The disintegration of the Liberal Party, while happening more rapidly than perhaps anyone would have picked, was always inevitable. The two so called “traditions” of conservative and liberal/libertarian survived together for so long because they were united against the common enemy, socialism. The battle no longer runs along those lines.
The left of the Labor Party has comprehensively lost that fight within their own party, and despite Kevin Rudd’s close to unreadable dirges on the brutopia of capitalism, everyone in the real world knows the Labor Party has been a predominantly free market party for at least 25 years and will continue to be so, although still with a disturbing tendency of continuing to look after union mates to the detriment of the wider community.
The libertarian and conservative parts of the Liberal Party have absolutely no common ground on social issues and now basically no common ground on economic issues. In fact on social issues Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin are probably closer to Kevin Rudd than Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey. While one could never see Rudd agreeing to gay marriage or legalised euthanasia, that’s a strong possibility from a Malcolm Turnbull led government (if he actually had authority over his party).
Even apart from the painfully obvious split on whether to put into the economy price signals to try and reduce our carbon emissions in the face of climate change, there was already little economic common ground between the conservatives and the liberals. The conservatives are happy for tax money to be used to determine social outcomes, and very much believe in a redistribution of income to support these social outcomes across the entire economy, not just for the most needy. The Howard government taxed and spent more as a percentage of GDP than any previous government - and this during a boom.
So the obvious and logical result would be a Conservative Party and a truly Liberal Party to emerge from this chaos. The Labor Party for a while would clearly be the only “superpower”, but this could turn out to be as dangerous for them as it has clearly been for the United States - as some bright spark once said, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
As the effects of climate change increase and the government’s response is clearly shown to be totally inadequate, more and more Labor voters will bleed off to the Greens, who will undoubtedly start to win Lower House seats in the inner city of Sydney and Melbourne, and even possibly seats such as Fremantle and Cunningham (which they have already briefly held).
Meanwhile a new US Republican-style Conservative party could concentrate on outer suburban and rural seats while a real Liberal Party would be very well placed to win back affluent multicultural metropolitan seats such as Bennelong which were once Liberal heartland.
It is not inconceivable that the Labor Party could become like the Italian Christian Democrats - in power for 50 years but in a series of almost yearly changing coalitions with other parties either to its right or left, or occasionally both, and almost always beholden to their interests rather than its own.
The only way the Labor Party could avoid this from happening and remain the permanent superpower is ditching its own tradition by completely severing the political party from the union movement, but that is deeply unlikely. Kevin Rudd remains an exception to the rule of leaders with a union background. It is almost certain that the next Labor Prime Minister will be from the union movement. So get ready for the possibility of coalition governments well into the future, just not the same type of coalition that everyone in Australia is used to.
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