It can get worse for Matthew Guy's Liberals

It can get worse for Matthew Guy’s Liberals

Since the Liberal Party has trouble recruiting private sector talent to work for public sector wages, they presumably now understand the need for higher pay for the public servants we all depend upon every day. The more conventional approach has been to defer rewards until leaving office with, for instance, a taxpayer-funded spot on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as the return for services selflessly rendered.

Guy already had question marks against him over the “lobster” disclosures that sank his campaign in the last state election, and now more seaweed will stick. If there was a viable alternative, there would be moves to switch leaders. But who would he want it now? Guy is the proverbial “dead man walking”, awaiting his fate after a seemingly inevitable drubbing come November.

The Liberals’ hunt for the saboteur is well under way. Unfortunately for Guy, the list of suspects is embarrassingly long. Only someone senior within the party would have the required access to internal emails, and tellingly many have sufficient motive.

Although it does not seem possible, the Liberals’ problems across the nation run deeper than a transient scandal about a now former chief of staff in one state.

In Western Australia, they are an endangered species. In South Australia, they just lost office. In NSW, the Liberal government is consumed by the ongoing investigation into why and how their leadership schemed to install ex-Nationals leader John Barilaro to a lucrative job in New York. Entitlement and privilege writ large.

Federally, Scott Morrison’s disastrous legacy is never but a Liberal Party identity crisis. Will Dutton’s diminished delegates – Liberals now hold only four seats across metropolitan Melbourne – keep to the middle of the road or veer to the verge?

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Some Liberals believe their once-dominant party must better reflect Christian right values, modeled by American evangelist politicians. They believe the future is to inhabit the space vacated by the collapse five years ago of the Family First experiment. Three recent preselections in Victoria are evidence they are winning the internal battle.

In the upper house South Eastern Metro seat, Ann-Marie Hermans will replace Gordon Rich-Phillips. Hermans was a Family First candidate in 2006 and hails from the Assembly of God. In Western Metro, Moira Deeming won the spot on the Liberal ticket to replace banished religious firebrand Bernie Finn, though she shares some of the same controversial views that led to Finn being expelled.

Most telling of all was the contest in the Eastern Victoria Regional seat. After a remarkably efficient recruitment drive, Gippsland chiropractor and “City Builders Church” figure Renee Heath won a tight contest against competent and sensitive sitting Liberal moderate and lawyer Cathrine Burnett-Wake by a single vote.

Senior moderate Liberals concede the religious takeover they have been resisting for 10 years is succeeding. Some speculate on abandoning their party to the insurgents and starting again. Will the Liberal Party survive, or are we watching it collapse?

Labor Premier Daniel Andrews – himself under rightful scrutiny over his own party’s branch stacking, the partisan use of electoral staff and the politicization of the public service – cannot believe his luck.

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