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An autumn of wintry discontent for Liberals

Norman Abjorensen writes in Inside Story (31.3.17) that, with a Queensland election on the horizon, the federal Liberal Party is still coming to terms with the size of the WA election loss.

‘Continuing fallout from the election rout in Western Australia has heaped more problems on the Liberals in Canberra, and on Malcolm Turnbull in particular, as the ramifications echo across the continent.

‘The usual deflection – that state elections are fought on local issues – simply doesn’t wash here. National issues, including the attempt to cut Sunday penalty rates and the distribution of GST revenues, figured high on voters’ lists of concerns. Federal and state issues also intersected with the Barnett government’s proposed privatisation of Western Power, which coincided damagingly with the federal debate about energy insecurity and rising power prices.

‘… On the other side of the country, the outcome in the west almost certainly rules out an early election in Queensland this year. Labor is hoping One Nation will unravel in its home state by 2018, a view encouraged both by past experience and by the chaotic and contradictory campaign the party ran in Western Australia. The opposition Liberal National Party faces dilemmas posed by the possibility that One Nation will make inroads into its voter base. Should it seek to accommodate One Nation or oppose it? And will it be tempted by a preference deal in Labor-held seats?

‘For his part, Malcolm Turnbull is working to shore up his own position – but in a way that could be counterproductive. Shedding the Mr Reasonable tag, he has adopted a harsher, shriller tone, stepping up personal attacks on opposition leader Bill Shorten and the trade union movement generally. Coupled with his support for cutting Sunday penalty rates, this might serve his primary purpose of keeping the business community onside; but the generally unfavourable reaction suggests this might come at the expense of electoral support.’

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