Home > Oz Politics > The case for a split

The case for a split

November 30th, 2009

Amid the general chaos of the Liberal Party, the idea of a split has turned from fantasy to serious possibility. If Joe Hockey does the decent thing, and doesn’t run against Turnbull, it now seems quite likely that Turnbull would prevail against the unelectable Abbott and the still less electable Andrews. But that might easily provoke some rightwingers to Bolt from the party, more on grounds of collective insanity than any kind of calculation.

And, if Turnbull loses, there are increasingly* credible suggestions he might move to the cross-benches and stay on, perhaps attracting some followers. The appeal for moderate Liberals would not be that such a party would have good long-term prospects but that they are multiply doomed if they stay with the sinking ship. First, most moderates are in marginal urban seats that are likely to be lost. Second, those that survive will have no prospects for advancement in a regime where Hockey (while he lasts) is the puppet of Minchin and Abbott. And finally, advancement is of little use in a party that looks set to be out of office for a decade or so. For those who believe in the necessity of tackling climate change, and can see the difference between Turnbull’s willingness to take a stand and the prevarication and vacillation of Hockey and Abbott, a third party might be the shot. If they somehow survive the election, the Libs would be forced to take them back sooner or later, on their own terms.

* Apologies for paywalled link

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  1. November 30th, 2009 at 14:27 | #1

    You might want to check the LP link – it should be to http://larvatusprodeo.net/2009/11/30/turnbull-to-found-a-new-party/

  2. John Hardy
    November 30th, 2009 at 15:19 | #2

    Sounds like the Don Chipp Democrats relaunched.

  3. November 30th, 2009 at 15:59 | #3

    Or perhaps it’s pay-day for the Liberal Democratic Party (www.ldp.org.au) :)

  4. paul walter
    November 30th, 2009 at 16:50 | #4

    eg, A reconstituting of the Democrats,

  5. Peter Evans
    November 30th, 2009 at 17:31 | #5

    It’s entertaining, in a droll sort of way. If I might blow my own horn, I predicted, in no lesser forum than this august blog, back in 2006 or early 2007, that the libs would lose solidly in 2007, then even worse in 2010, and then split into the uglies and the moderates. But it’s possible they could plit even earlier. Not just on how right wing they are either. There’s a large number in the House on thin margins, and they’ll have to make a call as to which party will most likely preserve their incumbency (assuming they even want to). Turnbull is a formidable bagman.

  6. Rogerrocks
    November 30th, 2009 at 17:32 | #6

    Who’d have thought when The Australian decided to stir the pot by giving the AGW sceptics a voice that it would end in the destruction of the Libs.

  7. Michael of Summer Hill
    November 30th, 2009 at 17:41 | #7

    John, in my opinion Turnbull has nothing to worry about tomorrow for the wannabee candidates are very mediocre.

  8. Steve
    November 30th, 2009 at 18:59 | #8

    Any reason why you capitalised the word ‘Bolt’ towards the end of the first para JQ? :-)

  9. mitchell porter
    November 30th, 2009 at 19:03 | #9

    Rogerrocks: “Who’d have thought when The Australian decided to stir the pot by giving the AGW sceptics a voice that it would end in the destruction of the Libs.”

    Causality is an interesting issue here. The sequence of events has been that first, Wong and Macfarlane did a last-minute deal, and then a party-room rebellion (led, I think, by the Liberal old guard) set out to overturn the deal. Two factors that I wonder about are Climategate and encouragement from skeptics overseas. Might the old guard have let the deal through, were it not for the political tipping point provided by Climategate? It has also been suggested that political opponents of an ETS in North America view Australia as a place where a serious counterrevolution can begin, and will have been doing what they can to encourage it.

    The role of The Australian over the long term also presents the question – cause or effect? Tentatively I would suggest that the Australian’s editorial policy on climate has had some impact on public opinion, but that it has been epiphenomenal when it comes to the negotiation between Australia’s political and economic power centers over the form of climate policy. Up until this rebellion against Turnbull, the ETS approach has been winning out over non-ETS policies and do-nothing policies, so that increasingly the horse-trading focused on the specifics of the ETS rather than on whether to have one at all. The Wong-Macfarlane deal was potentially the final step. If the Liberals back out of that deal, what will their new policy be?

