Brawling over branding: Abbott v Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.
Friday, July 14, 2017

It doesn't take much to set off Tony Abbott and his right-wing shock-jock chorus, does it?

When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred, in a speech in London, to the historical fact that Robert Menzies went to great pains back in 1944 to not call his new political party “conservative”, but rather the Liberal Party, Abbott and crew started howling.

According to Abbott, this was all part of Turnbull’s attempt to take the Liberal Party to the left. Really?

We read the newspaper headlines about the last federal budget supposedly being a “Labor Lite budget” but is there really some move to the left in the Liberals?

All we see coming out of Canberra is one measure after another to help the corporate rich get even richer, while slashing the already miserable incomes of the lowest paid workers and people on pensions and unemployment benefits.

If the Liberals — and Labor for that matter because it makes the same claim — have been governing for the “sensible centre”, why does the latest analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics wealth and income data show that the middle is shrinking while those on the top have had the biggest income rise?

It is really not hard to understand, when we saw Turnbull give himself a $10,000 pay rise on the same day penalty rates were cut. It is not hard to understand, when we see the billions blown on tax cuts and the concessions and subsidies for the richest that are doled out.

The fact is we have been living through a time best described by the US billionaire Warren Buffett: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning”.

All this pollie-talk about “governing for the sensible centre” is a political branding exercise, as the new federal Liberal Party president and former NSW premier Nick Greiner admitted: “You’ve got to do these branding things and everyone understands that, but the reality is that successful leaders look at the circumstances in which they’re governing, whether they’re Robert Menzies or Malcolm Fraser or John Howard or Malcolm Turnbull or indeed their Labor equivalents.”

As Turnbull said in his speech, Menzies named his new party the Liberal Party because he wanted to be seen to stand apart from the big money, business establishment politics of traditional “conservative” parties of the right.

But let's not mistake political branding for reality. From Menzies to Turnbull — and the same has to be said of all Labor governments — they have been government for the corporate rich.

By contrast, Green Left Weekly gives a voice and an organising platform to the poor and oppressed not the mythical “sensible centre”. Advertising gurus may say there's no big money in this branding; and they are right. But we know we can count on the support of you, our readers, to keep our project alive and punching above its weight.

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