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January 15th 2018 print

Michael Copeman

After Turnbull, Who and What?

It is not clear the Liberal Party will continue to exist after its seemingly inevitable electoral drubbing. Clearly the PM should go or be pushed if won't. But which contender might do more than fill his smallish shoes while leading a renewal of the principles to which the Coalition once was pledged?

turnbull blind smallerAny LNP MP who accepted a portfolio in the recent Cabinet reshuffle did so at his or her own risk. Malcolm Turnbull is now edging close to his deadline of thirty adverse two-party-preferred opinion polls, which by the yardstick and his own reckoning demands that a poll-blighted PM simply must be be rolled. Whilst he now regrets saying as much — you bet he does! — he has never disavowed his original logic.

In modern-day, 24-hour news cycle politics, if a PM can’t resuscitate his popularity within thirty polls, it seems more than likely he or she will lead the party that loses the next election. If so, allowing that he has the honesty and decency to acknowledge grim fact, Mr Turnbull must perforce admit it is time for his own exit. Otherwise, the LNP will sink into defeat and the opposition benches, having squandered an opportunity to refresh its leadership, renew its policies and reinvigorate its message.

Once in opposition, it is not clear if the Liberal Party would continue to exist. The fracture lines, as yet largely untested by rival factions, could well see a full-blown splintering, with those of deeply held conservative principles, those committed to small government, decamping to Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives or new parties of their own devising. Heading in the other direction, the wet and wobbly social democrats — a small-l liberal party, in other words — would make their “progressivism” and further pledge their fealties to Big Government, Big Debt, Big Brother, Big Immigration and Big Electricity Bills.

A key problem the Coalition faces is that there is no obvious leader-in-waiting, as was clearly the case when Mr Turnbull was whetting his knife on Q&A and scheming to white-ant Mr Abbott’s prime-ministership. Leadership decisions for conservative parties were once made in smoky, late-night, all-male meetings of party elders in the Hotel Kurrajong or the Melbourne Club. Now, when Mr Turnbull’s time comes, as it must, by what measure must a prospective leader’s potential be judged? Expedience might nominate Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, but such a choice would appall the conservative wing — Turnbull in heels with a Hermes handbag bereft of both principle and loyalty.

Turnbull’s major “win” as PM has been with a policy (the same-sex marriage public vote) that Tony Abbott proposed and he initially opposed.  Even so, that has done little to turn around the two-party vote against the LNP, mired dangerously at or around 53-47. His other triumph came at the Bennelong byelection, when he awarded himself a victor’s laurels for a result that saw a safe seat rendered less so.

The PM may trumpet improved economic conditions in Australia, but the biggest factors in these have been the Trump-led US recovery (i.e. when Wall Street stopped sneezing, and Australia’s cold cleared) and the continued economic growth of China (against many doomsayer predictions).

Meanwhile, Australian manufacturing has slipped further into the “Do Not Resuscitate” zone – appropriately accompanied in Victoria by “voluntary assisted dying” of a more personal bent.  As usual, it is the mining and resources sector which has been leading Australia’s renewed growth. This, of course, is the sector the ALP and Greens wish actively to damage as part of their ritual sacrifices to Gaia and the gods of global warming.

Without the Senate majority Turnbull maladroitly sought to obtain via a double dissolution (did he not understand that quotas are halved when the entire chamber is up for election?),  his government has been unable to reform Australia’s burgeoning and unaffordable welfare sector.  Indeed, it has worsened the situation with an extravagant, incompetently rolled-out NDIS, not to mention the Coalition’s me-too Gonski II package.

At the other end of the spectrum, Turnbull’s own former portfolio of the NBN steams Titanic-like towards a financial iceberg, one that may add another $100 billion to what is already $500 billion in public debt. Unfortunately, minus Celine Dion’s vocals, this ship lacks even a good theme song, although the Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love springs readily to mind.  Turnbull’s defense of the gigantic mess has been an Oscar-losing performance, if ever there was one.

Who among the current batch of LNP Ministers might save the party? Morrison wants the job, but has revealed mixed abilities as Treasurer; it is a subjective appraisal, admittedly, but he doesn’t light up the public stage with leadership qualities. Christian Porter would be a breath of fresh air, but he soiled his copybook by leading the expanding debacle of the NDIS. Among the younger set there is Matt Canavan, but he is in the wrong chamber and would need to “do a Gorton” and move to the House, plus persuade Liberal colleagues to support a National, which previously required the prime minister of the day to go for a swim and not return to shore.

