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Dec 7, 2008

Australia needs an opposition.

The Liberal party has surrendered all pretence of being the opposition in federal parliament and now appear to agree with Kevin Rudd that he has a mandate to do whatever he likes without hindrance. As I said in a previous post, “It is not the role of an opposition to vote against everything the government puts up, good or bad,” but the fact is that the Liberal Party and the Nationals were elected to represent the views of the members of those parties, and those views are different to those of Rudd and the Labor Party.

It is time for the Liberal Party MPs to start representing those supporters and their beliefs, not some political elitist idea that those who manage to acquire power have the automatic right to do whatever they like. If this were the case the opposition should simply stay home, and save us the expense of sending them to Canberra.

It seems that at the moment the opposition consists mainly of four National party senators, and the senior Liberals want them stopped. From today’s “Australian”: -

SENIOR Liberals are advising Malcolm Turnbull to review the Coalition agreement after Nationals senators defied the Opposition Leader's voting instructions twice in one week.

The Coalition tensions come against a backdrop of simmering dissent on the right wing of the Liberal Party about Mr Turnbull's policy direction, including the decision to give the Government's industrial relations laws in-principle support, and his stance on the Government's plans for an emissions trading scheme.

Senior Liberals are increasingly frustrated with the Nationals in the Senate, who were joined on Thursday night by two Liberals in voting against the Coalition party line.

But long-serving Nationals are accusing Mr Turnbull of being a newcomer who doesn't understand the needs of the bush or the realities of Coalition politics, while Liberals are questioning the Coalition's Senate tactics.

In shambolic late-night scenes on Thursday before parliament rose for its long summer break, the Liberal leadership decided not to block legislation setting up the Government's $26billion in infrastructure funds despite the Government's rejection of Coalition-supported Senate amendments imposing greater transparency on the allocation of the money.

But four Nationals senators, led by the party's Senate leader, Barnaby Joyce, refused to abide by the decision because the legislation also tipped the $2billion rural telecommunications fund negotiated by the Nationals during the Howard years into the Government's new Building Australia Fund.

Two Liberal senators - Alan Ferguson and Alan Eggleston - joined them, and all but five of the Liberal Party's 30 remaining senators abstained - including Senate leader Nick Minchin, who explained that he "went to the loo and had a cup of coffee". ….
I thought when the news broke, that Nick had at least developed enough backbone to refuse to support the bill by at least abstaining, but this effort is pathetic. As the leader in the senate he at least should accept the responsibility of giving the party some direction, not scarper when the going gets hot.
(Senator Minchin said) "We always review our tactics and strategy, but I think the Coalition in the Senate is working well - there have been only two instances like this in the past six months."

But privately senior Liberals were furious, saying that if the Coalition had blocked the bill the Government would have engaged in the "mother of all scare campaigns" over the Christmas break and it wouldn't have been Senator Joyce and the Nationals deflecting the criticism.
Why hell, they have been intimidated by the thought of the "mother of all scare campaigns," which seems to indicate that none of them are articulate enough to defuse such a thing, and therefore are incapable of fulfilling their role. A proper opposition would be saying, “Bring it on,” and welcoming the opportunity to duke it out in the war of words. The sooner the Liberals dump Turnbull, the better. About the only decent and courageous member of the party seems to be Peter Costello, or maybe Julie Bishop.

If the Liberals are not prepared to take on Rudd, then perhaps it would be better for the country, if they were to step aside and let the Liberty and Democracy Party step in and do the job.


  1. One of the many problems with parliamentary democracies is that they inevitably float to the left as a result of having to form coalitions. That hasn't happened so much (yet) in Australia (compare to just about any other parliamentary democracy you can think of), largely I believe because conservatism is alive and well there. You have the voters to keep enough conservative power in the legislature, and that slows the slide leftward.

    Still, this looks like that leftward movement. Throw the bums out at the next election, perhaps? That's harder to do there than here too, another problem with PDs.

  2. The Liberal Party seem to still hold on to the basics of conservatism but seem to think that its better to surrender to Labor than to stand up for their principles and get beaten.

    The argument that if they had blocked the legislation they would have faced a government scare campaign is straight cowardice.

  3. "The Liberal Party seem to still hold on to the basics of conservatism but seem to think that its better to surrender to Labor than to stand up for their principles and get beaten."

    Like the Tories.

    Do you do letter writing campaigns down there? You might try that on a large scale. If people raise enough hell, legislators listen. Usually.

  4. I do some but mainly to local papers as the national ones seem to be difficult to crack. We try but its usually cause for celebration when one of us gets into the 'bigs.'