an enormous amount of hypocrisy or simply a lack of awareness of what she is saying.
Toeing the religious line seems to have become a common thread in the Liberal Party in recent years. The Victorian branch has effectively been taken over by the religious4. There has also been a takeover of some branches of the Liberal Party in Western Australia5, and in the occasional branch in New South Wales6.
This continuing takeover of the Liberal Party by the religious is part of a desperate rearguard action by the latter, as their influence in Australia wanes, and the disgraceful behaviour of some of their number is uncovered. I suspect this will lead to the demise of the Liberal Party as the religious wield more power within it. A sectarian punchup has happened in Australian politics before, with the splitting of the Labor Party in the 1950s, when many anti-communist Catholic members of the Labor Party left to form the Democratic Labor Party (DLP)7. Then it was largely Catholics against all other sects. It now seems it is almost all religious sects against the rest of us. The fact that those with no religion now belong to the fastest growing group in Australia8 means that the religious are getting desperate, and it seems that the Liberal Party is their bastion of choice.