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November 21st 2017 print

Ross Fitzgerald

Go Now, Mr Turnbull. Just Go

The Prime Minister would never admit he is terminal case and perhaps, given such a monumental ego, does not even recognise that someone who can bested by Bill Shorten is fit only for retirement. He might not grasp his end is nigh, but count on anxious Coalition members to soon remind him

turnbull selfie smallA prime minister who would rather not face the Parliament is a leader in terminal trouble. Let’s face it, PMs owe their position to their command of the party room and of the House of Representatives. But Malcolm Turnbull’s fear of both shows that his leadership has, at best, become a day-to-day proposition.

The government’s excuse for putting off the parliament just doesn’t wash. House leader Christopher Pyne says that all the parliament has to consider before Christmas is same sex marriage and citizenship; but just a day earlier the government had demanded that the parliament pass the company tax cuts as soon as possible. As well, there are at least 50 pieces of legislation the House could be dealing with while waiting for the Senate to finalise gay marriage. But the real reason for the delay is the risk of losing on the floor of the Parliament while the government is down two votes; together with the Prime Minister’s inability to explain to his backbench how he’s going to keep his commitment to protect freedom of religion which he’d earlier said he believed in even more than in same sex marriage.

Liberal MPs are mutinous over both the government’s policy direction and its political management. Except where it’s maintained its predecessor’s policy, all the Turnbull government’s decisions have been Labor-lite: the superannuation tax, the bank tax, the Gonski spend-a-thon, and the National Energy Guarantee that puts reducing emissions ahead of cutting power prices.

MPs are also appalled by the government’s utter lack of political foresight. Instead of double-and-triple-checking all its MPs’ citizenship status and quietly working with the opposition to manage what was clearly a problem for both sides of politics, Turnbull attempted to bully the High Court and then to claim some dubious high moral ground against Labor.

The instant Turnbull made his declaration about religious freedom, the government should have started working on options for improved protections once the plebiscite passed. Instead, it’s making it up on the run. Selectively importing a UN covenant into Australian law is more likely to enable further assaults on Christian faith than it is to allow religious schools and health care institutions to maintain their ethos and practices. The determination of some National Party MPs to support a royal commission into banking is partly payback for Turnbull’s triumphalism over the SSM result and seeming indifference to the religious freedom he said he’d protect.

Turnbull doesn’t seem to understand that more Coalition voters opposed same sex marriage than supported it. So if he gets same sex marriage into law, without also protecting religious freedom, he will face a very sullen party room indeed.

If Kristina Keneally were to win the Bennelong by-election – now a real prospect – every Liberal on a margin of less than 10% would panic. And the Queensland election result is almost certain to hurt Turnbull. If a lacklustre Labor state government is returned, he will almost certainly get part of the blame. If the LNP limps over the line with One Nation preferences, that won’t help Turnbull because he’s the Liberal leader Hanson voters like least. And even if Liberal National leader Tim Nicholls were to storm home, the contrast would be drawn between a state leader with policies you could see, hear, taste and touch (build a dam, start a mine, and open a power station) and a prime minister who’s better at taking selfies than getting things done.

Until now, Turnbull has been protected by the absence of a clear rival. For more than two years, to justify the coup, Turnbull backers have had to demonise the Abbott government; and to explain the PM’s poor performance in office, they’ve had to claim that Abbott was undermining him. That makes it hard for Abbott to return, at least this side of a federal election. Peter Dutton is probably the government’s strongest minister but he hasn’t differentiated himself from Turnbull and is untested in top-level politics.

That leaves Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison. The foreign minister and the treasurer have formed an alliance of convenience based on Bishop’s alleged popularity and Morrison’s success in stopping the boats. Bishop is supposed to appeal to the middle ground and Morrison to the conservative base. But Bishop has lost too many leaders not to be seen as the Lady Macbeth of the Liberal Party and Morrison has been a poor treasurer. Neither is likely to address the Liberals’ basic problem: no one really knows what they stand for and how they’re different from Labor.

For months now, the Turnbull government has been propped up by those who insist Bill Shorten would be worse. Probably, he would be; but Turnbull’s cluelessness is making a Shorten prime ministership almost inevitable. The choice is not an exclusive one between Turnbull and Shorten ; it could also be between Shorten and a better Liberal with more chance of winning and more capacity for good government. But the Liberals have to work out who that is.

Ross Fitzgerald is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University. He is the author of 39 books, including the political/sexual satire ‘Going Out Backwards : A Grafton Everest Adventure’, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Russell Prize for Humour Writing. Professor Fitzgerald’s  blog is available via this link

Comments [13]

  1. en passant says:

    Ross,
    Your cry of impotent frustration at the destruction of everything that Oz once stood for with its relaxed culture (before diversity, embracing those who hate us became a ‘strength’), insulation from the global world (a protection that brought peace, prosperity and employment through cheap energy {electricity prices are set to rise another 14.5% next January in Victoria} as we alone now sacrifice to save the world from improved crops, beneficially warmer weather and the myth that CO2 is bad), an integrated population in which inter-marriage is almost the norm (to multi-culti racism that drives us into warring tribal parts).

