Sinking in the polls, the Coalition drifts further right

Morrison may be trying to carve out a palatable image for himself as a PM determined to move on from the Liberal leadership crisis, but he is also giving important policy nods to the hard right.

The federal Coalition government has dropped further in the polls following the knifing of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Nevertheless, both new Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the hard right Peter Dutton/Tony Abbott faction in the Liberal Party seem determined to take politics even more to the right.

Morrison may be trying to carve out a palatable image for himself as a PM determined to move on from the Liberal leadership crisis, but he is also giving important policy nods to the hard right.

This includes attacks on transgender inclusion, threats to deregister the construction union and making clear he will not legislate to achieve the emissions reduction targets associated with the Paris climate agreement.

But it seems even this is not enough for the hard right of the party. The Guardian reported on September 11 that “Tony Abbott has reignited his push to scrap subsidies for renewable energy, taking on the new energy minister at his first meeting of the government's backbench energy and environment committee.”

It may seem counterintuitive for the government to lurch even further to the right when it is having no demonstrable effect in lifting their polling.

Perhaps they have written off the prospects of winning the next election and instead want to make up as much ground as they can among their traditional base before then, confident that Labor will, at worst, only reverse part of what they do.

Alternatively, they may figure that at a time of such global political instability, their best bet is a radical and populist right pitch.

Either way, the Morrison government can count on support from the establishment media between now and the election in his attempt to present a “reasonable” image to the public.

Labor, on the other hand, can be counted on to avoid making any kind of case for progressive policy changes on renewable energy, or anything else for that matter. At best, we can expect rhetoric with a left-wing hue.

The best strategy for progressives remains building a left-wing alternative to Labor, including by mobilising support for socialists and the Greens at election time.

Even though the socialist movement is weak, it has the merit of being able to mount a consistent political challenge to the dead-end policies of both the mainstream “centre” and hard right.

[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance.]