Fraser could take Bishop with him on the way out
It has not been a good morning for the Liberal Party.
It has been revealed Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser quit the party last December in disgust after it was placed under the new management of Tony Abbott.
Current deputy leader and shadow foreign affairs Minister Julie Bishop continues her comedy stylings by first claiming that Australia has also been guilty of faking passports, and then taking it back. Either way she stuffed up big time, and the two events have combined to aid Labor in pelting the Opposition with the tag that the Coalition are a pack of reckless ultra conservatives.
First to Fraser.
In the last few years Fraser has sought to define his legacy largely by criticising the Howard Government’s stance on asylum seekers, contrasting it with his own more compassionate policies following the influx of refugees from Indochina in the late seventies and early eighties.
The fact that you never hear Fraser or anyone else touting his Government’s economic or any other reform record is telling in its absence, but he does have a great deal to be proud of in changing Australia for the better in allowing Asian asylum seekers in.
It would have been interesting to see whether Fraser would have continued as a clean skin on human rights if he had stayed in power, with cabinet papers released in the last few years revealing they did consider tougher measures such as remote detention centres and temporary refugee visas. Fraser’s Foreign Affairs Minister Andrew Peacock also recognised East Timor as part of Indonesia despite recognising it was not “the moral decision”, but faced pressure from Soharto and mining companies.
Regardless, if anybody has a right to comment on asylum seeker policy it’s probably Fraser, and his decision to quit the party he once led as Prime Minister would not have been taken lightly.
According to the AFR Fraser thinks that Abbott is “all over the place” on policy and was continuing down the path of a refugee policy with racist overtones.
This will give Labor plenty of fuel to continue an election year campaign that labels Abbott a man of the hard right who is an erratic threat to the nation, Rudd recently labelled him a threat to the “social fabric” of Australia.
For all the dramatic talk of the Liberals being pulled into the dark heart of the hard right, I can’t help but think some of it is overstated.
Malcolm Turnbull, the apparent symbol of small l liberalism within the party, only lost the leadership by one vote and has reversed his decision to quit at the next election, which must indicate some level of support for his way of thinking.
Furthermore the other future leadership contender Joe Hockey, is another moderate Liberal who is crucial to any hope the Coalition have of getting up at this election or any other in the near future.
Still if Fraser is that concerned about the scatty nature of the current Liberal Party leadership perhaps he should invite Julie Bishop to join him in resigning.
Bishop has stuffed up on two counts in her criticism of the Government’s decision to expel and Israeli diplomat over faked Aussie passports used in a Mossad hit.
Firstly turning it into a political issue makes no sense. You’d be pretty hard pressed to find anyone who thought Stephen Smith’s actions were over the top, especially if you were the person who now finds their name on a Hamas list entitled “people who knocked off our gun runners”.
But to try and use top secret intelligence gained either during her time in Cabinet or during a briefing that the government gave her recently as political fodder is pretty astonishing. To then take back the accusation that Australia has also faked passports just confirms the monumental miscalculation.
Unfortunately for Abbott, Bishop being a former minister, from Western Australia and a woman he has little choice but to keep her where she is until somebody better shows up. Malcolm Fraser evidently feels no such ties binding him anymore.
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