Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
Menu
May 06th 2016 print

Christian Kerr

Malcolm and the Missing Mongrel

Long regarded, especially by himself, as the smartest man in any room (not to mention city, continent and universe), could it be that the Prime Minister has yet to grasp that merely putting himself on display might not be quite enough to win voters' hearts? A mastery of budget details would probably help

turnbull selfie smallBill Shorten believes channelling Arthur Calwell will do the trick. Good luck to him. But the question has to be asked: does Malcolm Turnbull actually want to win the next election? There’s always been talk of Good Malcolm and Bad Malcolm, but at the moment we appear to be confronted with a hitherto unknown side of the man: Diffident Malcolm. A diffident Turnbull and a diffident budget. It’s a very odd mix.

Perhaps he’s trying to neutralise that famous arrogance (automatically associated with wealth and success in the eyes of Labor and populists). Perhaps it’s all a bid to look like a safe pair of hands and an even safer choice at the election. Perhaps it’s the company he’s keeping. Grizzled old hands inside the government say it’s largely run by nice young people. And that’s a problem. While it’s good to have prime ministers above the fray, governments need a bit of mongrel – a couple of token mongrels, ideally – and prime ministers need to appear firm and focussed, especially at election time.

Yet Turnbull continues to amiably carry on, as if he was boarding one of his beloved Bondi Junction busses with some selfie-seeking fans. He can be quick with a literary or historical reference. We’re all a little tired of the Thucydides, but his “I’m for freedom. I’m with Jefferson,” when Julia Gillard unveiled her menacing media inquiry back in 2011 was sublime.

Perhaps there’s a clue in that invocation. Perhaps Turnbull is a secret American War of Independence buff. Perhaps he’s channelling John Paul Jones and “I have not yet begun to fight”. But surely he should also know that shortly after that bold declaration Jones’ flagship burnt and sank.

This week’s battle over business tax cuts has shown Turnbull at his worst. He has appeared unprepared for questions on their cost and unable to expose such a line of attack as facile economics, class warfare – or both – with sufficient emphasis. And that’s despite being first asked the questions in Parliament on Wednesday, over and over by David Speers on Sky yesterday morning, and in Question Time yet again.

Diffident Malcolm. It’s not the first time he has appeared to be caught out on detail. Some new ministers think they can wing it; that government isn’t all that different from opposition; that a basic grasp of their key responsibilities and a few good lines will see them through. They soon learn. And it’s not as if Turnbull is a neophyte. He was a minister under John Howard, a leader of the opposition, a minister again under Tony Abbott – a minister who thought he could do better and masterminded a successful coup.

There’s always the talk, “Malcolm thinks he’s the smartest man in the room”. At first the proposition appears to offer an explanation for his current woes, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Aggregate the polls and the Coalition is trailing. Not by much, but trailing nonetheless. Yet it’s impossible to imagine the Turnbull ego accepting that he could actually lose government – particularly since he’s already lost a referendum.

The verdict of history will be harsh, should happen. He will go down as an ineffectual waffler. There will be the inevitable comparisons with Kevin Rudd – but it will be noted that Rudd at least won an election with a massive two-party-preferred swing of 5.4%.

Cabinet members say the PM will be heading off to see the Governor-General on Sunday. Here’s hoping Diffident Malcolm makes it past that rather nice breakfast spot at the Yarralumla shops.

Comments [7]

  1. ianl says:

    Lord Waffle does not lack mongrel – he just points it at anyone who disagrees with him.

    Just WHY he wants, and has wanted for many years, to drag the LNP leftwards puzzles me. He had no wish to join the ALP because of the unionised concept of seniority deciding who gets what, but why is he leftoid anyway ? I profess I do not understand that bit; I just know he’s making an awful mess on a par with Rudderless.

    Retrospective taxation of superannuation accumulated over a working lifetime with metaphorical blood after being promised and promised by lying politicians that this would never happen ?

  2. Napoleon was reputed to have said – ‘more battles are lost from no decisions being made rather than bad decisions being made’. This also applies to politics. If Malcolm continues his waffle and does not make decisions some of them hard [i.e unpopular] decisions he will achieve the unthinkable and actually lose to a totally incompetent phony like Shorten.
    Malcolm has been reported as saying. “The Australian people are interested in the choice between me and Bill Shorten. There are only two options,” – What a bloody choice we face – having the Australian economy and our standard of living murdered in cold blood by Shorten and the LABOR/GREEN axis and the CMFEU, or having the Australian economy commit slow painful suicide with Malcolm Turnbull’s dulcet urgings in our ears as we die. I put this in the context of Thomas Sowell’s words – ‘Communism is murder, democratically elected socialism is slow painful suicide’.
    Speaking personally I would like to be able to make a real choice – i.e. between freedom/free markets and socialism – it is a choice that has NOT been offered or even talked about yet, but is the choice that should be offered to all thinking people in a semi-free society such as ours.

    • Ken Harris says:

      Like you, denandsel, I would like to see a conservative alternative at the next election. But there won’t be. Who knows, a couple of new parties might throw their hats in the ring but they’ll just be lightning rods for unhappy Liberals. When it comes to governing, your choice will be left or further left.
      What to do?
      The answer, it seems to me, is to encourage the Liberal Party to return to its conservative roots.
      How can that be done?
      The answer is to punish them for their mistake. If they are not punished they will only get worse.
      How do you punish a political party?
      Answer: by voting against it.
      QED.
      Yes, that will put Labor back in charge but what’s the alternative? Slow suicide, as forecast by Thomas Sowell in your posting.
      It would be a fair bet that an electoral loss would get the Libs’ attention.
      Then you’ll have your conservative choice for many years to come.
      In the meantime, lie back and think of Whitlam.

  3. Bran Dee says:

    ‘Why is he leftoid anyway?’. Consider ianl that Malcolm, the fine fellow that he is, had I understand, a clever mother of perhaps the same ‘leftoid’ bent and one who did much writing for the ABC. Also Malcolm was an only child and as a result, I suppose, he would not have had to share a playpen.

  4. Tig says:

    In all my life I have never been faced with such a political dilemma as this election poses. I don’t want to vote for either party. With Labor, I cannot bear the thought of the Unions being off to a canter and running and ruining the country, but under Turnbull the Liberals have morphed into a left progressive party whose values I feel Il don’t entirely share. What best to do, come the election, is going to be very difficult.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Vote labour in the lower house and liberal to n the senate. Then no one will be able to govern and Turnbull and the other lefties in the liberal party will be dumped. Shorten will face a hostile senate won’t get supply and will be forced to go to an election against a conservative opponent.

    • Jody says:

      For God’s sake; how do you think any of that is going to help? Malcolm is the kind of man who wants approval; his mother dumped him at an early age and he’s spent his life in search of a ‘family’ – even if that means the bien pensant. Unless you’ve been through this kind of life trauma – losing your father in your 20′s and having no other life – you cannot imagine what it’s like to have nobody else. He married into the Hughes family – which is traditional Blue Ribbon liberal with a smattering of accessorized progressive leanings. All this is to be expected, but at least he doesn’t have a giant sized chip on his shoulder; merely the ability to throw ScoMo under a bus during pre-budget considerations. That won’t be forgotten by ScoMo either!!