10 Reasons Why the Coalition Lost the Election

3 June 2022

6.5 MINS

The fact that Scott Morrison lost the recent federal election is all the more “miraculous” (let the reader understand) when one considers that Anthony Albanese failed so spectacularly throughout the entire campaign; not knowing the current unemployment and cash rate, being unable to relate his own NDIS policy, lying about his own political and economic experience, making confusing statements about Labor’s own border policy, being unsure as to whether Australia’s borders were open or closed, and routinely running away from questioning by the media.

It was the election for the Coalition government to lose, and they did, big time. The Liberal Party witnessed a more than 4% swing against them nationally, while Labor also achieved its worst first preference vote in more than a century. Because, for the first time in their lives, many dyed-in-the-wool conservative voters went independent.

While the Coalition will clearly be engaged in some serious soul searching for many, many months to come, here is my attempt to make sense of what went wrong. Indeed, hopefully, it might even go some way in helping them to hear the concerns of the so-called ‘quiet Australians’ who voted for them previously.

1. Pragmatism over Conviction

Rather than being driven by ideology or conviction, the Coalition was driven more by political pragmatism. This was even demonstrated in their election campaign slogan, ‘It won’t be easy under Albanese’. Rather than outline any positive or inspiring vision for the future, the Coalition’s pitch to the Australian people was effectively, “It could be worse!” As Rowan Dean wrote in The Spectator Australia:

If you stand for nothing, you lose. That is the message from this campaign.

If you betray your base, you lose.

If you follow the siren calls of focus group researchers, you lose.

Whether you like or loathe the Teals, the point is they fought from a position of conviction. They stood for something and they won.

It is time for the Liberal party to rediscover its conservative convictions and stop pandering to the woke, touchy-feely left.

As we now know in no uncertain terms, appeasement is a sure path to defeat.

2. Economic Response to COVID-19

While there will be many on the socialist left who will argue that the Coalition should have done even more (!), the Coalition oversaw one of the biggest spending programs of any conservative government in the history of this country. As John Anderson, the former deputy prime minister of Australia, warned more than twelve months ago, the Coalition’s economic response to COVID-19 accumulated a mountain of debt so large that it was the equivalent of “inter-generational theft”.

3. Failed Bill on Religious Freedom

As Australia’s first Pentecostal Prime Minister, Scott Morrison went to the last election promising to produce legislation protecting religious freedom and then did…well, nothing. Rather than making religious freedom a signature reform of his leadership, the Coalition effectively tabled the issue, passing it on to Christian Porter. And we all know now what he was doing.

When Morrison did finally get around to the subject in the eleventh hour — on the eve of his election campaign — it was not only a classic case of too little, too late; five key Parliamentarians crossed the floor to vote it down. And the fact that some, such as Bridget Archer, had the audacity to use (that should be, misuse) the Bible to do so, shows just how dysfunctional the Coalition government had become. For religious readers, in particular, see Matthew 12:22.

4. Inability to Control State Premiers

If there was anything unprecedented about COVID-19, it was how all of the Premiers became drunk on their own power in closing state borders. This was one of the main complaints in Rocco Loiacono and Augusto Zimmerman’s book Deconstructing ScoMo: Critical reflections on Australia’s 30th Prime Minister (Locke Press, 2022). As Zimmerman and Gabriël A. Moens argued more recently in The Spectator Australia:

Morrison’s lack of competent leadership was on full display in his response to the pandemic. For example, he established National Cabinet, the existence of which is not based on the Australian Constitution. This enabled the Premiers of the states and the Chief Ministers of the territories to grab the reins of power by introducing emergency legislation, bypassing Parliament, and degrading the basic principles of democracy. The states and territories then introduced Chinese Communist Party-inspired methods of lockdowns, border closures, mask and vaccine mandates which devastated the economy and turned Australia into a debt-ridden country, repayment of which will take many generations.

5. Failing Freedom of Conscience

Following on from the previous point is the vexed ethical question involving freedom of conscience, especially relating to mandatory vaccination. For people who identify as being politically conservative, this issue alone was a deal-breaker and the government’s silence in defending them was deafening.

By the way, the Nationals were effectively missing in action and politically irrelevant during this entire period. When the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, was forced to resign he all but destroyed the unity of the Coalition by referring to Scott Morrison as a “liar and hypocrite”.  To show how far the Nationals had moved from their ideological base, they even failed to pre-select John Anderson, the former deputy Prime Minister of Australia under John Howard.

