The two overpowering impressions remaining after last week’s political drama are an abuse of media influence correctly identified by Chris Uhlmann and a mistaken view among some Liberal MPs about the nature of their Party’s “base.”
The ABC’s Media Watch programme on Monday night featured footage of Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin plus the disc jockey, Ray Hadley, whom I was seeing for the first and, hopefully, the last time. The arrogance, ignorance and sheer savagery of this quartet was shocking. These animals should be locked up in a zoo with more intelligent primates, such as Orang-utans.
In the preceding Four Corners programme there was more evidence that some Liberal members of the Federal Parliament conflate their Party’s “base” with Pauline Hanson supporters. The Liberal Party base is and always has been the comfortable bourgeoisie of suburban Melbourne.
The Liberals are not a right-of-centre conservative Party. If Menzies had wanted a Conservative Party he would not have called it the Liberal Party. It was interesting to see the late veteran Canberra correspondent Alan Reid quoted describing Menzies as “a cautious reformer.”
Despite the week’s horror show, the Liberals have landed on their feet. In an era when political analysis is so superficial Scott Morrison is a top choice. His greatest asset is his physical appearance. Even the most expensive Savile Row tailor could not make Scott look like a flash merchant banker. He will always have a rumpled, avuncular appearance.
The new Liberal leader’s appearance reminds me of Mr Pickwick in my excellent edition of the Dickens classic with sketches by Fizz. He has a jovial smile, which could never be said about Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten. When Tony Abbot smiles we are reminded of a crocodile about to devour a young antelope who has slipped down the muddy bank into the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River.
West Australians were key players in the jungle last week. Mathias Cormann is the big loser. He spends a lot of time on television and gives the impression of moderation and intelligence but how can an intelligent citizen go for regular walkies with Peter Dutton?
Julie Bishop emerges enhanced from the fray, the way I see it. Like Malcolm Turnbull, she had no option other than to resign from the Ministry because of the lack of support from her colleagues, but who would want support from that lot? She has kept her options open. She is looking good. A lot of water will flow under the bridge in the next year.
That leaves us with the darkest horse in the parliament, our soldier-boy, Andrew Hastie. As I write, I’m still pondering whether I should say what I’m thinking for fear of being branded a conspiracy-theorist.
So, what was it all about, this Liberal explosion? It was not about policy. Canberra does not do policy. It was not about electricity prices. They are not a federal matter. It was not about climate change. The Liberals don’t do that sort of stuff. That is for the Greens.
It was about religious conservatism. The equal marriage debate stirred that pot. Again, the Liberals got lucky. Scott Morrison is a Happy Clapper of the Pentecostal variety but, to his credit, he does not wear that brand on his sleeve. I would never have picked him as a Hillsong twist-and-shout, hallelujah-rock-and-roller.
It was certainly about kindergarten kids eating too many lollies and temper tantrums getting out of hand but I take a darker view of the week’s events so I will take that conspiracy risk and spell it out.
Andrew Hastie’s signature was the first on Malcolm Turnbull’s death warrant. Major General Jim Molan’s name was there too. These are military men through and through. Andrew Hastie had to be ordered not to use his military identity in electioneering. The brain behind last week’s coup was Tony Abbot, a civilian.
Here we get into the arena of speculation and matters that will be neither confirmed nor denied but just look at Tony’s history. His education went from the DLP’s anti-communist activist Bob Santamaria to Oxford University where he studied philosophy and economics.
The Rhodes scholarship network was established to enable Britain to retain control of its colonies after they no longer existed on the map through the education of their future elites.
At Oxford and Cambridge in the late 1930s approaching the Second World War the best and brightest were recruited either by British or Russian intelligence services motivated by the same concern — the rise of Nazi Germany. For the Brits, there was only one game in town – to bring America into the war on Britain’s side.
There’s only one game in town now – the rise of China. I think the North Atlantic, London-Washington alliance wants Australia on its side in this game.
Jerry Roberts is a former parliamentary reporter drawn back into his old trade by John Menadue.