Former Prime Minister John Howard has been proclaiming the ideal of the Liberals as a broad church, tolerant of a wide range of views, but the public just isn't seeing this in practice, says Colin Claridge.
Former Prime Minister John Howard has been proclaiming the ideal of the Liberals as a broad church, tolerant of a wide range of views, but the public just isn't seeing this in practice, says Colin Claridge. ANTHONY WEATE

Liberals missing chances to promote achievements amid chaos

TWO statements of significance were made in recent days by the Morrison Government which, in normal times, would be cause for celebration.

In normal times, one would think such announcements would improve a Government's electoral stocks:

An announcement by the Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer that the Government proposes to help women (and their children) fleeing domestic violence to have early access to their superannuation to safely reestablish is a sign of a Government working.

An announcement by the PM that the 2019 Budget will deliver the first surplus in 12 years should also be a sign of a Government working.

Such announcements should have been universally welcomed (perhaps not by the ALP).

Instead, these announcements were somewhat overshadowed by the Andrews Government's rout of Victoria Liberals.

Instead, these announcements were overshadowed by the one-time darling of the Liberal Party; Member for Chisholm Julia Banks, saying enough was enough and announcing she had turned Independent, thus plunging the Morrison Government further into minority.

Again, I have to voice utter frustration with how elements in the Government seem fervently desirous of self-destruction.

The economy is in a good state. Interest rates are low. Unemployment is low (nationally).

The Deputy PM's announcement of the shifting of the Maritime Safety Bureau from Canberra to Coffs Harbour was also drowned out by other events.

And while the Government seems to be in a constant state of damage control, it isn't getting messages across to the voters out there who have legitimate concerns about low and stagnant incomes, housing stress and regional unemployment rates remaining stubbornly way above the national rate.

I have to shake my head.

Most of us reasonable voters know what the problem is: that small nest of vipers within the Liberal Party who seem bent on bringing down the Government to wrest control away from the moderates.

They seem more transfixed on the views of a certain group in the media than with the mood of the wider electorate.

In the wake of the Victoria result, we've had criticism that the Liberals made the mistake of concentrating their efforts on shoring up the support of their party's right wing at the expense of appealing to the voters in the centre.

Some commentators on the right have countered this by suggesting the Liberals lost because they weren't right-wing enough.

What those powerbrokers and commentators either fail to understand or choose to ignore is the basic fundamental of Australian politics: the voter expects loyalty from government.

Not the other way around. Some will vote LNP no matter what. Some will vote ALP no matter what.

But those cohorts alone will never ensure either side wins government. They can't win without appealing to that largest of electoral groupings - the centre.

So it does the Liberal Party in particular no favours for certain conservative media types to deride centrist voters as basically a brainless extension of the left.

Mixed messages are also not helping the Government.

We had Ms O'Dwyer warning Liberals that voters view them as being homophobic, anti-women (although it's hard to imagine how one can be both) climate-change deniers.

Then she stands in Parliament announcing that the Liberal Party is the natural government for Australian women.

It's a title the LNP, ALP nor The Greens can truthfully claim given recent conduct.

John Howard was again out in public proclaiming the ideal of the Liberals as a broad church, tolerant of a wide range of views.

But the public just aren't seeing this in practice. There is little tolerance by the right of the party for any views but their own. Everything else appears to them as left wing with no centre existing. Instead of them robustly debating their principles, they are acting like an out-of-tune choir trying to drown out the vicar and anyone daring to read the lessons.

If we expand upon the church analogy favoured by the former PM, we can see history littered with discourse as people with beliefs that stray from the orthodox being summarily excommunicated. But it's usually been the minorities banished. In the Liberal Party's case, it appears to the outsider that it's the minority trying to oust the vicar and most of the congregation.

The right wing is increasingly behaving like a self-destructive cult. They are of course entitled to their view of the world, like the rest of us are.

But the rational aren't the ones who would eagerly drink the Kool-Aid.