    I note that in their official statements, the rebels are generally not citing scientific doubts. Barnaby Joyce is happy to talk about Climategate on his website, but Michael Johnson (for example) simply reverts to the pre-deal pincer-style attack on the CPRS, that it makes no difference environmentally while being harmful economically. He says instead that we should be promoting renewable *and* nuclear energy, and emphasizes the global dimension of any solution (which I think means “wait to see what comes out of Copenhagen”).

  10. Alice
    November 30th, 2009 at 19:34 | #10

    What I find so fascinating is that the real agendas are coming out now. The lunatics all want to lead. Tony Abbott just cant help himself. His ambition was never to get behind Hockey but in so doing (saying he will now stand) its a mess. J
    ust a fractured mess and no one knows who will be leading. Three leaders in less than three years. They appear to be imploding….thats what happens when you fight a false war using denilaism…later rather than sooner the truth outs and they cant play the same tired games any more. My guess is the moderates are resisting the lunatics, and the lunatics frantically trying to win this internal battle will lose them the war.
    Well the naked ugly ambition of Abbott (damn the party – long live me) is on full display. I cant wait for Abbott to be the leader…bring on the DD.

  11. Alice
    November 30th, 2009 at 19:39 | #11

    @Rogerrocks
    Now thats karma.

  12. November 30th, 2009 at 19:40 | #12

    I would prefer the Liberals to split and, eventually for the Minchinites to be excluded. There were plenty of grounds to criticise the CPRS on sensible economic rationalist grounds and the Liberals have not provided that critique – only stupidity.

    My big worry is that the Minchinites will attract a cohesive following and not fade away. These guys are not fools and have a taste and feel for power. In the long-run Australia needs an effective opposition – not a lunatic fringe analogous to the DLP.

    The Liberals will get slaughtered in the next election but the formation of a cohesive grouping of right-wing lunatics who pick up say 20% of the popular vote would be disasterous.

    I am pessimistic.

  13. gerard
    November 30th, 2009 at 20:24 | #13

    Well if you really want to see the future of the Liberal party just go to university and watch the next generation of Liberals growing up – “lunatic” is the nicest thing you can say about them. Really there is a new species of arch-Machiavellian tribal bigots without any scruples whose heroes are Howard and Bolt, they are coming through the ranks and will make life hell for the party’s traditional conservatives, or at least those who want their party to appear rational. They made the GOP’s mistake – the genie of the Hard Right is out of the bottle.

  14. Alice
    November 30th, 2009 at 20:51 | #14

    @gerard
    Gerard thats scary…the new right guard? Maybe LP needs to be less worried about its leaders and a whole lot more worried about the senseless followers being hothoused in their own ranks….

  15. Alice
    November 30th, 2009 at 20:55 | #15

    I think Rudd should go straight to a DD. The liberals are a mess getting a reputation as divided and dominated by a few crackpots. May as well take advantage of it.

  16. November 30th, 2009 at 21:17 | #16

    hc@#11 November 30th, 2009 at 19:40

    In the long-run Australia needs an effective opposition – not a lunatic fringe analogous to the DLP.

    The analogy is flawed, since the during the Menzies era (mid-fifties through early-seventies) the DLP was a minor balance of power party, rather than a major Opposition party. The proper analogy is with the Greens in their more dogmatic incarnation.

    The LP has not yet gone through the formality of splitting, let alone being reduced to rump status.

    Whether the DLP was a “lunatic fringe” is controversial. It took its Cold War stand against communist subversion in First World unions-parties-academies, communist totalitarianism in the Second World states and communist revolution in the Third World nations. Thats a mainstream, not “lunatic fringe”, position these days. (Which makes the DLP ahead of its time.)

