Graham chats to Brent about Scott Morrison as the new leader, the growth, and expectation from the government going to the next election, preferences, Pauline Hanson, Donald Trump, new cabinet positions, Julie Bishop, Tony Abbott, Governor General job and more
Listen to the podcast here.
The majority can be wrong but swayed by a true leader
Since I began as a Labor Party organiser in 1971, my mantra has been that “the mob will always work you out”. The mob worked out how weak both Julia Gillard and Malcolm Turnbull were and eventually consistently bad polls pressured party colleagues to dump them. Gillard was saddled with minority government; Turnbull a one-seat majority.
Bob Hawke believed Australians almost always got it right in an election. These days the revolving door to the prime minister’s office rotates so often Australians have lost faith in major parties.
In 1971, conventional wisdom was that the electorate split roughly 45 per cent Labor, 45 per cent Coalition, with about 10 per cent swinging voters. Fifty years later the major parties are on about 35 per cent each — those prepared to vote “other” have skyrocketed to 30 per cent and this is increasing.
When the punters embrace extremes, it does not always end well. Look at Brexit. There has been almost no progress in negotiations with the EU, which is demanding massive sums for Britain to exit.
While Nigel Farage’s speeches make money around the world as he delivers his brand of militant stupidity, former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson is doing his best to bring down the May ¬government.
Popular does not mean correct. If you want a real statesman, look for the person who declares the electorate wrong on an issue and goes out to sell an alternative policy. John Howard convinced Australia to accept a GST — quite a hurdle for anyone to jump. In a democracy, the majority should always win but the option is there for politicians with courage to challenge voters and turn them around. Opposition to the war in Vietnam and South African apartheid were very much minority views until Gough Whitlam and Jim Cairns entered the fray.
In Britain, when the hapless, hopeless May called an unnecessary election she caused such a popular uprising that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could almost have become prime minister. This is where the popular mood can get it so wrong. Corbyn is an absolute disgrace. Why anyone would vote for a candidate who believes in the socialisation of industry is beyond me completely. His anti-Semitism riles me too. Racism is like a plague. It is catching and those on the fringes of society who feel left out and alienated too often take this evil to their hearts and minds.
France was not spared either. Disillusion with the Gaullists and the Socialists led a novice politician to the presidency. Emmanuel Macron rocketed in the polls and has fallen at an incredible pace. Having no real experience in politics is not the right background to run a country. Macron seems to have managed to get every interest group offside. As in Britain, the French are sick and tired of years of cuts in public spending and general restraint. I took a dislike to Macron when he visited Australia and gave us a lecture about keeping to the Paris Agreement. Given that France’s carbon emissions rose last year, he struck me as a hypocrite.
If concerns about immigration were the main driver of Brexit, it is little wonder that the long rule of Germany’s Angela Merkel almost came to a sticky end. After the last election she took months to cobble together a coalition of those reluctant to be too close to the woman who told millions of refugees they were welcome in her neck of the woods. The popular mood took an instant swing against her. She hasn’t lasted as long as she has without considerable skill in the darker arts. Despite widespread demonstrations, Merkel remains defiant. Much to the chagrin of her enemies, she still has her hand on the tiller.
It was in the US that the real revolution of the dispossessed and the disgruntled took place. With Hillary Clinton on the nose and campaigning poorly, Donald Trump defied the unanimous predictions of the fourth estate and pulled off a remarkable victory. Huge crowds chanted then and still scream out for Trump to “build the wall”.
That it hasn’t happened — because property laws in Texas make it almost impossible for the federal government to build on private land, and the terrain is problematic, and it was a monumentally stupid idea — hardly matters. That Trump is caught lying every week makes no difference to the outsiders who feel he’s listening. That he could say of John McCain “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured” is the measure of a miserable spirit. Yes, the stockmarket is up and millions of new jobs have been created but Trump must lose the trade war eventually and some of his followers will ¬finally realise that the rust-bucket industries aren’t returning. The midterms will tell the story.
Australia is seeing a mini-¬revolt. The vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has come almost entirely from the Liberal-National parties, whose vote in the short term will suffer further declines. Hanson has tapped into Australians who feel left behind in an economy where for five years there have been no wage rises and where the workforce is being ¬casualised so fast that many Australians will leap on any alternative voice. Hanson knows the problems but has no ¬solutions or just half-baked ones.
No matter where you are in the world, false gods beckon. Major parties everywhere need to take notice and must at least be seen to listen. Otherwise they will be buried by a Macron type or, as with Trump and the Republican Party, be faced with a hostile takeover.
Whether you vote Liberal or Labor, next time around remember that there is no place like home.