Climate change and cultural issues split the Australian Liberal Party, again

Climate change and cultural issues split the Australian Liberal Party, again. By Paul Kelly.

The crisis within the Liberal Party is permanent and deep-seated. As an institution it is now incapable of unity around a common agenda. It is riven by disputes about the policies it needs to succeed and what the Liberal Party represents.

The lesson from the focus on the 30th Newspoll loss for Malcolm Turnbull is that the leadership story will run until the next election — and it will keep running beyond it. Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton are seen as banner-car­riers into the next political cycle of the ideological war between progressives and conservatives.

The brawl over energy policy has morphed into a dispute over core belief. With Tony Abbott calling for “strong-arming” and forcible acquisition of the AGL Liddell power station — after demanding the previous week the government build a new coal-fired power plant — the Prime Minister and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg hit back by invoking RG Menzies and his crusade against nationalisation to chastise Abbott for breaching essential Liberal values.

The Liberals are split over what they stand for in government. The conservatives accuse Turnbull of having the wrong policies. They want him to commit to “ownership” of big coal, cut immigration, cut renewable subsidies, cut spending, fight on cultural issues, build more policy discrimination from Labor and pitch to alienated conservative voters.

Yet an overwhelming majority of the cabinet — not just Turnbull — would reject such a package. The party is turning on itself in a spectacular and public fashion. The leadership issue will keep running not just because Turnbull rejects the conservative mantra. Ultimately, this is not about what Turnbull says or does — it is about what he represents.

Should the Australian “conservatives” stay within the policy guidelines of the the politically correct class, or should they take a lead from Donald Trump? The first choice is to permanently play second fiddle to Labor. The second involves a big fight with political correctness, but if they win they win big.

While the PC forces control the media, fighting against PC appears suicidal. Yet Trump and Brexit.

The age-old problem when facing an apparently bigger opponent: fight or be meek?