    Perhaps its Culture War stand looks a bit silly and fuddy duddy from our terribly advanced and progressive perspective. Then again, looking with a cold eye at the results of extreme versions feminism, multiculturalism, indigenous self-determination and the general degradation of arts and humanities, perhaps not.

  17. paul walter
    November 30th, 2009 at 21:59 | #17

    Gerard’s comment reminded again of my own time at uni in the early two thousands as a manured age student and some of the weirder tutegroups, particularly doing stuff like history and politics.
    Alice, why go to a DD now when you can go in late next year and gain another nine months or so in government, “free”?
    Whoops, just recalled one PJ Keating in the mid nineties, dozing, as the unelectable tortoise Howard sneaked up on him.

  18. SJ
    November 30th, 2009 at 22:11 | #18

    Gerard Says:

    Well if you really want to see the future of the Liberal party just go to university and watch the next generation of Liberals growing up – “lunatic” is the nicest thing you can say about them. Really there is a new species of arch-Machiavellian tribal bigots without any scruples whose heroes are Howard and Bolt, they are coming through the ranks and will make life hell for the party’s traditional conservatives, or at least those who want their party to appear rational. They made the GOP’s mistake – the genie of the Hard Right is out of the bottle.

    It ain’t that bad. What you are describing here is a bunch of unelectable loons, not any different to the soon to be unelected loons currently in the party. The future of the Liberal party, if there is one, will be something else.

  19. Chris Warren
    November 30th, 2009 at 22:17 | #19

    Paul

    What you misunderstood was weirder tutegroups actually makes more sense than the business tutes which led to the financial crisis.

    Have you ever sat through a tute on financial derivatives?

    Who really understands the dogma of the circular flow?

    This is all pretty weird and I would say more damaging than history and politics, which will have the final say.

  20. Freelander
    December 1st, 2009 at 00:24 | #20

    @SJ

    GW Bush showed that anyone is electable. Or at least they didn’t need to rig the polls by much to get him in.

  21. paul walter
    December 1st, 2009 at 01:19 | #21

    Chris Warren: “Have you ever sat through a tute on financial derivatives”.
    It never ceases to amazes me, this Dante-esque blackness in some people’s souls. I understand you are journalist, but this- this- this is far darker than even a journo’s powers could conjure up, surely?
    Whaddya make of Dutton?

  22. paul walter
    December 1st, 2009 at 01:30 | #22

    Freelander, I had just got my first computer about that time and watched spell bound with horror at the way they ripped Al Gore off down Florida and in the so called objective Supreme Court over that.
    That was the event that tore thru the fabric of civilisation and wasted the opportunity that should have been the first decade of the two thousands, not 11/9, which was a consequence and a result of the dirty Bush neoocons corrupting of the system.
    Yes, parallels with Minchin, and hopefully this is ten years after with the hindsight afforded by history as to the “plausibly deniable” neo con agenda which were pathologically dishonest truth claims.

  23. paul walter
    December 1st, 2009 at 01:31 | #23

    Freelander, I had just got my first computer about that time and watched spell bound with horror at the way they ripped Al Gore off down Florida and in the so called objective Supreme Court over that.
    That was the event that tore thru the fabric of civilisation and wasted the opportunity that should have been the first decade of the two thousands, not 11/9, which was a consequence and a result of the dirty Bush neoocons corrupting of the system.
    Yes, parallels with Minchin, and hopefully this is ten years after with the hindsight afforded by history as to the “plausibly deniable” neo con agenda which were pathologically dishonest truth claims.

  24. gerard
    December 1st, 2009 at 07:42 | #24

    Whatever happens, Minchin will do a lot better as a wingnut-welfare recipient than as a senator, with the international delusionist speaking circuit and book deal, followed by appointment to well-paying “Think Tank”.

  25. Chris Warren
    December 1st, 2009 at 08:36 | #25

    Paul Walter

    So the question still remains, if you are going to tag history and politics tutes as weird, why do you not tag weirder tutes that have wrought so much damage throughout domestic and international society.

