Delcons of Australia unite! You have nothing to lose but the chains linking you to Malcolm Turnbull – the most left-leaning Liberal Party leader ever. Here is a man seemingly to the left of Paul Keating. A man who plays lovey-dovey with Gillian Triggs, who appoints Ed Santow to the Human Rights Commission, who brings back Martin Parkinson who, in turn, appoints a former Green Party candidate, Lin Hatfield Dodds, to a top position in this government.
But, wait, it gets worse — a Prime Minister who cuts spending not a jot while attacking the superannuation of those with defined-contribution schemes (leaving the gold-plated defined-benefit schemes of judges and many ex-politicians comparatively untouched) and who throws billions with reckless abandon at submarines and South Australia to save Christopher Pyne. There is Turnbull’s ‘government can pick winners’ innovation bulldust, his green energy boondoggles and, of course, the republic. He is a creature who can’t even bring himself to campaign on keeping the boats stopped, on union violence and corruption, on any of the things that would have made the Coalition a sure winner under Tony Abbott, PM.
But wait. After Liberal packager Mark Textor’s prediction from months back that conservative voters simply do not matter because they won’t have the stomach to vote Labor in order punish the Libs, we are now seeing signs the top Turnbull people are reaching out to us Delcons. Yep, in the most grudging way imaginable they are offering us a small token. What is that token? Why, they are inviting Tony Abbott to today’s official Liberal Party launch!
That’s it. Abbott will get to be up there with former Liberal prime ministers. This is being quietly sold as building bridges to us Delcons. Wow, what a gesture! Has it got you reaching for a pencil and giving your local Lib candidate a 1st preference? No? Me neither.
Look, this is meaningless bumpf with a soupçon of desperation thrown in. If that’s all it takes to win back us Delcons after the unremitting leftward drift under Turnbull – make that a tidal wave – then you are as cheap and easy a date as they come.
Let me say it again: Abbott had big faults. He was awful on 18C. He was for far too long attached to an idiotic Paid Parental Leave scheme that was massively expensive and undermined his message about getting spending under control. He tried to play nicey-nicey with the ABC instead of going for them head-on (ludicrously placing Turnbull in charge of a billion dollar a year behemoth that assiduously promoted him as the palatable alternative to Abbott). He failed to write off the Senate early on and, instead, rack up 50 or 60 double-dissolution trigger bills for the mother of all double dissolution elections (not this pathetic Turnbull double dissolution election for two basically meaningless bills, the union one being a comparative trifle). Yet, with all of the above conceded, in any straight up comparison to Turnbull it is plain that Abbott was miles better.
Abbott was miles better on free speech (in the sense that lousy is miles better than God-awful); Abbott was better by far, and more trustworthy, on the boats; Abbott was better (not great, but better) on standing up to the renewable energy rent-seekers; Abbott (and Hockey) were better on trying to cut spending. If you are small-government, strong-border, Hobbesian like me you can’t pick a single area where Turnbull is better than Abbott.
As a result, I say the best thing to do in this coming election is to hold your nose, drink a double whisky, and preference the Libs below Labor. Take the painful medicine of three years of Shorten as the lesser of two evils. Turnbull is dragging the whole political spectrum left and will continue to do so if he wins. If you think in terms of ‘the next four elections’, instead of just ‘this one election’, then getting Malcolm out of The Lodge is the right choice, the only choice.
To try to change that calculation, Turnbull is (wait for it) inviting Tony to the official party launch. That, seemingly goes the thinking in Textor/Sinodinos central headquarters, will win us Delcons over. In spasms of gratitude we will reunite with the Turnbull people and peace will reign over the party formerly known as ‘Liberal’.
Doesn’t work for me. You?