Editorial: As Liberals’ panic grows—more protest and stopwork action can bury Morrison

The Liberals’ crushing defeat in the Victorian election was a massive rejection of their divisive, racist, dog-whistling campaign. The result has produced panic and infighting throughout the party and confirmed that Scott Morrison is facing an electoral wipe-out at next year’s election.

There are four federal seats in Victoria alone that the Liberals would lose on the strength of the swing they suffered—more than enough to lose the federal election.

The Liberals suffered dramatic swings against them—not just in marginal seats—but in the Liberal heartland. On primary votes, wealthy blue ribbon seats swung by 11 per cent in Brighton, 9.5 per cent in Sandringham and 6 per cent in Caulfield, nearly enough for the Liberals to lose them.

Liberal Cabinet Minister Kelly O’Dwyer put it well when she fumed that voters thought the Liberals were “homophobic, anti-women, climate change deniers”—because they are.

Scott Morrison’s pack of bigots is tearing itself to pieces. So-called “moderate” Liberal MPs denounced the right of the party for knifing Malcolm Turnbull and costing them votes.

Senate President Scott Ryan, in a swipe at the right’s claims to represent the party base, declared that, “voters who are our electoral base—this is our real base as a Liberal party—they sent us a message”.

Julia Banks, who called out sexist bullying and intimidation within the federal Liberals during the Turnbull leadership spill, has quit the party and moved to the crossbench. Scott Morrison, already in minority government, now has one less vote in the parliament.

The panic has already spread to NSW, where the state Liberal government faces an election in March. One poll in the Sunday Telegraph suggested Labor was ahead in the state by 51 to 49 per cent.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has already said that Scott Morrison “was not needed” to campaign in the state election.

But Morrison consistently backs up the hard right. He is still defending his proposal to shift the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He used the NSW Liberal Party apparatus to ride roughshod over the moderates to save hard right MP Craig Kelly from a preselection challenge.

Morrison has sided with the right over allowing schools to discriminate of LGBTI students. Parliament will rise without the protections that Morrison promised because he would not back Labor’s bill.

Meanwhile thousands of school students defied Morrison’s pleas to stay at school, and walked out of school to protest against Morrison and the climate dinosaurs that run the country. It was another glimpse of the growing anti-Liberal anger and the mood for change seen in the Victorian elections.

Drive the Liberals out

But we can’t just sit back and wait for the Liberals to collapse. We need further protests and stopwork rallies to bury Morrison completely.

The two mass union delegates meetings and stopwork Change the Rules rallies in Melbourne this year were crucial to focussing the anger on the Liberals. Tens of thousands marched through the city a month before the election.

We need an immediate call for further nationwide stopwork rallies early next year.

Mass union protests can also make it clear that we are not waiting for Labor to deliver the changes we need over refugees, climate change or union rights. Labor is not talking about the right to strike, scrapping the fines against unions for “unlawful” strike action, or allowing secondary boycott action to support other workers on strike.

Labor still won’t commit to industry-wide bargaining except for limited numbers of low paid workers.

Morrison only narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat in Parliament over refugees in the last sitting week for the year. Changes moved by independent MP Kerryn Phelps that would bring all children and families off Nauru and give doctors greater power over medical transfers for all refugees were passed in the Senate. Morrison was forced to close down parliament rather than have them carried in the lower house.

This bill won’t close the offshore detention centres but it would be a political blow against Morrison and show the gathering momentum around the refugee issue.

The Palm Sunday demonstrations in April next year will fall just before the federal election. Large demonstrations will be a nail in the Liberals’ political coffin and will send a message that the refugee movement will keep fighting to close the camps.

It will be struggle from below that will shape the next few months before the election and the prospects for real change after that. Stronger socialist organisation in every movement will build stronger struggles to challenge the capitalist system. Join us to be part of that fight.


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