Don’t bite the hand that feeds

The Australian

6 August 2016

Grace Collier Columnist Melbourne @MsGraceCollier


The government will pay at the next election if its treachery continues


“I fear we will get slaughtered next election,” said the text, and it was hard to disagree.


The parliamentary term is just beginning but already Bill Shorten seems to be running the country by proxy, and the Liberals seem to be running on empty.


Who knows what the Turnbull government stands for or where it is taking us? More important, how many of its traditional supporters even care? The base has been slapped in the face one too many times.


At the election last month, Liberal voters fired a warning shot by voting against the party in the upper house. Without real change, next time the lower house votes will go elsewhere too. The government appears to be adopting Labor’s agenda and making a cowardly attack on its supporters in the process.


Realistically, what are the chances of the next three years going well? As for the government’s economic mantra, the best example of jobs and growth can be seen within the expanded cabinet.


Senior Liberals concede that at the next election, they will need to pay people to hand out how to vote cards. Where will the money come from? No one knows. Once the superannuation policy was announced, donations ceased; Malcolm Turnbull had to bail out his own election campaign.


All this, and branches around the country are now in open revolt. Tony Abbott’s foolish deficit levy was an insult begrudgingly endured, but the superannuation policy is madness and many will fight it to the death.


Take the federal electorate of Higgins in Victoria. According to several sources within the electorate, donations towards the sitting member, Kelly O’Dwyer , are drying up. According to insiders, there are two plans being floated, both designed to remove O’Dwyer because of her advocacy for the policy.


One suggestion is to put up an alternative Liberal candidate to challenge at the next preselection, due in 18 months. The other suggestion is to leave O’Dwyer in place and put up an independent to cruel the party’s chances of retaining the seat.


O’Dwyer is said to be panicking, which would be understandable. This isn’t a case of a few disgruntled nuff-nuffs having a rhetorical whinge. These people are substantial, with significant resources and serious intentions. Anyone they back is going to go a long way. O’Dwyer’s career is evidence of that. In the past, some have been disappointed with the representation in Higgins, claiming it has been inadequate. Now there is fury at O’Dwyer’s meek acceptance of the policy. Supporters feel O’Dwyer is not sticking up for the people who put her into the privileged position she enjoys today.


Former Liberal benefactor John McMurrick, who has resigned from the party recently, helped O’Dwyer for years, from the time Peter Costello stood down. McMurrick says he is “devastated at the way O’Dwyer has handled this matter, considering I have given her 200 per cent support” .


Fern Blackman, who worked for O’Dwyer as a booth captain in 2013, as well as in her campaign office for three months, resigned from the party. She says, “It’s just bizarre that the only people the government are targeting are their base. They are treating their friends very shabbily.”


O’Dwyer’s office says her campaign was well resourced and she won with a two-partypreferred swing of less than 2 per cent. Sources in her corner say the complaining should be disregarded because it is merely the “cronies” of Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger agitating for a candidate Kroger may prefer and Costello may not.


Those interviewed deny this. “Do you think we are so stupid that we are going to do all this because of some problem between Kroger and Costello?” said one.


A group of MPs despise Kroger and ride on the coat-tails of their association with Costello, whom they greatly admire. However, skill doesn’t transfer by osmosis; none of these operatives comes close to matching Costello’s talent or performance. Can you imagine Costello waxing lyrical about the need to lower taxes while putting them up, advocating a policy because it hurts only the wealthiest 4 per cent or taking people’s retirement savings on the grounds the government needs the money?


When people are facing a reduced standard of living in old age because a government has broken its promises and is acting unfairly and retrospectively to harm them financially, this generates extreme anger. Petty participation in a political grudge between two men is of no interest to busy people.


For example, and for the purposes of disclosure, the government’s plans will disadvantage me, so I am motivated towards criticism; I am not the least bit interested that two men with whom I am barely acquainted don’t like each other. Readers can rest assured that in the interests of pushing for policy change, both the Costello and Kroger “factions” will be lambasted equally.


At this point, the government is giving every indication the policy will not be amended substantially. Before the election, it begged people to back off their criticism with promises of change later. Now, it claims it has a mandate to proceed with the policy unaltered. Treachery of this kind will not be forgotten.