Trumpism waiting in the wings of the Liberal Party

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come under fire from more right-wing elements in the Liberal Party, led by Peter Dutton.

Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is an even more menacing enemy — and there’s every reason to suppose that is the case with the reactionaries in the Liberal Party.

Every time a fresh wave of Liberal Party leadership speculation suffocates the media, a general consensus takes hold: this can only be good news for the left.

To be certain, nothing would ensure that the Coalition loses government as quickly as another PM being rolled. But there is little reason to be giddy once you look beyond this to see who is doing the rolling, and for what reason.

As a sycophantic and subservient leader, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull represents the neoliberal wing of the Liberal Party. He is chiefly concerned with preserving capitalism and protecting banking fat cats.

On the other hand, Peter Dutton and his supporters are not just hardcore capitalists — they are hardcore reactionaries.

Dutton’s rise would allow a return to significance for former PM Tony Abbott, who made headlines recently for flirting with explicitly race-based immigration policy. The same would be true of Senator Eric Abetz, who inexplicably claimed that abortions cause breast cancer back in 2014. They, like Dutton, were all opposed to equal marriage rights during last year’s plebiscite.

Furthermore, the policy war that precipitated Turnbull’s near-death experience carries potentially far worse implications.

Turnbull was forced by the right of his party to drop all pretences of meeting the targets agreed to under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement — the same agreement that US President Donald Trump withdrew from in June last year. It seems that the Australian government is, by proxy, taking its marching orders on climate policy from a real estate developer turned populist.

Turnbull tried to deflect criticism from his own party and blame Labor for his latest policy capitulation, saying: “It is clear that in the absence of bipartisan support, the legislation to move forward with the emissions component of the National Energy Guarantee will not be able to pass the House of Representatives.”

Yet it seems clear that Turnbull’s attempt to triangulate both sides by masquerading as the inoffensive centre is rightly blowing up in his face.

But once Labor inevitably wins the next election, and voters throw them out in due course, the returning Liberal Party will be reinvigorated, reactionary and dangerously Trumpian. And there will be no opportunity for laughter.