Turnbull caught in two epic conflicts

Turnbull caught in two epic conflicts, by Paul Kelly.

Australian conservatism is divided, in retreat and angry, deeply angry. Australia’s values are changing with the Senate’s passage of the same-sex marriage law coupled with rejections of ­relig­ious protections — a historic victory for progressive politics and a devastating double defeat for the conservative movement. …

It has been an extraordinary rollercoaster of a week for conservatives. The lethal split in their voting base was exposed in the Queensland poll, conservatives were singularly rebuffed in the same-sex marriage debate on the test of religious freedom and then, in the form of Nationals renegades, the populist conservatives smashed Malcolm Turnbull’s authority and forced the cabinet to accept a royal commission into the finance sector.

The best way to understand these events that defy easy understanding is to realise the gov­ernment Turnbull leads is being torn by two epic conflicts — ­between conservatives and progressives in the Liberal Party, and between ­Liberals and Nationals as ­Coalition partners. …

John Anderson tells Inquirer: … “Conservative voters are ­deserting us in droves. They won’t man the booths. They don’t feel there is respect for them or their views. The PM must show respect for the five million people who voted No, most of whom are his supporters, but this is not how they feel.” …

By contrast, progressive politics has vast momentum but risks succumbing to hubris in triumph. Changing the legal meaning of marriage is… a grand victory for progressives but the message from this week’s Senate debate went much further — Labor and the Greens will impose a “no concessions” victory.

They have won on marriage, they plan to win on denial of any further religious protections, thereby imposing a double defeat on the conservatives, whom they have outsmarted in the tactical, popular and parliamentary arenas. …

Another lesson this week, contrary to media characterisation, is that the conservatives are not a small rump but an overwhelming majority in both the Liberal Party and Coalition on the religious freedom issue. This was repeatedly shown in the Senate votes on the religious protection amendments moved by Liberal senators David Fawcett and James Paterson.