    It never ceases to amaze me how Faustus has purchased your soul What was the price I ask?

    If you think financial derivatives are not as weird as whatever vague impressions you have of history and politics – please post your analysis.

    For my part I experienced nothing weird in all the philosophy, history and politics tutes I attened at ANU, but I found the economcs tutes simply bizarre and completely detatched from reality.

    Financial deriviatives are the weirdest development as they try to extract objective wealth from differing subjective judgements (ie risk). This leads to weird pricing, weird signals, and weird tendencies in associated areas such as increasing debt.

    The circular flow is particularly weird once you understand it, as it does not balance without increased debt (or inflation).

    Those graduates who went through university without politics and history sub-majors, are completely incompetant and, to the extent they have influence, are ruining the global economic system and destroying peoples lives.

    Usually when folks like Paul Walter start flinging off their tags, the truth is the tag best belongs to themselves.

    The face at the bottom of the well is your own.

  26. paul walter
    December 1st, 2009 at 08:49 | #26

    Well, Chris Warren, thanks for the adhominem, but no thanks, too early in the day.
    I figure the people who I found weirdest in my tutes were eastern suburbs types who were majoring in just the subject you describe; the rest of us were obviously just dimwit lefties and let know of it in no uncertain terms.
    Btw, you still haven’t answered my question as to that ultimate Eastern suburbs flying squad derivatives tute clone, Dutton!
    As to Mephisto and my soul, it was “a pocketful of mumbles” as described in the Simon and Garfunkle epic, “The Boxer”.

  27. gerard
    December 1st, 2009 at 09:24 | #27

    Abbott, apparently for real.

  28. Jennie L
    December 1st, 2009 at 09:31 | #28

    Wheeeeeeee!
    Abbott wins 42-41.
    Apparently held a secret ballot on the ETS straight afterward, which went 55-29 against passing it.

  29. Donald Oats
    December 1st, 2009 at 09:32 | #29

    Tony “The Rabbit” Abbott heralds a true Catholic party for Australia. Welcome back, guys!
    No women’s right to decide on abortion, no euthanasia, no republic, no sorry, Intelligent Design in public school biology classes, no stem cell research, chaplains in public schools, no ETS at all because as we all know those climate scientists are a lying bunch of drongos, a 100 years of drought relief for farmers because of the drought, no Medicare (remember the 70′s Liberal conservatives?), keep women at home looking after babies by the truckload.

    The closeness of the vote, and the fact that Tony “The Rabbit” Abbott only just beat Malcolm “Bounty” Turnbull due to a probably deliberately informal vote, is the best possible outcome for the Labor government, if they couldn’t get the ETS passed before Copenhagen.

    Double Dissolution, roll on.

  30. Donald Oats
    December 1st, 2009 at 09:34 | #30

    @Jennie L
    Isn’t it interesting that the person who didn’t manage to vote on the leadership still managed to vote on the ETS? 42 + 41 = 83; 55 + 29 = 84. A bit of ol’ fashioned signalling in the party room, perhaps?

  31. Jennie L
    December 1st, 2009 at 09:38 | #31

    @ Donald Oats: Yes, that is interesting. Because the second was a secret ballot, I guess we’ll never know who it was unless they choose to reveal themselves.

  32. Chris Warren
    December 1st, 2009 at 09:45 | #32

    Just to be a little bit more accurate…

    The circular flow can balance by; increased debt, increased population, or increased economic favours from outside the economy.

    In all cases, this is merely patching up the underlying problem, and it breaks down in the long-run.

  33. December 1st, 2009 at 10:06 | #33

    “Double Dissolution, roll on.”

    Yeah Don, bring it on, an election based on the eTs.

    It could be that not just the Libs are divided 50/50 but the whole community. It took 2 goes to get the gsT past the electorate and maybe the electorate might not be so gullible this time around. It will be an interesting election. Plenty of ammo to sh*t scare the electorate in Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 that is now before the Senate.

    Regardless of the final outcome re the eTs, it is good to see democracy at work.

