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September 21st 2015 print

Peter O'Brien

Turnbull, the Less Odiferous Option

There is a lot to dislike about the new Prime Minister's history, policies and methods, not least the implacable scheming to bring down his party's leader. But come election day and confronted with a choice between his Liberals and Labor, the choice will be uninspiring but clear

nose peg IIMany conservative commentators have rightly noted that Tony Abbott’s achievements in government were considerable.  Stopping the boats, removing the carbon tax, ending (or at least curtailing) corporate welfare and  re-setting the relationship with Indonesia are the four at the top of my list. The ousted leaders’ sympathisers also have noted his restraint and decency in calling upon all Liberal members to fall in line with the new government and concentrate on defeating Labor at the next election. Odious as Malcolm Turnbull’s plotting and scheming have been and regardless of an unsettling record that suggests he might have been happier on the other side of the House, Abbott’s advice is worth heeding.

Simply put, the current ALP is light years from representing a viable alternative government. In very short order, Turnbull will be the recipient of all the bile that Fairfax, the ABC and mavens of social media can inject into the nation’s political discourse. True, it might not plumb the depths of sheer, unadulterated hatred that Abbott had to endure, but it will be poisonous nonetheless. Critics within Turnbull’s party, if they wish to see the greater evil of Labor kept off the government benches, will eventually have to swallow hard and defend him, so I would suggest they start toning down the rhetoric now.

Like many, I am deeply saddened by the way Abbott’s prime ministership was cut short, but at the same time the memories of his inability and/or unwillingness to grow into the job are fresh and vivid. Fact is, his tenure was crippled even before he took office.  Firstly by his making commitments that he did not need to make (“No cuts to the ABC”) and could not reasonably fulfil (paid parental leave) and, secondly, because he virtually ignored the Senate in his 2013 election campaign.

When Abbott took the reins as Opposition Leader in 2009, he had my support for one chief reason: his apparent stance on global warming and the need for the legions of careerist panic merchants it has spawned to find other, productive lines of work. The billions of dollars wasted could have been spent on real needs or, better yet, left in taxpayers’ pockets. Even under the Coalition’s half-pregnant approach, Direct Action, this waste will only get worse, and all for no tangible benefit whatsoever.

I had hoped that, over time, Abbott would unleash his inner sceptic (“It’s crap!” as he told a Liberal audience in an unguarded moment) and wind down the lemming-like rush to economic oblivion.  He had plenty of evidence with which to argue that the “settled science” is anything but. The failure of Copenhagen, the Climategate scandals; the failure of models to predict the eighteen-plus years of no warming, the continued uncertainty about tipping points and climate sensitivity — each and every one presented an opportunity to pause and re-assess the real risks, perhaps focussing more on adaptation measures, such as dam building and more robust infrastructure.   But he never did take that path. The loyal silence of known sceptics within the Party, such as Dr Dennis Jensen, has been most frustrating — not, mind you, that his reticence to address the climate scam saved him from the national broadcaster’s scorn.

Unfortunately, even if Turnbull sticks to the party line on global warming for the moment, he will never bring a level of objectivity to this question that would allow his government to take a pragmatic, hasten-slowly approach.  One can only hope that the upcoming Paris conference will prove to be Son of Copenhagen, with the world’s leaders limiting their actions and activism to green pieties, not actual policy and mega-billion dollar transfers of the developed world’s wealth to tinpot kleptocrats and other holders of secret Swiss bank accounts.  In any event, the distinct possibility that Turnbull will endorse some rash and expensive initiative in Paris is one more justification for conservatives to woo him, rather than eviscerate him.  There will be plenty of time for that if he actually does prove as bad as many fear.

As for Tony Abbott, I have admired his personal qualities as much as his political achievements but, sadly, I am in the vast minority.  Inexplicable as it is,  Abbott is viscerally disliked by a majority of voters.  Conventional wisdom among the conservative commentariat is that, come election time, voters would have set aside their dislike and concentrate objectively on the relative merits of the policies and achievements of the two sides. I am not quite so sanguine, believing that it would not have mattered what additional successes Abbott added to his considerable list of achievements as a phalanx of swinging voters would never have voted for any government led by him,not under any circumstances.  Labor would have learned its lesson, they would have rationalised, and could be trusted once again. That Labor’s driving instinct is to invoice voters for the cost of meddling with every aspect of our lives would not have been foremost as Abbott’s detractors dropped their ballots into the box.

I don’t believe the Coalition could have won the next election under Abbott.   And even if he did, it would be only a narrow victory.  As far as economic reform is concerned, this term of government has been a wasted opportunity.  The Coalition will have to start the process next term and will need at least another stretch in power to complete it.  And, on top of that, they will have to win the Senate.

Tony Abbott has already given great service to the nation. I hope he can be content in that knowledge.

Comments [14]

  1. Jody says:

    It’s good to see you’ve changed your attitude from a previous piece!! I dislike Turnbull but I dislike Labor more!! Yes, he is Labor-lite, but the electorate has to look at ITSELF too. After all, our politicians don’t hail from Mars – they are part of our society and represent the kind of people we are; if they’re no good it’s largely because we’re not good.

