When Joy Division sang Love will tear us apart, they couldn’t have been talking about the government.
In light of Ian Macfarlane’s cynical defection to the Nationals last week, I wondered what it would take to tear this coalition apart. Considering the divergent views of the progressive moderates and the neanderthals of the far right, as well as the differing priorities of its country constituents and the business lobby, the Coalition must be complex marriage of convenience that only continues to counter the perceived greater threat of the Labor Party.
But those types of alliances tend to fray when the unifying threat appears weak.
Certainly right now, with Turnbull unassailable in the polls and Bill Shorten’s personal approval rating in the teens, I have to wonder whether the Turnbull government is more worried by forces on the right of politics than their traditional enemies on the left.
Apart from a few symbolic moves such as sweeping out some of Abbott’s worst cabinet cronies, Turnbull has been unable to deliver the policy change many would have been hoping for since he came to power. Despite having previously professed more liberal personal views in areas such as marriage equality, climate change and treatment of refugees, to date, he has done little as PM that reflects these views (although he madde a liar of me yesterday removing Abbott’s ludicrous prohibition on investment in wind energy, and I have to give him some credit for changing the tone of the national debate around terrorism and engaging far better with the Islamic community of Australia). For the record, I don’t put that down to a lack of will, I just suspect that there is too much resistance within his own party.
At the moment this has worked out ok for him but that won’t last forever and then he risks being exposed as a Prime Minister of hollow words haven’t differed markedly from the man he replaced amidst such optimism. When it comes the backlash from disenfranchised voters expecting more could be quite strong. Politically, that could be fatal for a man who would enjoy little support from the right faction of his own party.
It would be nice if he could capitalise on his current popularity with the electorate and drag his party more to the centre. A far more radical approach would be to cut ties with the National Party and the recalcitrants of his own party and form a new coalition with the right faction of the Labor Party (itself a union of quite differing ideologies). I don’t see this ever happening, as the principal forces involved have too much to lose, but if it ever did it could spawn a reborn political force that would sit astride the centre of the political landscape and wield considerable power.
Again, I don’t think it would ever happen, but it is interesting to think what would happen if our party structures were not so deeply entrenched.