Liberal Soul-Searching: Can A Zombie Government Find Its Soul?


After the Liberal/National Coalition’s resounding loss in the 2018 Victorian state election, Liberal leader Matthew Guy, in his concession speech said this: “We need to stay united. We need to stay focused, on our opponents and the game ahead, not on ourselves”.

This statement illustrates the misguided mindset of Liberal Party politicians: they believe that their job is to simply seize and hold power at any cost (the Tony Abbott approach), rather than to govern the nation by listening and responding to the Australian electorate.

Do these people realise they’re supposed to be in government, not playing some form of competitive sport?

Since Abbott’s election in 2013, the federal Coalition government, like its sibling party in Victoria, has been staggering about under the weight of this fundamental misunderstanding, like a clown carrying a donkey.

Winning an election is one thing, but actually governing requires the dialling-down of campaign rhetoric and focusing on developing and implementing good policy in the public interest.

Perhaps this is simply what an elitist born-to-rule mentality looks like. It’s as if these politicians are saying “We know best; our ideology and beliefs are the best; facts, evidence and expert advice don’t matter and neither do your opinions, voters. To us, it’s all about winning”.

Once the Coalition actually wins government, however, it doesn’t seem to know what to do, other than bombarding the public with messages about itself to reassure us that it does know, such as Scott Morrison’s already tired mantra: “We’re getting on with the job.”

A party of salesmen, the Liberal Party tends to get hung up on the effectiveness of their salesmanship rather than that of their policies or “product”.

We’re already hearing bleats of disgruntlement from conservatives about their party not “selling the message” effectively enough to win over voters in Victoria.

Unfortunately, the quality of the salesmanship becomes irrelevant when the policy message is negative and uninspiring.

And what is that message? Does the Liberal Party actually have a coherent vision for our country? A vision that depicts a healthy multicultural, inclusive, egalitarian society whose principal aspiration is fairness? A vision of a happy, well-educated society? A “clever country” perhaps?

Or is their vision one of mean-spirited, judgemental, fascist authoritarianism where certain minority groups are demonised and human and civil rights are constantly eroded while funding for social welfare agencies is withdrawn over time, while the rich get richer?

The Liberal Party embraces the antisocial neoliberal non-vision of trickle-down free market economics: low-taxing small government, pay-as-you-go profit-driven health and welfare services and privatised public utilities.

Meanwhile, their climate change denialism remains, blatantly, the elephant in the room. The only “message” we’ve been hearing endlessly repeated for the past five long years is another mantra well past its use-by date: “It’s Labor’s fault!”

The Coalition will only ever produce mere career politicians, never true statesmen.

Statesmen inspire and unite voters; they don’t try to divide and manipulate us through fear and insecurity. They don’t spruik hollow, contrarian slogans such as: “we’re working to save Australians from a Shorten government”.

A statesman might say (and mean) something like this: “We can never be a stronger state until we are a fairer state.” Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews delivered this simple message of inclusion and goodwill on ABC Melbourne radio on post-election Monday.

How different this sounds to the chest-beating, divisive hate speech we hear from Canberra Liberals.

During his Saturday night victory speech, when Andrews praised Victorians for rejecting “the low road of fear and division” we knew exactly what he meant.

The negative sloganeering we’ve been subjected to during this state election campaign, compounded by the dog-whistling from Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton on law and order and terrorism has been like enduring a constant, never-ending screech of fingernails on a blackboard: “Screech! African gangs! Screech! Terrorists! Screech! Labor waste! Screech! Labor taxes! Screech! Law and order!”

A cacophony of fear-mongering nonsense, if you will. What a sad, miserable and above all, cynical approach to wooing an electorate: trying to scare people into voting for you.

It’s the oldest trick in the book, the last resort of desperate politicians, devoid of vision: scoundrels in their high tower of the last refuge, hurling grenades of fear and loathing in a mendacious attempt to divide, conquer and scare voters into endorsing their regressive ideology and political posturing.

The narcissistic federal infighting, incompetence and toxic messaging have at times felt like an ever-flowing river of rubbish. Finally, at last, Victorian voters have said “enough!”

Even some of the parties own have also had enough: MP Julia Banks has abandoned the party to sit on the crossbench as an independent. In her view

“The Liberal Party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has blamed Liberal officials and “ideological warriors” for imposing their extreme views on social issues on the broader party, which the public now views as one of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Bring on the federal election, as soon as possible, please.

Can Australians stand another six months of Zombie Government dysfunction?

Surely the Liberal/National Coalition has earned a long, long period in opposition?

After the Coalition’s poor result at the 2016 federal election under Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberals promised to do some “soul-searching” over their growing disconnect from the electorate.

Their Victorian election wipe-out is proof that the search has been fruitless. Much of the Liberal messaging came from Canberra, echoed by a compliant Matthew Guy, so the Morrison Government shares the responsibility for the loss.

Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton et al continually bang on about “our values” but those “values” appear to include mean-mindedness, misogyny, homophobia and outright cruelty.

If these are truly Australian values, then I’m a Martian.

To search your soul in self-reflection, first, you need to find it.

Has the Liberal Party lost its soul?

Does a Zombie Government even have a soul?

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