The Coalition could romp it in… but probably won’t.
The issue of Chinese influence is blowing up in Australia right now. There are more and more stories emerging of Chinese influence at the highest levels of parliament – with more buried beneath a publication restraining order.
The Chinese government isn’t happy, and is telling off our foreign minister at break-out meetings at the G-20.
“If you valued the $76bn worth of trade, you should be taking a more positive view of China’s development.”
It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on through all the smoke, but there does appear to be a lot of Chinese money making its way into the pockets of Australian politicians.
It’s not a good look.
And I had personally written off the coalition at the next election, but I think this presents them with a golden opportunity. If they’re smart, they could actually turn it into a landslide.
Get tough on Chinese influence.
This is one issue where they can be strong and comfortable. Labour, on the other hand, is compromised and wedged.
1. No one’s hands are clean in Canberra, but Labor is more compromised on the issue right now, thanks to Sam Dastyari and others. Once the mud starts flying you can be sure Coalition members will be shown to be in the wrong, but that’s ok. If Turnbull came out and said, we recognise we’ve made mistakes, but now we’re getting tough, the electorate would forgive them (so long as it was backed up with serious action).
2. The Coalition has gotten onto the front foot with a bill to address foreign influence, while Labor has painted itself into opposition on the issue.
3. Labor has high-profile elders (Bob Carr, Paul Keating), who are on the Chinese pay-roll and hopelessly compromised. What’s worse, they’re making a lot of noise about it, trying to defend China. On the other hand, the Coalition has an ex-SAS hero willing to risk his career to make an issue out of it.
4. Labour is over-run by politically correct social justice warriors. They’ll label any attempt to neuter foreign influence in domestic politics as ‘racism’, and then Labor will either hold on to its resistance, painting itself as an apologist for China, or hack itself apart. The Coalition isn’t wedged here at all.
There’s a lot more to this, but I’m just talking about optics here. And for Labor, the optics aren’t good.
And we’re talking about a nation-defining issue. Forget negative gearing or whatever Labor is bringing to the next election. The Coalition can define the election as a choice – the choice to become a sub-state of China or not.
(Guess which way the public will jump on that one.)
But no issue I can think of even comes close to touching that one. The Coalition could easily sell it as the biggest issue of our times. And they might be right.
So there’s the potential there for an issue that is massively important in the public’s mind, and on which Labor is thoroughly on the back-foot.
Elections have been won on less.
The opportunity is there. Will the Coalition take it?
Somehow, the cynic in me thinks they won’t.
Why? Because once you start down the road of cleaning up politics, it’s a slippery slope.
If we’re banning foreign influence, why aren’t we banning corporate influence? If we’re banning foreign donations, why aren’t we banning corporate donations?
And so I think the Coalition has a choice. Destroy the Canberra business model and romp it in at the next election, or, keep the business model in tack, and have a spell in opposition.
What are they going to choose?
“A few cruisy years in opposition never hurt anyone, old boy. Let’s not rock the boat, shall we.
There’s a good boy.”