Some time ago, I wrote a piece about the fragmentation of the conservative parties in Australia. In that, I opined that the conservatives could be sliced into several groups: libertarians, religious nutters, economic bastards, middle of the road conservatives and racist halfwits1. The one thing which will lead to the fragmentation is the fact that these disparate groups are not aligned with their current party affiliations. There have been some inklings that the fragmentation had started, with the desertion of Cory Bernardi2and his trawling for members from the ‘religious nutter’ part of the conservative spectrum3. However, the pace of the fragmentation seems to be increasing, with the religious nutters now seemingly taking over the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party4.
The Victorian Liberals are dragging their feet in settling on candidates for the next federal election, despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s pleas4. This urgency is just in case the budget, which will have lots of giveaways5,6, leads to a bounce in the opinion polls, making it attractive for the government to go for an early election in August or September this year. This foot-dragging is thought to be due for a power struggle within the Victorian branch, between the moderates and religious nutters. The religious nutter faction is under the control of Marcus Bastiaan, who is stated to be ‘a supporter’ of the Mormon church7. It has been reported that he has been aggressively recruiting Mormons and members of other fundamentalist Christian groups4 in a process which is called branch stacking. Bastiaan wields such control over the Victorian Liberals that he recently overrode the party’s president Michael Kroger to suspend the party’s Senate preselection process, which was due to start on Monday. Michael Kroger is effectively powerless, and it can only be a matter of time before he is supplanted by Bastiaan. Indeed, it has been reported that the religious nutters are going to attempt to replace first-term Senator Jane Hume, a moderate, on the Senate ticket with Karina Okotel. Senator James Paterson may also be under threat.
This is a serious problem for the Turnbull government, who already has an insurgency from the religious nutters led by Abbott, Andrews and Abetz; the last thing he needs is another insurgency from Victoria. The religious have been telling people how to live their lives, and who they should discriminate against, for millennia. Now that religion is in decline in Australia8, the religious are getting desperate, and they seem to believe that the only way they can continue their addiction, is by taking over a large political party. It looks like the Liberals drew the short straw.