    Turnbull and the decades of Swamp Denizens indoctrinated by a corrupted education system have all but destroyed the country I loved (note the past tense). I now know more people who are unemployed than employed. Many are retired, but not all by choice. The rest are depleting their assets and calculating the date by which they need to check out. Thank goodness the government recognises this requirement and is trying to introduces euthanasia (except for fully-indexed and well-remunerated superannuated politicians, of course. {that hardly needed to be added}).

    The Liberal Rabble are no longer a political party and will lose the next election in a slaughter, no matter who tries to save them.

    There is a solution for me, but living overseas is not for everyone – thank goodness – as the Oz refugees might want to make my new homeland just like Oz …

  2. Ian MacDougall says:

    Liberal MPs are mutinous over both the government’s policy direction and its political management. Except where it’s maintained its predecessor’s policy, all the Turnbull government’s decisions have been Labor-lite: the superannuation tax, the bank tax, the Gonski spend-a-thon, and the National Energy Guarantee that puts reducing emissions ahead of cutting power prices.

    Putting that another way: … all the Turnbull government’s decisions … Labor-lite…this tax, that tax, … Gonski …. and the National Energy Guarantee that puts precautionary emission reductions that mainstream science says may be necessary to stop the planet from cooking . All this ahead of cutting power prices!
    Cutting power prices! All this trivia ahead of cutting power prices! Better we work to cook ourselves in trapped sunshine, but do it as cheaply as possible! And all in the short-term interest of fattening a few wallets in the pockets of the fossil carbon lobby. Well done, that man!
    The best investment anyone can make right now (my own will pay for itself in 10 years – ie return 10% on the up-front investment) is to install a rooftop solar array with battery storage: the sort of renewable investment that Tony Abbott and the rest of the Neanderthal Wing of the Liberal Party (sorry, Neanderthals) want to remove all taxpayer subsidies from, while continuing of course and as usual, to taxpayer-subsidise fossil carbon for furnace fuel and to blazes.
    Meanwhile, all over rural Australia, stock and domestic water-pumping is increasingly being taken over by incredibly cheap, but reliable, solar pumps: as the far more expensive-to-maintain windmill-driven systems drop out of the game, and mains-powered pumps become uncompetitive cost-wise.
    Just as well, because our planet’s one-off supply of fossil carbon will be far better utilised for road tar and as feedstock for industrial chemistry. Etc.
    As systems like mine increasingly generate power for their owners’ uses, and for their owners to sell into the mains (as we cockies increasingly do) the costs of coal-fired generation will increasingly and unavoidably, fall on the likes of Eyn Pyssant, (whenever he chooses to return to Australia). And when he talks of ‘beneficially warmer weather’ he at least concedes that the increasing atmospheric CO2 load is warming the whole planet: or more accurately increasing the energy content of the global atmosphere-ocean system. And we have known that CO2 concentration is the limiting factor on plant growth, all other nutritional needs being met, for donkey’s years.

    Note that Eyn makes no mention of how this process might be controlled if it gets out of hand, which some argue is already the case.
    ( see https://phys.org/news/2017-04-early-out-of-control-climate.html )

    • en passant says:

      MacBot,
      Hasn’t you subscription run out yet?

      “… the costs of coal-fired generation will increasingly and unavoidably, fall on the likes of Eyn Pyssant” {it is En Passant, you uneducated rural peasant. Get your ‘voices in the head’ Archangel to teach you how to copy or spell).
      The costs are only increasing on me because the coal-fired generators have to subsidise the climate cult solar subsidy barons. How do you explain a 23% increase in the cost of electricity in Victoria since the closure of Hazelwood? Amaze me … The Victorian Energy Minister (and her children shown in this article from last April) http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2017/04/agenda-destroy-australia/
      claimed that the best consultants they could buy said that prices would temporarily rise between 4%-9% until new (subsidised) wind farms came on line, then would fall. Apparently taking 22% of the generating power out of a grid system already operating at 90%+ capacity on high usage days would have little effect. MacBot, you understand this sort of arithmetic so can you explain what has gone wrong?

      “… some argue is already the case.” I am fully aware of the risk and intend doing something about it in about 200-300 years – maybe. What could Oz do even if it was true?

      Before you go, could you just let the world know what the ideal concentration of CO2 is my choice ranges from 2,000ppm – 4,000ppm, not the famine level of 400ppm: & the ideal global average temperature? The current 15C (288 Kelvin) is a little chilly, so 18C-20C (291K – 293K) seems to be an improvement, though still well below the Carboniferous Age (when life was at its most prolific).

  3. pabloAU says:

    I only have two words to describe MT prime ministership: Being There

  4. Keith Kennelly says:

    Ian

    Your links, once again, only regurgitate all the old claims that are now fundamentally challenged by the latest NASA data that is showing falling sea levels.

    And I was beginning to think you had properly considered that data.

    Instead you seem intent on ignoring it and continuing with your, now unsupportable, beliefs.

    Why?

    It is an improvement that you have dropped your mantra about increasing sea levels … sore tooth and all.

    You’d also best inform the composers of your links of the NASA data.
    .

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    The question in my mind is: will Turnbull return to the back bench or spit the dummy, turn pouty and resign his seat?