6. Weaknesses in Disciplining Staff

There were a number of instances during Scott Morrison’s time as Prime Minister where matters should have been dealt with judiciously. But much like the religious freedom bill, the issue was kicked down the road for someone else to deal with. The circumstances around Andrew Laming, Brittney Higgins and Christian Porter (for example) were all notable illustrations of the Coalition’s inability to act judiciously when the situation called for them to do so. Ultimately, this gave Grace Tame the license to publicly insult the Prime Minister — without any real repudiation — while being a personal guest at the lodge.

7. Selling Out on Climate

Compromising on this particular issue was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Conservatives could put up with a lot, but ideologically selling out on climate alarmism was for many the ultimate betrayal. As Rowan Dean wrote in The Spectator Australia:

Scott Morrison and the Coalition did not lose government last night. They lost it on November 1 last year, when Scott Morrison stood in front of an adoring crowd of climate cultists in Glasgow and committed Australia to the ridiculous pledge of ‘Net Zero by 2050’.

Attacking and resisting Climate Change alarmism had been the secret winning weapon of the Liberal and National parties at every election since and including the landslide win in 2013.

8. You can’t win by being Labor-lite

Peta Credlin was politically prescient when she said on Sky News after Labor’s ‘thumping win’ in the South Australian election:

Probably the biggest lesson here, for Liberals across the country, is that you don’t beat Labor by being Labor-lite. If voters have a choice between a big-spending, politically correct Labor Party, and an only slightly less politically correct and almost equally big-spending Liberal Party, it seems that they go for the party that’s whole-hearted, rather than half-hearted, for bigger, more intrusive government. To win, the Libs need product differentiation from Labor.

9. Cowardice Regarding Abortion and Euthanasia

Consistent with Morrison’s unwillingness to expend any political capital on matters of any substance, the former Prime Minister refused to weigh in on the debates surrounding abortion and euthanasia. To his credit, John Howard outmanoeuvred the Northern Territory by shifting the legal goal posts to a federal framework. But Morrison fled in the opposite direction. It was a massive failure of moral leadership when the country needed it the most.

10. General Inability to Read the Room

While Morrison himself acknowledged that he could be “a bit of a bulldozer”, the former Prime Minister often failed to read the room as to where other people were at. Whether it was awkwardly grabbing people’s hands during the bushfires or going on a planned family holiday to Hawaii in the midst of a national emergency, Morrison often failed to fill the role expectation which goes with being a senior statesman. This also goes a long way to explaining why so many centre-left and progressive Christians despised him. As Jonathan Cole, the producer of The Political Animal’s Podcast, explains:

Morrison is a classic Pentecostal, who (with apologies to my Pentecostal friends) wouldn’t understand the meaning of the word “subtle” if it slapped him in the face, is possessed of an utterly inexhaustible high-octane energetic optimism, even when the house is burning down around him, is overconfident in many respects and is thoroughly results-oriented, in a rather pragmatic sense.

He is also a classic middle-aged bogan from the Shire. Put these two together and everything about him is designed to inspire the ire, if not the outright hatred, of an extremely educated class that likes to think of themselves as cultured, is utterly obsessed with tone and rhetoric and which is desperate to prove that Christianity can be a constructive partner in building a harmonious pluralistic secular world with non-Christian partners.

In short, Scomo (sic) was an embarrassment to them and an obstacle to their public             theology project. I truly think that, had Morrison been an atheist, the hatred would               not have reached pathological levels, because Christians on the left would not have               been tainted by association.

Did the Coalition do Anything Right?

The Coalition’s time in power is a timeless warning to all future leaders and the governments they lead, that the opportunity to govern is only ever for a limited period of time. And so, you need to be clear as to what you want to achieve and do it. The disappointment with Morrison and the Coalition is so strong that it’s probably still too soon to reflect on what they did do positively, although I have attempted to do so here. Because no matter how bad a government is, there are always things we can be grateful for.

Unfortunately, Australia’s first Pentecostal Prime Minister will probably be remembered most of all for his failure to reign in massive government spending as well as defend basic constitutional freedoms such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and most ironically of all, freedom of religion.


Photo by Timothy Tobing/Wikimedia Commons.

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