The type of conservatism driving the rump of the Coalition government longs for a time which was oppressive, deferential, bigoted and callous1. Some of these traits are evident in the current policies of the Liberal and National coalition government, whether it be dealing with asylum-seekers, those on benefits, those on minimum wages, those depending on penalty rates, or those with a disability. Nobody else seems to matter to them except big business; everyone else is excluded from their purview. People have had enough of these sorts of policies which simply make the rich richer and keep the poor in their place, and the government knows it. As a consequence, the Coalition can see an existential threat arising for them which is demonstrated by their continuing, slowly declining share of the primary vote and the fragmentation of the ‘conservative’ vote.
To counteract this decline, they have ‘Guthried’ the ABC, so that it gives the government a distinctly easier ride2,3; the Murdoch press have been even more strident in their support of the government with the help of a $30 million bribe to Foxtel, with none of the requisite documentation4; government ministers and others have adopted Trumpesque techniques of obfuscation, flat-out lying and lying by omission5,6,7; other corporate media have adopted more favourable reporting on government policies and activities, because they have been blackmailed into supporting the government by the latter dangling corporate tax cuts over their heads. On top of this, the government is now attempting to change the rules to prevent charities and community organisations from being able to express political opinions8.
The amazing beatup that was the Dastyari Affair, exemplified the complicity of the corporate media in regurgitating the government line. Dastyari was guilty of precisely the same acceptance of donations, and presumably influence, that members of the government have accepted; indeed, the donations to the government were from the same Chinese billionaire9.
The Coalition government is also prosecuting a war against reality. This is mostly due to the coercive effect introduced into their thought processes by the need to maximise their fund-raising. This is why people like Barnaby Joyce don’t much care for the concerns of farmers, despite the National Party being ostensibly the party for farmers. The reason for Joyce’s lack of concern is the fact that he has been purchased by the mining lobby, most notably by Gina Rinehart. The same is true of Matthew Canavan. He has clearly also been purchased by the fossil fuel lobby, as is clear from all his bleatings regarding the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine10. This war against reality was perhaps demonstrated best by the almost complete excision of any comment on climate change in the 2015 Intergenerational Report11. This is an extraordinary omission, given that the most dangerous intergenerational risk is that of climate change.
The Liberal Party and the carbuncle that is the National Party are desperate to hold on to power, because deep down, they know that their brand of conservatism is in terminal decline. If they lose power they realise that it will be devastating for them and will probably lead to the final fragmentation of the conservative vote in Australia, and years or decades in the wilderness of opposition. The first inklings of this are the defection of Cory Bernardi from the Liberal Party to set up the Australian Conservatives12, and the popularity of Nick Xenophon’s SA First party for the upcoming South Australian election. Opinion polls have SA First outpolling both the Labor government and the Liberal Party opposition13. Some commentators think this may be the beginning of the end for the two party system. I suspect it will signal the beginning of the end of the Liberal Party and their neoliberal ideology.