People 'have chosen to forget us': Scott Morrison's grim warning to Liberal colleagues that they have to change

Treasurer Scott Morrison. Photo: Stefan Postles/ Getty Images.

Scott Morrison used a speech to the Liberal federal council in Sydney at the weekend to deliver a warning to colleagues about the need to change their ways.

In between talking up his budget and taking a few swings at Bill Shorten, he also told colleagues that Australia was not immune to the political upheaval sweeping the world and that voters increasingly see the concerns of the political class as irrelevant.

His intervention comes at a difficult time for the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. A poll out this morning in The Australian shows the party’s support sagging around the country; the government is in open conflict with the Catholic education sector over its schools funding plans; there has been harsh internal brawling over the future shape of Coalition energy policy, and conservative elements of the party have been enraged by a leaked tape of senior minister Christopher Pyne saying same-sex marriage could be legalised in Australia “sooner than everyone thinks”.

Morrison said the Liberal Party could not “slavishly follow past political orthodoxies, simply because they worked before” — a challenge to elements of the party who believe the formula for electoral success lies in continuing the economic and social conservatism that defined the Howard government.

Morrison said on Saturday that much of what was happening in Canberra was based on “old political fights and battle lines that hold little if no interest to everyday Australians”.

A couple of key excerpts are below, with some emphasis added:

Globalisation and technology have changed people’s lives, so old solutions no longer apply

Our election victory last year, led by our Prime Minister, was achieved against these strong global political headwinds for incumbent Governments – an environment where the electorate is rewriting the political rules, rightly in their favour.

As a Government, as a Party, this is the new reality that we must face and embrace.

It means we cannot slavishly follow past political orthodoxies, simply because they worked before. The political and economic times have changed.

As a Government, as a Party, and consistent with our principles and values, we must lead and govern for the times we are in.

The times we face today are different to when we were last in Government. They have been framed by the tectonic global economic shifts of the past decade and what we have inherited.

Globalisation and technology has transformed the economic landscape – positively and negatively for Australians.

In Australia, the end of the mining investment boom has seen mining investment halve as a share of our economy, while our terms of trade fell by thirty per cent, punishing incomes.

The post-GFC world is one where growth has been hard won or non existent. Businesses have survived rather than thrived and wage earners have only had modest growth in their
incomes.

Conventional politics have become irrelevant in a post-GFC world, and the media are ‘ignored’

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty Images

The fall in earnings post the GFC has made people feel more vulnerable to the many forces beyond their control.

It has also made them more acutely aware of the essential services they rely on, like Medicare, the PBS, schools funding and income support.

For many Australians, frustration with business as usual has led some to turn to protectionism…

It is our job to give these Australians hope. To assure them that they have not been forgotten…

And to demonstrate that the principles, policies and solutions we hold as a Liberal Party can make the difference they are seeking for their lives, their families and their communities.

The twist for today’s forgotten people, though, is they have also chosen to forget us, the political class, making them much harder to reach.

Australians have collectively reached for the remote and turned down the volume on Canberra’s noise, which includes more than just politicians. The media are similarly ignored.

They are giving up on politics holding any value for them because too often, it is simply not relevant for them.

After ten years of political brawling, Australians are fed up with the “politics-as-usual” approach.

This means that outside the bubble of Canberra, it is increasingly not about the conflict of partisanship.

These are old political fights and battle lines that hold little if no interest to everyday Australians.

Australians have their own tribes, which usually have nothing to do with politics. And their views do not always fit neatly into our partisan boxes, and nor do they care.

The lessons from Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn

From debt to boats and home insulation scandals to over priced school halls, Labor were a write-off as a government – and would be again.

In the UK Election, Theresa May’s team and the vast majority of the UK media were brutal in their assessment and warnings against Jeremy Corbyn.

Yet UK voters didn’t care and turned out in larger numbers and voted for him.

Like President Trump, Corbyn took on the role of the authentic outsider; challenging a system that many voters did not think was serving them any longer.

The Coalition may be behind in the polls at the moment on a two-party preferred basis, but it is equal with Labor on a primary vote of 36 per cent. So almost three in 10 Australians are ready to cast their vote outside of the major parties, continuing the trend reflected in the 2016 election result with Australians increasingly turning toward minor parties and independents.

Away from the cut and thrust of daily politics, this shows Morrison has at least been thinking about the political ruptures being seen around the world — and how Australia is not immune.

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