It appears the Scummo Government is entering its death throes, via The Australian:
Scott Morrison’s pre-election legislative agenda is in disarray after Victorian MP Julia Banks quit the Liberal Party and defected to the crossbench, aiding Bill Shorten’s attempts to destabilise the minority government and target Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
The shock resignation, delivered at the same time the Prime Minister announced an April 2 budget, has increased the threat that Mr Dutton will be referred to the High Court to test his eligibility to sit in parliament.
The Australian understands the Prime Minister was blindsided by Ms Banks’ announcement yesterday, with the Malcolm Turnbull loyalist marching to the office of Attorney-General Christian Porter with independent MP Kerryn Phelps to seek urgent advice on Mr Dutton’s case.
…The Australian understands Mr Turnbull, who retains support from former staffers, has remained in contact with a group of Coalition MPs and ministers since he quit parliament following the August leadership spill. He is accused by some of running a shadow campaign against Mr Morrison to bring down the government…
More at The Guardian:
Labor is working to build the numbers to refer the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, to the high court before parliament rises for Christmas, with the government also meeting crossbenchers in an attempt to frustrate the sortie.
Kerryn Phelps, who is yet to declare a position on the referral, met with the attorney general, Christian Porter, and the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, on Tuesday as part of settling her stance, and Cathy McGowan has signalled to colleagues she’s reassessing in the light of Tuesday’s events.
The government is bracing for a Labor attempt to challenge Mr Dutton with the help of the stronger numbers on the crossbench, seeking to refer the Home Affairs Minister to the High Court over claims that he has a beneficial interest in child care centres that receive money from the Commonwealth.
While lawyers dispute whether this would disqualify Mr Dutton from Parliament under section 44 of the constitution, the government expects Labor and the Greens to get support from crossbenchers to seek a court ruling.
In a bid to head off that prospect, the government has identified Labor MPs Mike Freelander, Tony Zappia and Anne Aly as equally vulnerable to section 44, arguing they should be referred to the court if Mr Dutton is.
And New Daily:
The Morrison government is secretly threatening a tit-for-tat referral of crossbench MP Kerryn Phelps and Labor MPs to the High Court if the Parliament moves on Peter Dutton.
The New Daily understands that manager of government business Chris Pyne communicated the threat to cross bench MPs on Tuesday night in a move designed to shut down a push to force the High Court to examine the Home Affairs Minister’s eligibility to sit in Parliament.
Mr Pyne “named names” according to those familiar with the discussions, including the Member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps, SA Labor MP Tony Zappia and NSW Labor MP Mike Freelander, on the grounds that his work as a doctor could invoke section 44 because of Medicare payments.
A desperate John Howard appeared at the ABC in a rear guard action to prevent disaster:
But The Australian commentators have flown the coop. Dennis Shanahan:
The time has come to concede the reality of an apocalyptic vision for the future of the Liberal Party and the Coalition government.
Until now, it has been possible for Liberals to grasp at straws, like Bill Shorten’s unpopularity, and point to undeniable positives, the strength of the economy, as Scott Morrison battles almost impossible odds to win the next election.
But after the Victorian Liberal rout, there is a stench of panic among federal MPs. The “departure lounge” is filling with those planning careers after politics; some ministers are so shell-shocked by the leadership fights they have been rendered useless.
And Paul Kelly:
The Liberal Party is divided against itself and alienated from the political centre. This is a dual crisis and it runs deep. The truth is that recovery and reconstruction will take years. In the interim, Scott Morrison will govern as best he can, minimise the damage and hold out for a May federal election.
…The Liberals have misread the times. They struggle to talk to their own voters because they are unsure of their core beliefs. They have lost the battle of ideas and are usually outplayed by Labor at tactical politics. There are two rival mythologies fashioned from within — the conservative and the progressive — and this split is worsening despite Morrison’s best efforts.
…The Liberals have been outsmarted in terms of power and influence. The institutional norms that helped them from big business to the Christian churches are manifestly weaker; the rise of progressive values has caught them short and divided; the feminisation of the workforce has assisted Labor and left the Liberals exposed; the pervasive influence of the universities and education sectors fuels prejudice against the Liberals; they are constantly trapped by the rise of climate change as a moral issue and they have remarkably little cultural influence — witness the long-run damage the ABC as an institution has done to the Liberal cause.
That’s kind of true but once again it misses the woods for the trees. The underlying issue for political parties remains economic. It is very simple. Households have been left behind in the new Australian growth story and that has made them angry:
The Labor Party has done a better job of corralling this grievance into a “fairness” agenda while the Liberals have done nothing but make it worse while pretending otherwise. All of the culture wars stuff is just an excuse.
We will see in time if Labor can rectify it when in power. I have my doubts. It will take mutual sacrifice and Labor has readied everyone for a fairness fix.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.