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July 11th 2016 print

Peter O'Brien

After Turnbull, Who?

The current Prime Minister's greatest asset after his scrape-home re-election is that there are no obvious candidates to replace him. As credit agencies and economic headwinds enhance the Liberal leader's demonstrated talent for making a hash of things, that may well change

whoAs the likes of The Australian’s Paul Kelly continue to tout Malcolm Turnbull as merely “wounded” and the other voices in Canberra choir continue to sing their version of  The Messiah, there is almost no chance the Liberal party room will take any action to remove Turnbull at this time. The prevailing logic seems to be that removing the Prime Minister just after he has won an election would be madness.  Of course, any halfway decent Prime Minister who delivered last weekend’s full-on catastrophe would already have offered his resignation and avoided the need for an ousting. A leader who had the interests of, first, the country and, second, the party, that is.  (Am I really that naïve, you ask?)

So, if it’s too soon to remove Turnbull, what is a decent interval between victory and a tap on the shoulder?  Is there a time scale based on magnitude of victory that determines when a leader can be replaced?  Tony Abbott won a landslide victory, but the knives were out for him within six months.  On that basis, next week wouldn’t be too soon for Turnbull.

Six months might now become the benchmark, because it seems that ratings agencies have put Turnbull notice that he will have to get spending under control within that timeframe or risk a credit downgrade.  They have signalled that he will have to do more than what is already mooted. And they are likely to be less forgiving than Turnbull’s lemmings in the party room.

What are the chances we will see any sign of meaningful economic improvement in six months? Despite the pious platitudes we’ve heard from Turnbull and Shorten about working together in the national interest, what chance that the big-ticket items — Medicare, Gonski, NDIS, age pensions (all sacred cows of the Left) — will be up for discussion?  From this morning’s Australian:

Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen has signalled a tough line to the government’s efforts to repair the budget, saying the Coalition should adopt Labor’s election policies if it wants to balance the nation’s books.

They are now backing away from measures they supported in their election campaign.  That doesn’t sound like ‘seeking common ground’ to me.  That sounds like ‘scorched earth’. And we’re also hearing rumblings from within the Coalition about reversing some budget measures, such as the superannuation changes. Does anyone believe that Shorten, who showed scant regard for the national economic interest during the last parliament, will now change his tune when he has Turnbull on the ropes?  Even Laurie Oakes doesn’t think so.

How effective will Turnbull and his team be if Australia loses the AAA rating? We all know that the parlous state of our economy is almost entirely courtesy of Labor but back in the heady days of Wayne Swan, any criticism of our downward economic direction was met with the smug response that ‘we’ve now got AAA rating from three agencies’, quite conveniently ignoring that this was on the back of the Howard/Costello hard yards.  Labor would relish the prospect of a credit rating downgrade as it would effectively torpedo Coalition claims to being better economic managers.  They would gleefully push the line that under their watch the credit rating improved, while under Turnbull’s watch it has gone backward. Given the effectiveness of the Mediscare campaign, this theme would resonate with the public.

Better to dump him now and cop the bad press.  The next three years is going to be very ugly on the economic front — and pretty untidy on other matters as well.

But in order for a successful spill to happen there must be a believable contender.  Graham Richardson in The Australian on Wednesday opined that there are no obvious candidates. Well, that means we must look to the non-obvious ones.  Last week I suggested it might be Mathias Cormann, but I’m not wedded to him. I only made that suggestion in the belief that the party room would not wear Tony Abbott coming back, gutless as they are.  But without a name for the opposition to Turnbull to coalesce around, things are likely to drift.  It doesn’t need to be a party reformer or one of the up-and-coming younger brigade.  It needs to be someone who can steady the ship, cop the flak and get through, idealy, the next three years. Someone who may not have the field-marshal’s baton in his backpack and would be happy to serve the country’s interest and then retire gracefully.  And who knows, that person might just shine in the role and endure?

If DelCons more influential than I,  and more knowledgeable on the dramatis personae involved, wish to see Turnbull gone, I suggest he or she start naming names.  That’s how all leadership spills have their genesis. Flogging a dead horse?  Possibly, but in the immortal words of Basil Fawlty, this is one equine carcass that warrants ‘a damned good thrashing’.

 

 

Comments [24]

  1. Steve Spencer says:

    “Tony Abbott won a landslide victory, but the knives were out for him within six months. On that basis, next week wouldn’t be too soon for Turnbull.”

