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Right-wing turn boosts Australian Liberals

Writing from Australia, Matthew Parris notes how the Australian Liberals have so far defied the pundits and improved their electoral prospects since they dumped Malcolm Turnbull as their leader and also his enthusiasm for combating climate change:

"Here in Australia, where I’m spending a few days, something very odd has just happened to its right-of-centre opposition coalition. This week’s Spectator Australia is mischievously quoting opinions from mainstream commentators offered a while ago when a group within the Opposition (the Liberal-National Coalition) began complaining that their leader (then Malcolm Turnbull) and his friends had taken the modernisation of their party a step too far, and swallowed too readily the fashionable, government-led consensus on the need for action against global warming.

The national media were as appalled and smug as you can simultaneously be. The (Australian) Daily Telegraph summed it up: “Unless [Malcolm] Turnbull can bring the climate-change dissidents to heel, the Liberals will face humiliation at the polls.” Another national broadcaster called it “signing their own death-warrant”... Columnists announced that if the Opposition went on like this, it would face “electoral oblivion” (The Sydney Morning Herald) and “electoral wipeout” (The Australian).

You may know what happened. The rebel faction succeeded in ousting Mr Turnbull and replacing him with one of their own, Tony Abbott, under whom the Coalition has lurched to the Right across a range of issues, especially taxation...

Oblivion? Electoral wipeout? The Right, until quite recently in the dust behind the Labor Government, is now snapping at its tail."

Matthew Parris sees a warning in this for David Cameron: "David Cameron is lucky he was elected leader some years ago. In today’s climate he would never have topped the internal Tory poll... Mr Cameron knows he isn’t quite right for his party’s or the electorate’s present mood."  Aside from the issue of climate change Parris does not close that argument but let's return downunder...

The Australian's Editor-at-large Paul Kelly summarises how Kevin Rudd's green policies are causing difficulties on multiple fronts, including on a plan to improve home insulation:

"In 2009 green politics and energy efficiency dictated that Labor include home insulation as part of its $42 billion economic stimulus package. The ambitious plan was to insulate 2.7 million homes. [Environment Minister] Garrett had to make it work, but Labor's subsidy unleashed massive demand, quotes pitched to the $1600 rebate regardless of the size of the job, untrained installers, shoddy operators and a massive administrative task for his department to set quality standards and training for all installers."

Two installers have died while installing metal roof insulation.

Most Liberals are united behind the more sceptical environmental approach of new leader Tony Abbott but former leader Malcolm Turnbull continues to speak out in favour of the Labor Government's Emissions Trading Scheme (provoking grassroots disdain), saying that it is based in market mechanisms.

Although the Liberals are making progress - and are set to unseat Labor in Tasmania - it is unlikely that they can beat Kevin Rudd in the General Election, due within months. Every first term Australian government has been re-elected since WWII and current polls show that Labor will not be the first to fall at that hurdle. But the polls also show that Tony Abbott has made the contest more competitive and the meltdown Liberals feared only six months ago looks unlikely.


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