  34. Colin Webb
    December 1st, 2009 at 10:26 | #34

    Abbott … What a choice. Is this bad news?

    It feels like bad news. It’s a disaster as far as the Govt’s ETS is/was concerned, but that was such a flawed model that it is at least potentially good that it is gone. (It was better than nothing, but “nothing” is only the only alternative if the cynics manage to manouevre us into ongoing “nothing”.)

    The potential for good to come out of the elevation of Abbbott? I see 3 possibilities:
    - The Govt will say ‘this is a rabble, now unadorned with people of any good intent or willingness to negotiate. We can offer no more to their supporters than we have already offered. We are now going to put our political capital behind a better model and fight for it.”

    - The promotion of Abbott will cause great consternation – great support amongst some, but great concern generally. He will go hard, offend many, and crash. The election will be about climate change and our responsibility to try to address it, and will give the Govt a clear mandate – and a Senate majority that supports effective action.

    - Many people will leave the Liberal Party, unable to reconcile their own belief in the need to take action with the now clamped on party line: “nothing should be done that changes our economy”, regardless of long-term costs and impacts. These people will become a strong force able to explain to any conservatives of good will that this must be done.

    But for today, I can only shake my head at their decision to go with Abbott.

  35. Ken
    December 1st, 2009 at 10:46 | #35

    I do wonder if we’ll ever see a genuine bipartisan commitment to tackling climate change. That none of the Liberals appears to think a stronger CPRS a good move, only a weaker one, and none feel strongly enough to consider crossing the floor to vote for such a thing, only to vote against, makes me think that even those Liberals who advocate action on climate are motivated by electability not real concern about the issue itself.

    Will the economic impacts such as failure of SE Australian agriculture to ever recover it’s former glory merely lead to more determined efforts to retain Coal export income as some kind of buffer? Every bit of policy seems to revolve around doing the least we can get away with and to putting off doing anything fundamental about reliance on fossil fuels – as baseload power or as export income.

  36. Peter Evans
    December 1st, 2009 at 10:48 | #36

    What a good laugh. Abbott! One vote! It’s all class! What chance has this rabble have of staying on message and out of trouble between now and election time (I still reckon the weekend after the footy finals)? None. Absolutely none. My cousin, who is proudly of the paleolithic, head-in-the-sand right, thinks it’s great. He reckons he has some connections to Abbott and can scam a job out of it, which is about the only good thing to come out of it I can see.

    I reckon Turnbull can drag about 20 members into a new party. By Christmas.

  37. James Farrell
    December 1st, 2009 at 11:11 | #37

    Paradoxically, the narrow result might reduce the prospects for a new party. There must be several members who only voted for Abbott to teach Turnbull a lesson for his divisive behaviour. That means the party is not irredemably denialist; it weakens Abbott’s mandate to obstruct the ETS; and it means that a resignation by Turnbull is more likely to be perceived as petulant rather than principled.

  38. Fran Barlow
    December 1st, 2009 at 11:19 | #38

    This is fabulous news for those of us who wanted something better than the Rudd/Wong polluter-porkbarrell.

    Now the way forward lies in the ALP negotiating a deal with the Greens that just two people out of Xenophon, Humphreys and the retiring Troeth can accept.

    That sounds a lot more plausible.

  39. 2 tanners
    December 1st, 2009 at 11:36 | #39

    I don’t see a split, but i do see a lonnng time in the wilderness as local members become entrenched with their electorates. And that will be the real damage. I don’t see a rise of the greens as labor vacates the left to take over the right, which would be the other scenario.

  40. Donald Oats
    December 1st, 2009 at 12:12 | #40

    Turnbull demonstrated significant skill in managing to hold so many people with him in light of the crumbling support for Ian “Mumbles” McFarlane and his negotiated scheme.

    He will be back.

    As for Tony “The Rabbit” Abbott, I think an election campaign centred upon his credentials will be ruinous for the Liberal party. Bring it on. Kevin ’10!

