Scott Morrison is now having to deal with the two very distinct wings of his party, as they gird themselves for the culture war which will probably erupt at any moment. This culture war will not be about indigenous history, or the date of Australia Day, or even immigration. It is about climate change.
Since the election there seems to have been something of a re-birth of ‘wet’ liberals, or as they sometimes call themselves, Modern Liberals. Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell and Trent Zimmerman have even gone as far as joining the Parliamentary Friends of Climate Action group.
Now it is difficult to gauge the sincerity of several of the members, especially Tim Wilson and Jason Falinsky, because they have proved in the past to have a skittish relationship with the truth, but it just might be a sign of change. The group includes people from the other tribes, such as Labor and the Independents, so the Libs might even learn something. Apparently their ‘modernism’ is predicated on their acceptance that something is afoot with, you know, the weather, or the climate, or some-such.
Knowing whether any of them are prepared to ‘go to the barricades’ for the climate is another matter, entirely. Tim Wilson is a hard man to categorise. One day a thinker, the next wilfully awful, and a shameless self-promoter. His electorate expects something of him, however, and he is something of a weather vane (pardon the pun). They will be joined by others, eventually, but for the majority who do join them it will not be a matter of principle, but more one of crude survivalism, where instead of preparing for the climate catastrophe, they will be preparing for electoral Armageddon. Australians MUST run out of patience soon. If the bushfires in rainforests don’t prompt a wake-up, the smoke will.
We know that Malcolm Turnbull is the major casualty of the Climate Change War, versions 1.0 and 2.0. Will Scott Morrison be the next one? I think not, because Scott Morrison is playing a clever game, wherein he acknowledges the science behind the change, but then he slinks away, calling out such evasions as “our position will evolve, over time”. He has even had his Science Minister call for an end to the discussion, and for action! A mere diversion, I fear.
On the other side of this culture war are the usual suspects. Craig Kelly, George Christensen, Matt Canavan, Barnaby Joyce, Michael McCormack and even David Littleproud. There have been two prominent recruits to their ranks since the election; Gerard Rennick and Samantha McMahon, and they distinguish themselves with the strength of their denialism, and some of their creativity regarding the “climate change conspiracy”. Senator Rennick believes that the Bureau of Meteorology is in on it, and has been using a dodgy thermometer. But their spiritual leader must be the formidable Peter Dutton, he who made that terrific joke about water lapping at the feet of citizens of the Pacific. Perhaps we need look no further than that notorious film clip, to see where Morrison really stands – with Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton. And it is Scotty from Marketing who spots the microphone. Always on the lookout to protect his image.
But back to the culture war. Morrison is desperately trying to re-fashion his image, and to move on from his odd coal-clutching moment in Parliament, but he is either the creature of the right, or he is their hostage. Considering that keeping his job is the main game, and the perception that the electorate is indeed waking up, and will at some time demand climate action, he is indeed caught between a rock and a hard place.
What exquisite irony! Morrison could suddenly wake up, smell the smoke, and reverse a decade of lies, deceit and wilful blindness concerning the climate emergency, and undertake a belated transition to a low carbon future. Presumably he would have the Greens, the Labor Party, the Independents (the sane ones) and even the Modern Liberals on his side, as well as the Australian public.
The question is would he survive the inevitable reaction from what can fairly be called the Alternative Government? Craig and George, Barnaby and Samantha, Michaelia of ‘lost utes’ fame, and Dutts? I think he would, but I doubt he has the ticker, or the commitment to our future, to even try.
Mark Buckley is a Melbourne based writer who blogs at www.askbucko.com He is particularly drawn to issues of ethics in Australian politics.