    Disturbingly, Turnbull reminded me of Rudd at yesterday’s press conference!!

    And ‘economic oblivion’ (and cultural annihilation) is the fate of Europe right now. I think we can and will do better.

  2. Jody says:

    I seem to have largely confused your piece with another, but can only attribute that to a ‘senior’s moment’!! Apologies.

    However, the overall tone of all the contributions is what a piece of work Turnbull is and what he’s likely to do which will damage the Coalition. And comments about Morrison are generally rather negative – the one person who’s shown he’s willing to stare down detractors (except the execrable Ray Hadley; he’s going to have to let this soap slip from the rope!).

  3. Keith Kennelly says:

    Peter will all due respect I don’t think you quite ‘get it’.

    In a war we take our enemies captive and execute our traitors.

    Ie we save our worst punishment for those among us who betray us.

    I’m a rusted on liberal. I have helped out on election days, pre polling and scrutinering.

    I help because primarily, among other things, The Liberal Party behave better and we’re more decent than their opposition. They were somehow better. Now they are not and I feel betrayed.

    We put up with Rudd Gillard Rudd for 6 years and yet with 2 years of our election of Tony Abbot the worst excess and blunders were reversed and the economy was clearly starting to improve. We’ll get rid of our traitor and only have to put up with Shorten for 3 years.

    I’m voting for Shorten… and I’m in a marginal seat … Bonner.

    Cheers Keith Kennedy.

    PS I saw the new cabinet today and like it; but stuff it! Turnbull’s and Morrison’s behaviours and sprukings are too much to get over.

  4. pgang says:

    Couldn’t agree less. You treat the electorate with contempt. You also forget that Howard was also loathsome and unelectable.

    Didn’t you hear the collective groan ascend over Australia last week? The electorate will go to the polls with nobody to vote for, again, because Turnbull is seen as just another fly-by-nighter who has once again treated the electorate with that same contempt. Like him or not, the public voted for Abbott and the public expects that choice to be respected.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    So you see Peter,

    Turnbull, Morrison and their cohorts have lost Liberal voters and are currently gaining support, with polls two party preferred at 50 50, from people who love Turnbull and think he is going to support and implement policy they love.

    Turnbull as the year unfolds will never keep those luvvies as the COALITION won’t allow his policies to be implemented and as the hate campaign focuses on him, as it did on Howard and Abbott.

    Both he and Morrison are terminal because they have lost their core support ie liberals like me. Whether we vote informal or for labor, doesn’t really matter in the marginal seats.

    The only time the liberals win office again is once these treacherous people no longer control the liberal party.
    If you think liberals will mindlessly fall in behind the party, like Labour voters do, you have sadly A complete misunderstanding liberal voters… like Turnbull, Morrison and the rest.

    Keith Kennelly

  6. Bill Martin says:

    We, genuine conservatives, certainly are facing a dilemma of monumental proportions. It goes most painfully against the grain to vote for a candidate who’s leader is Turnbull. I can’t imagine myself doing it. Neither could I vote for a Labour, Green or Pup candidate, which leaves the possible option of an agreeable independent, if one is available, or an informal vote. Even though my electorate is a safe Labour seat, I want to avoid even statistically to support those I fear and/or despise.

  7. Davidovich says:

    I think the heading for this story should have been “Turnbull, the malodorous option.”

  8. Jody says:

    I think you’re all wrong about Morrison. He voted for Abbott and has been quite unequivocal about that.

    And I want to cut and paste all these comments just in case of a solid Coalition victory in 2016, when I’ll re-post them.

    Paul Kelly has said in today’s “Australian” that Shorten and Labor are starting to look like the party of yesterday; union ties and class warfare.

    It’s not over until the fat lady sings!

  9. Jody says:

    One thing you’re all overlooking is the Peta Credlin factor; she behaved like Kevin Rudd – in fact, she WAS Abbott’s Kevin Rudd – who even wanted Niki Savva sacked from “The Australian”. It has been absolutely hideous in that office. People won’t be treated like fools, especially when there are important jobs to be done.

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    Nikki Savva is no liberal. She hated Abbott along with the rest of the hate media.

    Read her gloating bile since Monday. She’s been as much of the campaign to knife Abbott as Morrison and Turnbull.

    I would just like to know who leaked the information about Hockey’s, Bishop’s and Pyne’s expense’s.

    Savva knew all about it.

    The only minister level member who cones out of this whole disgraceful affair is Peter Dutton.

  11. Bran Dee says:

    On balance the pro-change comments by author Peter and the others resonate with me. Tony Abbott trained in the seminary and was too much above the fray and not engaged in it. He ran with lefty causes, as much as does Malcolm. Think tony’s ridiculous PPL, the culpability of promising no cuts to the big items and the ABC, the leftish frolic of Costitutional Recognition, The Kevin Andrews marriage counselling, the drift of Defence submarines into a make-work programme. Think of all the poor decisions, the blindness to the torpor shown by the treasurer, the disfunctional PMO, the ongoing lack of negotiating skills that probably kept us out of office 3 years earlier.

    How are seminarians taught to regard the one billion a month in interest repayments? Is it ‘the Lord will provide’?

    It is poor Australia not poor benighted Tony.