News Michael Pascoe: Time to chill about the election – we’re only regaining balance
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Michael Pascoe: Time to chill about the election – we’re only regaining balance

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For the reasonably reasonable people among the 36 per cent of Australians whose first preference was for another three years of Liberal-National Coalition government, relax – Australia is just doing its regular rebalancing act around the centre.

Civilisation as rational conservatives imagine it is not coming to an end. History shows we are much better for “changing the curtains” from time to time, for our balancing act.

That thought will provide no comfort for the carnival barkers on Sky After Dark but, hey, they have tickets they need to sell to their Murdoch freak show.

Former Liberal leader John Hewson reminded everyone on the weekend of the first law of Australian politics: You win elections from the centre.

It was the centre that defeated a Coalition that had veered away from it, that was working hard at exaggerating division in Australia, working from the Trump playbook.

Indeed, the Coalition and its media shills had departed so far from the centre that they couldn’t even recognise when they saw it – the “teal” independents are the embodiment of the centre, not at all befitting the insults and slurs thrown at them.

teal
The ‘teal’ community independents are the embodiment of the centre.

After the 2016 election it struck me that, if you accept Australia entered the modern era in 1972, we had had roughly 22 years of Labor Prime Ministers in the Lodge and 22 years of Liberal Prime Ministers and the country was in pretty good shape.

According to the Nine newspapers’ David Crowe, Labor now is on course for at least six years in power. That would neatly restore the balance – 28 years each.

And it needs restoring. The centre reacted against a government that had become arrogant, that lacked humanity, that declared it was not focused on the nation’s long-term health, that had no regard for integrity and could not be trusted with other people’s money.

The common reading of Labor’s campaign was all about it being a small target, overlooking that by being “Liberal-lite” on many issues, it was actually claiming the centre that the Coalition had deserted.

The extent to which the Liberal Party remains captured by those disdainful of the centre, both within its own ranks and the National Party, will determine how much longer than the “at least” six years it will remain in opposition.

john-hewson-lending
Former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson says the signs are not good for the Coalition.

The signs aren’t good for the Coalition, according to Dr Hewson. Barnaby Joyce no longer leading the National Party is a very small step, but Dr Hewson opined that electing Peter Dutton as leader and further enhancing the Nationals’ position in the Coalition would be fatal for the Liberal Party.

“To contradict Rupert Murdoch and his peers, I don’t believe that a hardline right party would ever win government in our country,” he wrote in The Saturday Paper.

“In a sense, the moderates who lost have only themselves to blame, for failing to take significant stands in the party room on issues such as climate, integrity and responsible budgets. Morrison was able to take them for granted.

“The essence of the community-based independents was that they encouraged their constituents to believe their votes counted. Those votes did, and they have made a real difference.”

The teals’ success (and the orange and pink success, to grant Indi and North Sydney their actual colours) promises more community candidates at the next election, this time threatening Labor seats if the government is not delivering.

(That was the thing about why the teals were targeting Liberal seats – there’s no point targeting opposition seats when you want to change the government. Yes, that is totally obvious, but apparently not obvious enough for some Liberal members and Murdoch newspapers.)

But the awakened community will hunt more Liberal seats if the party remains insulting, if it becomes irrelevant to the centre’s priorities.

A good government with fine leadership can convince the centre to move, can bring the centre with it. That requires honesty, clear communication and understood benefits.

That’s the way we achieved Medicare, the GST, better firearms control and ended conscription. It’s the way we should be able to institute the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and get serious about climate change.

We have proven many times as a nation to be capable of greater aspirations for our Commonwealth, for each other.

There is nothing sacrosanct, nothing set about our collective position at any one time on something as vague as the political spectrum.

It was the Morrison government’s arrogance that it thought it could simply dictate to the electorate what the Liberal and National parties’ sponsors wanted it to be, along with buying votes through unprecedented corruption and abuse of power.

So don’t panic even if you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid about a Labor government being a threat to civilisation. In the end, the centre wins.