Hollowing out the Liberals

The rise of the Green-Teal tide on the weekend speaks volumes about environmental politics.
Geoff Ebbs reflects on the implications for the Liberals and the Greens

The destruction of the Liberal Party by Scott Morrison has many dimensions including integrity, misogyny, gender wars, culture wars and climate wars. Both the Teal independents and the Greens benefited from Labor’s luke-warm stance on any of these issues as they pacify their dominant right wing. Plenty of political commentators will ruminate on those general dimensions of the fundamental shift in Australian politics. This piece specifically focuses on the lessons to be learned from the environmental politics of the last three decades for those of us in a position to shape the future. Two points deserve special attention: the hollowing out of the Liberal Party and the impact of capitalists for climate change (Climate 200) on the environment movement. This article deals with the first.

Howard Hollowed the Liberal Left

Guy Pearse – High & Dry 2008

There is plenty of analysis about the loss of the Liberal moderates and the challenges of the pathway back. The historical part of that analysis has the function of identifying past mistakes to avoid them in the future and to map the path forward. Since Saturday night many Liberals and commentators have identified their pet point: Simon Birmingham nominated Abbott’s choice to blow up the party rather than implement the National Energy Guarantee, Michael McCormack thinks Barnaby may have had something to do with it, others blame Morrison for sacrificing inner-city moderates in a deliberate move to attract outer suburban tradies with huge tax-breaks, injections of cash into domestic construction and dog-whistling on gender politics. In a very nasty outburst on election night, journalist Annabelle Crabbe got stuck into Simon Holmes a Court for interfering in the “normal” political process by funding independents.

All these miss the point that the hollowing out of the Liberal Party was well under way two decades ago under Howard. I interviewed Guy Pearse in 2008 on the launch of his book High and Dry. The snip of him discussing the clearing out of the left of the Liberal Party in the 1990s (25 years ago) and its impact on climate policy is highly instructive. The full version of that interview is available in Part 1 and Part 2 on the EcoRadio website.

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