Monday, May 19, 2008

Liberals Lost in the Leadership Vacuum

A poll conducted by Galaxy Research shows that many Australians have been underwhelmed by the Wayne Swan’s first budget. About one quarter of families with children feel that they will be worse off, while 41 per cent of people aged over 50 feel pessimistic about the budget. Even more Australians are undecided, while a small minority feel they will be better off. At a time like this you would expect that the opposition would be scoring some political points at last. Far from it.

Instead, the opposition leader wasted his right of reply speech with an ill-considered populist promise to cut five cents from the excise on petrol. While I’m sure such a cut would be welcomed by motorists, it would ultimately do nothing to alleviate the long term increase in petrol prices, and would cost the government more revenue than it’s worth. Malcolm Turnbull, along with others in the Liberal Party told Brendan Nelson as much, but he ignored the advice. We know this because the email from Mr. Turnbull to Dr. Nelson has been leaked. Clearly, Dr. Nelson’s leadership is actively being undermined.

Add to that the confusion around the announcement by Margaret May, Shadow Minister for Ageing, appearing to promise an increase in the base rate of the age pension. It’s a great idea, but apparently neither Dr. Nelson nor Mr. Turnbull knew anything about this policy.

Of course, Margaret May is right. Pensioners do deserve an increase to ensure they are able to maintain some semblance of a dignified existence in the face of rising living costs. These people deserve it, and this country can afford it. The government has failed utterly to address this issue in its first budget, and the opposition should have kicked a free goal. Instead, the leadership of Brendan Nelson is in the process of disintegrating, and Malcolm Turnbull is waiting.

What a pity the Liberal Party won’t elect Margaret May to the leadership… At least she has some idea of what’s really going on in the electorate.

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