    Yes, but Tony had a problem even before he won the election – Malcolm Turnbull, who was plotting, scheming, undermining and sabotaging Abbott’s Prime Ministership. There are indeed slim pickings in terms of oven-ready replacements for Malcolm, which as you say, will buy him some time, but I don’t see anybody with Turnbull’s Machiavellian expertise and ruthlessness, either, sadly. I would enjoy seeing Malcolm suffer the same fate he engineered for Tony.

  2. Homer Sapien says:

    Well, Basil Fawlty would be a good replacement?

  3. Rob Ellison says:

    However S&P have raised concerns that they believe the uncertain outcome of the election means the Parliament may slow the pace of fiscal consolidation set out in the Budget and postpone the timetable to bring the Budget back into balance. S&P have urged the Parliament to pass unlegislated savings and other budget measures to improve budgetary performance.

    Back to this unmitigated nonsense I see. It is looking very much like 78 seats and a shaken up senate – with the potential for getting bills passed. The swing to Labor on primary votes was 1.9%. The swing away from the coalition was 3.4%. I think that means that 1.5% of malcontents deserted to vote for the ratbag right. No great loss. Much better off without them. But I wish they would recognise their utter failure to do more than dent the seat count – gained in a campaign against a shambolic Kevin Rudd – and their complete irrelevance to the next term of government. So sad too bad.

    • Do you post here because you are bored? Or is it that you get enjoyment from posting insulting comments? You have the right to call Peter’s article ‘unmitigated nonsense’ because I assume you have paid your subs, but you should at least have the manners and wit to explain WHY you think it is ‘unmitigated nonsense’. Is it simply because it doesn’t agree with your opinion?
      Also I must remind you that the Nationals INCREASED their share of the vote despite a hostile press and a highly organised GET UP and Union backed campaign in some seats. They didn’t forsake their principles to pander to the Inner City elites. Were they part of your ‘ratbag right’ too? Or does that term only apply to conservatives who were so disappointed in MT and his leftist stances and didn’t want to reward his treachery that they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the Liberals this time?

      • Rob Ellison says:

        The Nationals had a 26% swing in Murray – a 3 cornered contest as the sitting member retired. The Nationals won Murray against the Liberals and retained all their other safe rural seats but with substantial reverses in all but one seat – in which there was a minor gain. A local candidate effect I assume.

        A characteristic of the ratbag right and the loony left is to substitute politically biased rants for rational analysis. Mind you – they both plaintively object to the categorisations but if the shoe fits.

        The coalition won the election – not the Labor Party – not the Greens – not the malcontents and certainly not Pauline Hanson. The latter will be isolated in the Senate whining to a extremely small cohort about indigenous advantage, halal certification and access to a huge overseas market and the evils of free trade.
        to

        The gains to be made in re-centreing the party – where most Australia lives – is the only future for Liberals. At the risk of alienating self important but failed demagogues with an unhealthy obsession for a few marginal issues. And yes I am totally bored with it.

        • ianl says:

          > “The gains to be made in re-centreing the party – where most Australia lives – is the only future for Liberals. At the risk of alienating self important but failed demagogues with an unhealthy obsession for a few marginal issues. And yes I am totally bored with it.”

          Yet you have deliberately avoided any policy details or even listing issues. You refuse to define “centrist” and other rhetorical terms. Small target B/S, as Waffle did during this dishonest campaign.

          Yep, I’m bored with you now – reptitive waffle does that.

          Stick to science.

          • Rob Ellison says:

            The real issues have been defined. Let’s try it again for the slow witted.

            Economic freedom – and at this stage it is tax and spending. http://www.heritage.org/index/ As indeed S&P suggested was a problem. Rather than the lie that headlined this particular reiteration of the Turnbull animus – the double dissolution election result is the only hope of getting some budget legislation through.

            Economic freedom is the foundation of economic growth and the keys are productivity and trade. Centrist is playing nice on health, education and welfare – the key issues for most Australians.

            You are quite right I have spelt it out to you before – but it is quite obvious that you have not the slightest clue about science, politics or economics and are incapable of marshalling either numbers or ideas.

            I gave numbers and political and not just virulent and quite unremarkable discontent.

