If you can believe it, or are prepared to take what he told federal parliament at face value, Saturday’s landslide Labor win in Victoria is an encouraging precedent for Scott Morrison.
He told an incredulous opposition, “An incumbent government running a strong economy with a preferred premier and delivering services and infrastructure for the people” has been re-elected.
To guffaws and jeers Mr Morrison continued, “Who does that sound like? Our government is delivering infrastructure and services that the Australian people respect and want more of.”
What the prime minister omitted to say, the same Newspoll that gave him a 12-point lead as preferred prime minister, confirmed a 10-point deficit in the measure that really counts, the two-party preferred vote. The poll points to a 21-seat loss if repeated at next year’s general election.
Undeterred, the prime minister leaned over the dispatch box in question time and shouted at Bill Shorten the choice at the next election “will not be involving any premier, of any of the states, it will be between me and you”.
There was a much more sombre assessment from senior Victorian Liberal senate president Scott Ryan. He looked across the wreckage of the party’s representation and the massive swings against it in what is its traditional heartland seats.
“Seats like Kew, Brighton, Sandringham, Hawthorn these voters who are our electoral base, these are the real base of the Liberal Party,” Senator Ryan told Radio National.
He said like himself they are conservative in their personal disposition, but very liberal in their political outlook. He fired an Exocet missile at climate-denying, intolerant conservatives who are taking over the party’s electorate councils around the nation.
The “electoral base” as distinct from the “Christian right” laying claim to the party “don’t want views rammed down their throat and they don’t want to ram their views down other peoples’ throat” is Senator Ryan’s analysis.
It is a conclusion supported by the evidence of the marriage equality survey, which showed some of the biggest margins for it were in safe Liberal electorates.
One of Mr Ryan’s Victorian MP colleagues agrees. He says the voters in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the sand belt know the party intimately. If they are not members they are fundraisers and often election day booth volunteers.
“They know we are being taken over by the crazies.”
Mr Ryan talks about the “noise” coming from Canberra. The knifing of Malcolm Turnbull played particularly badly in Victoria. The fact Mr Morrison was not welcome to play a prominent part in the campaign recognition of this.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian in NSW is getting in early, and made clear on the weekend the PM and his federal colleagues will be similarly shunned in the run up to her March state election.
There’s plenty of evidence to say the “electoral base” is part of the 80 per cent of Australians who support a national anti-corruption commission.
Mr Morrison’s reluctance was flushed out in parliament when though the government avoided defeat on a motion to set one up by voting with the enhanced cross bench and Labor, it is in no hurry to do it.
Just like the promised legislation ending the discrimination exemption for religious schools to expel gay students has not been taken to the government party room.