Rather pointedly last week, Malcolm Turnbull warned against using faith as political leverage.
Within hours of Scott Morrison's astonishing sermon in Margaret Court's ultra-conservative pentecostal church claiming "we don't trust government... or the UN, thank God", Turnbull skewered his predecessor's vainglorious puffery.
"In my humble opinion, virtuous actions (not words) are what matter - remember the Pharisees. Or in a more rural context, wise old saying: 'when your neighbour starts quoting the bible, start counting your cattle'," he remarked via Twitter.
Given that it was Morrison who explicitly conflated faith, morals and politics, he can hardly complain when his freshly rejected leadership is measured against them.
Just as Morrison's late-term greenwashing could not disguise the Coalition's decade of political profit-taking on climate, (like cynically adopting net-zero by 2050 without changing a single program or interim target, for instance), Morrison's ex post facto "God-washing" cannot shift the stains from the anti-government he led: rorting and incompetence, stubborn sexism, policy neglect, whistle-blower and refugee punishment, and division. According to our ex-PM, he didn't fail and therefore wasn't rejected. God just needed him for another mission, that's all.
A re-run of 2009 where the Greens party piously made the perfect the enemy of the good, is still possible.
The vaulting self-regard aside, such dangerous delusions, replete with pre-Enlightenment references to Satan, suggest his agenda-less government had never really answered to the people in the first place. There's an explanation in there somewhere, though not a modern one. Australia has mostly sailed above this mix of Americanised Old Testament zealotry, right-wing politics and narcissism, but Morrison's belated ouster, and his eccentric religiosity underscore that it was a close run thing this time.
Of course, moral leverage more generally, has long been used in political communication. Take the aforementioned problem of climate change - Kevin Rudd once characterised it as the great moral challenge of our time, before suddenly parking his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
No stranger to a spot of moral absolutism, the (refreshingly secular) Greens party's current insistence on a steeper 2030 emission target takes its purity from the party's unbending fidelity to its election pledge.
A contradiction arises though with its simultaneous demand that Labor show no such fidelity to its undertakings.
"We will engage in good faith negotiations with the government, and we hope the government will drop its insistence on having a weak target," Adam Bandt said on Wednesday.
Surely this argument was litigated publicly and settled decisively by voters just weeks ago - as per our system. Bandt proposed a 75 per cent cut on 2005-level emissions by 2030, and Anthony Albanese had promised a less severe 43 per cent cut.
In the 151-seat house, Labor secured 77 seats, the Greens party snagged four. A good result for the Greens party but hardly comparable. Now, should Albanese have gone harder with Labor's ambitions given the fast dwindling chances of restricting catastrophic planetary heating to less than 2.0 degrees this century?
Of course, and ideally, the 43 per cent target will be exceeded just as the last government's laughably low "26 to 28 per cent" benchmark was on track to be surpassed. No thanks to federal policy, mind.
But in criticising Labor's caution, recall how Morrison had monstered Bill Shorten's proposed 45 per cent 2030 target in 2019, successfully depicting it as a mortal threat to jobs and a killer of economic growth. As Labor found, you can achieve nothing in opposition, which is where it stayed after 2019.
Central to neutralising a repeat scare-campaign in 2022, was Labor's extensive background work to secure industry agreement around a reachable target. This gained the support of employer groups like the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group, and the National Farmers Federation making it impossible for the Coalition to hyperventilate about "green-left" ideology bringing about economic ruin.
Establishing the 2030 target in law is among the first priorities of the new government - a task made harder by Peter Dutton's unilateral decision to oppose a legislated target, branding it a wedge. Some in the Coalition are grumbling, but Dutton knows most of the moderates were defenestrated at the election, their falls thankfully broken by their infinitely flexible spines.
Two though who are shaping to cross the floor are NSW senator, Andrew Bragg and Tasmanian MP, Bridget Archer. Neither will matter numerically, but their willingness to consider the 2030 policy on its merits and to respect the principle of democratic expression, exposes their leader's comparatively rank politics. Without the Coalition, Labor needs the 12 Greens party senators and one further senator to get to 39 votes. That looks like being David Pocock.
A re-run of 2009 where the Greens party piously made the perfect the enemy of the good, is still possible. Perhaps even likely.
This would entail making the 43 per cent benchmark a floor rather than a ceiling, with Bowen saying "if there are good-faith ideas to make the government's intent even more explicit, then we'll take those on board".
It is a good sign. Whatever Bandt negotiates however will have to fly with an expanded Greens party room containing some pretty strong views about the evils of political compromise. He will have an eye to his own leadership.
This time, Labor has learned to be flexible. But what it is not budging on because it simply cannot, is the 43 per cent minimum target for 2030.
The question is, has the Greens party learned a similar lesson, or has it concluded that clarity in posturing matters even more to its base than the environment?
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