          • Rob Ellison says:

            … political analysis…

            One last thing – centrist is not an obsessive focus on a few peripheral issues – inter alia.

            Despite recent media coverage about the dangers of Islamic terrorism – a clear majority of Australians support Muslim immigration (65% support cf. 28% oppose) – this is significantly higher than five years ago in July 2010 when 54% supported and 35% opposed Muslim immigration. A large majority of Australians also support Asylum seeker immigration (71% support cf. 21% oppose) compared to a closer split in July 2010 (52% support cf. 39% oppose).

            http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/6507-australian-immigration-population-october-2015-201510200401

  4. pgang says:

    We have a fairly smug cat that could Turnbull a run for his money. It’s a female cat too, so would go over well with the leftnatics.

  5. Warty says:

    Ah, the ‘ratbag right’. A wonderful name tag. They feel suitably stomped under foot. Dismissed without so much as a farewell wave, never mind a party. But who are they? Perhaps they are people who have concerns about creeping Islamisation? Perhaps some even want to maintain what they understand as ‘traditional marriage, traditional family’: what ratbags. Perhaps some are worried about the pace of change in their country (not unlike those ill educated Brexiters) when they find they no longer recognise the suburbs they were born in, with people who show no inclination to mix with the locals/no longer so local. Who are these right wing ratbags? Do some of them like to go and watch the dogs down at Sydney’s Wentworth Park, or the dogs in Dubbo, put down a little bet and have a quiet beer or two, without considerable interest in politics or the things that interest those inner city Green types. Perhaps they are vaguely worried about that something they heard down at the pub about the aboriginal ‘industry’, think it was some factory or something a group of aboriginals were running, except the bloke who told him said that 33 billion had been poured into this aboriginal industry, which made him at first think it must be one hell of a big bloody factory, until he finally ‘got it’, and he got angry without knowing the details. But could the right wing rat bags be well educated, widely read, humane, unwilling to have the wool pulled over their eyes by people with alternative vested interests. Who understand that the young can rant and rave about social issues, and want to change the world, and rip down the establishment, but then mature, sober up, stand back and observe more closely and become right wing rat bags. Hard to say, but regardless, they do have ideas about the way the world is, and what they like and don’t like; about who they like to mix with and those they don’t; about love and hatred and fear and folly and highs and lows and death and birth. They have experienced all those things and more, but are nudged into the nearest, muddy irrigation channel, along with the frogs and wriggly things, because their heads are filled with dingo droppings.
    Ah, so them guys are right wing rat bags!

    • Marcus Walker says:

      Nicely said Warty

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Do some of them like to go and watch the dogs down at Sydney’s Wentworth Park, or the dogs in Dubbo, put down a little bet and have a quiet beer or two, without considerable interest in politics or the things that interest those inner city Green types.

      Ah yes. And maybe the owners and trainers would reminisce about the good old days of yore when they were blooding their mongrels using rabbits, piglets, modified cats, possums, and whatever else was handy.

  6. Bill Martin says:

    It is a shame that commenters are increasingly inclined to ramble on at great length. What happened to the short, sharp, succinct comments? Let’s leave the writing of articles to the authors.

  7. The other Malcolm, Mr Fraser, woke up one day on the left side of his couch. In exchange Mark Latham could be a pick for Liberal leader. March next year seems a decent timespan to aim for.

  8. Davidovich says:

    Well, there is still Costello if he could be persuaded to come back in from the cold. Mind you, with the dubious loyalties of many of the present pack of Liberal politicians, that may not be an attractive proposition for him.

  9. Bushranger71 says:

    The old brigade needs purging so herewith some potential alternatives: Christian Porter, Cory Bernardi, John Alexander, Andrew Hastie. Think outside the square a bit people!

  10. Jody says:

    Having watched Q&A on Monday night (I’m away from home and Sky isn’t available!) I note that the people on that panel program and the audiences are all very angry. An ugly little rant from Generation Snowflake (Van BADham) left George Brandis flummoxed and I sense that this will be the government’s dilemma. Trying to assuage EVERYBODY’S sense of grievance and entitlement and the notion that government can fix all our ills is what you get with entrenched, generational social welfare and a sectarian society based upon identity.

    I don’t envy the Coalition or any centrist government in the western world while people are throwing their toys out of the cot. What we need is a leader strong enough to say exactly these kinds of things to the community!!!