Pretty clearly, the big winners for Labor in this election, and the big losers for the government, were WorkChoices and climate change.
But WorkChoices or something like it was a forced move for the government once they got control of the Senate. Hatred of unions is (as the Libs pointed out in reverse about Labor) in the DNA of the Liberal party. A government which did nothing when it had the power would have suffered the same historical obloquy as Fraser’s.
By contrast, there was no need at all for the government to embrace climate change delusionism. The Liberal party was, arguably, ahead of Labor on this issue in the early 1990s. And while large parts of the business sector were inclined to delusionism, large sectors were not. A government that took the lead on this issue could have carried business with it. The push was driven by the conservative chatterati, most prominently on the opinion pages of the Australian, and reflected anti-environmentalist attitudes largely imported from the US Republican party.
While Workchoices made sure that the “Howard battlers” went back to Labor, climate change delusionism ensured that there was no offsetting gain within the core Liberal constituency.
Those who pushed delusionism in the opinion pages, the thinktanks, on the airwaves and in the blogosphere made a huge contribution to the downfall of the Howard government and, quite probably, the destruction of the Liberal Party. And Australia’s ratification of Kyoto may well have more impact now than if we’d signed up back in 2001.