What was behind #Libspill 'madness'?
Deposed Liberals Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the factional implosion in his party as “a kind of madness” and it sure looked like it.
Peter Dutton, Tony Abbott and their hard right faction did more than just fail in their bid to take control of the party.
Their factional bloody-mindedness resulted in one of the Liberal Party’s worst ever own goals, with the first two post #Libspill polls pointing to a strong Labor win in the approaching elections.
And the Liberals’ faction fight may not be over yet.
Morrison has sought to placate the hard right of his party by reinstating Dutton as home affairs minister (albeit pared down to exclude immigration) and offering other positions to his supporters. But Abbott is reportedly not impressed with his appointment as special envoy on Aboriginal Affairs.
Meanwhile, Morrison is now moving to present himself as a “patriot”, donning an Australian flag lapel pin at the swearing in of his Cabinet.
In a hat tip to United States President Donald Trump, he proclaimed that "we can make Australia even greater" and followed this up by inviting Trump to visit Australia later this year.
In all this, Turnbull has announced he is resigning from parliament. The move forces a by-election in his seat of Wentworth — one that could cost the Coalition its one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
There may be even more “madness” ahead.
You would think the Dutton-Abbott faction would not even dream of starting another round of infighting and risk further setting back the Liberals’ chance of holding onto power. But in these times you never know.
The Liberals’ hard right might make another bid for the leadership if a chance arises in the rocky weeks ahead, reasoning that the party will probably lose the next elections whatever they do.
If #Libspill can be summed up as the “madness of Abbott”, we have to recognise that this and other symptoms of political “madness” (such as Trump) are expressions of the dangerous times we live in.
Global inequality has reached an unimaginable level, and yet all around the world the super rich are demanding bigger tax cuts, more corporate subsidies and greater sacrifices from workers.
The climate crisis is already a traumatic and deadly reality for communities around the world. Yet powerful fossil fuel companies promote crazy climate denialism for short-term profit gains.
For the past four decades, the corporate rich have been having it pretty much their way in most countries.
In Australia, Coalition and Labor governments have served up a consistently profits-first agenda.
But it is clear that most people have had enough of this bipartisan agenda. Nobody believes that helping the super rich get even richer will somehow lead to wealth trickling down to the rest of us.
There is no public sympathy for the greedy banks or the fossil fuel companies that are destroying the planet.
To get away with their agenda, the super rich need to unleash the ugly right populist monster. They need to fan racism and bigotry to a level high enough that a significant proportion of the population will aggressively act against their common interest.
It does not have to be a majority of the population, but it has to be enough to divide our resistance and intimidate the rest into submission.
Various far-right outfits are searching for some signature populist policy that they can use to fool people into thinking that their group is not part of the old establishment.
In these dangerous times, political “madness” will not be uncommon. There will be more Trumps, Duttons and other would-be führers crawling out from under rocks to offer themselves as saviours to a greedy and desperate corporate super rich.
But it is not inevitable that they will win.
One thing we can thank Dutton for is that he has convincingly demonstrated that the right’s hatemongering and bigotry does not have popular support in this country.
The left needs to press home this advantage, break from the profits-first agenda and build the new alliances needed to liberate ourselves from the very system that has brought us to this point of madness.
Labor leader Bill Shorten will not want us to do this. His watchwords after #Libspill will be “Do nothing!”
Instead, he prefers to let the Liberals do all the work with their infighting so that Labor can win the next election by default — and then carry on with the old agenda.
But that will simply bring us back to where we are now. This is not good enough.
An incoming Labor government that continues to implement a neoliberal agenda and the criminal offshore detention of asylum seekers will simply pave the way for a more right-wing Coalition government in the future.