  41. Chris Warren
    December 1st, 2009 at 15:23 | #41

    In general you get splits when rats desert a sinking ship.

    In this case, the rats have boarded a sinking ship.

    I think the moderates will stay, recruit, and defend their perspective.

  42. paul walter
    December 1st, 2009 at 19:19 | #42

    Fingers X’d.
    “In this case the rats have boarded a sinking ship”.
    As for the rest of us, it looks like “there will be no rest for the wicked”, after all,as to immediate and clean reform of a party so full of inward back ward looking people.

  43. Philomena
    December 1st, 2009 at 19:57 | #43

    Abbott is a veritable one-man rabble.

    Witness his blatherings tonight about his evidently proud ability (in his view) to flirt with Julia Gillard! The depth of self-deception, vanity and sexist contempt thus demonstrated was staggering. He’s beyond parody. And then the rest on the7.30 Report. Cliche upon cliche of the rah-rah Hooray Henry calibre of political commentary of Downer at his best.

    Things are looking up finally. This is going to be a real treat. I’m now grinning from ear to ear!

  44. Freelander
    December 1st, 2009 at 20:46 | #44

    @Philomena

    More punch drunk self-love? I wonder who was sending them the ‘we’re right behind you’ emails? The email campaign certainly worked. Along with the hacking CRU stunt, their extreme hubris suggests they think they are riding atop of the crest of a populist ground-swell.

  45. Alice
    December 2nd, 2009 at 15:40 | #45

    @Philomena
    Yes Philo – the man (Abbott) is a legend in his own lunchtime. I hope people realise that a vote for Abbott is a vote for workchoices (heavy duty version) again.

  46. Sea-bass
    December 2nd, 2009 at 16:02 | #46

    By the way, what is the definition of a moderate liberal? Somebody that passes all of Labor’s (and the Greens’) welfare state measures while maintaining the sweet illusion of multi-party democracy?

  47. Ken
    December 2nd, 2009 at 19:05 | #47

    I don’t think this is going to be good for Australia. I can’t believe the Liberals can deliver any credible policy on climate change when the leader has made it clear he thinks the whole issue is hot air and that no matter how serious the future costs and consequences they can’t be reason to pay anything avoid them.

    What will fill “this space” if no price signal is introduced to make the shift to low emissions the economically logical choice? Two Liberals did cross the floor – I didn’t think any would – and I’m glad to know that the party is not totally devoid of people with real concern over the issue but two isn’t enough. Not even an issue of this magnitude, that looks almost certain to cause our nation and the world economy great future harm can bring about a bipartisan approach.

    Not that Labor is that credible; CCS remains the cornerstone technology intended to provide the ‘fix’ and I can’t see how it can actually deliver anything beyond an excuse to keep the coal fires burning. Note that Tony Burke made it clear at the Press Club that NSW is firmly wedded to a coal fired future. Sigh.

  48. Alice
    December 2nd, 2009 at 19:42 | #48

    @Ken
    Good points Ken, even though Im not always on side with price signals created by governments, no matter how well the pice signal terminology fits with free marketers (sometimes its better to use blunt force legislation) but Im pleased you made the comment re two crossing the floor.

    Two is better than a room full of scared rabbits after Abbott takes control, and my guess is its more of the same, – a party full of controlled scared rabbitts too scared to jump with the spotlight on them, (a la Howard control). That party tends, the way it is now, to overcontrol and stifle real debate. Robotic followers.

  49. Mark McGrath
    December 4th, 2009 at 13:03 | #49

    @paul walter

    Apart from a brand perception, there is absolutely no functional difference between derivatives trading and betting greyhound racing.

  50. Fran Barlow
    December 4th, 2009 at 14:28 | #50

    @Sea-bass

    By the way, what is the definition of a moderate liberal?

    One that isn’t a reactionary fruit loop? One who deems observable reality as not only pertinent to discussion but the basis on which, along with a passing concern for human wellbeing, inferences about policy should be made? One that, accordingly, pays only lipservice to tribal dogma?

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