Peter Dutton? There’s the problem with his marginal seat — 3.2% in his case — plus, just like Abbott, he represents a strain of political thought the mainstream media abhor, and can therefore count on much the same slanders, smearings and besmirchings.

It would require a big jump for these contenders, or any other hopeful for that matter, to seize the reins. But a jump, however risky, is preferable to an uncontrolled plunge that ends in an abrupt and splattering stop, which is what those dreadful poll numbers suggest will happen when voters get the opportunity to register their feelings about a Liberal Party that Malcolm divided in the interests of personal advancement.

Comments [15]

  1. Bran Dee says:

    There is of course the new senator elect Jim Molan! If he were to be nominated as PM by the Liberals he could do a John Gorton and seek election in the House of Reps by contesting a safe seat say on the Northern Beaches or in Berowra where it is said that the incumbent anti-free speech Julien Leeser [a Lefty lawyer - is there any other type] is most unpopular with party members.

    Retired Major General Jim Molan would not take stick from the ABC, or from Bill or Bull. It was his method that stopped the boats, the others took credit.

  2. Doubting Thomas says:

    I hope I’m wrong, but I seriously doubt that Molan will be any more successful than other senior military officers/bureaucrats who have entered politics. The leftist media will ignore him or treat him with contempt, and the professional politicians in the Coalition parties will not welcome someone who might compete with them for advancement. Look what happened to John Stone.

    • Jody says:

      Absolutely agree. He’s more or less a one-trick pony as far as I can tell. What’s wrong with the polity is what’s wrong with our society and it will take more than one individual aspirant in the Coalition to do anything about it. Nothing short of a Trumpian style rebel is going to turn this titanic around.

      • ianl says:

        Elsewhere, it has been suggested that the Gordian Knot could be cut by a p…d off electorate when the welfare stops, or at least noticeably diminishes. Given the size of Government debt and the increasing likelihood of an increase in interest rates on borrowings, this seems at least a real possibility. Either welfare is hard-squeezed (yes, superannuation and aged care are again prime targets there) or taxes are increased.

        This is more likely by far than the magical appearance of some heroic white knight. So I think you’re correct here.

        • Jody says:

          When train drivers can earn $113,000pa and ‘lolly pop’ men $130,000 we know we’re in trouble!! Turnbull has just approved a pay rise for fat cat advisers. The man has zero political smarts and that’s NEVER going to change. What a human waste of space he is.

      • en passant says:

        Jody,
        Which trick? And your evidence is, given the success of Trump.

        Thomas,
        We have been down this road before about military ‘politicians’. What was wrong with Eisenhower, Napoleon, MacArthur (in Japan, though I personally dislike him), De Gaulle, etc. The point is that (usually) military officers are honourable, principled and skilled at getting things done, whereas our lawyer and apparatchik infested pollie-wafflers are people you have no respect for. Choose wisely ..

        • Doubting Thomas says:

          You misunderstand my point. I’m not saying that Molan is unsuitable to be a successful politician. He was a very successful general (and that in an unusually hard appointment of the sort that few Australians get the opportunity to fill). My point is that in the current political environment in this country, it wouldn’t matter if Molan embodied all the virtues and skills of the people you mention and then some, he is unlikely to be allowed to succeed. As I said, the media will ignore him or chop him down, and they will be aided and abetted by his “colleagues” in the Liberal Party who will be his competitors for advancement. The corrupt clowns who relegated him to an unwinnable position at the last election are just the least of his likely opposition within the party.

  3. Bran Dee says:

    A memo to Doubting Thomas about military men entering politics. Churchill, brilliant Prime Minister during Britains Darkest Hour, was very much a military man and a latter decendent of the great military leader Marlborough.
    Mustafa Kemal who held Gallipoli for the Turks became a brilliant reformer and secular moderniser of the Ottoman Caliphate as the revered government leader Attaturk.
    Former General Dwight Eisenhower of the USA was a better president than some who came after, and there is no doubt Thomas that Jim Molan could have the Coalition marching in step with, and confidently promoting to a winning position, conservative public opinion.

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      Further to my last, I should have emphasised that my comments were limited to the Australian political environment. After the World Wars there were many returned and other former Service personnel who became successful politicians, eg Tom Uren, Casey, and Gough Whitlam to name just three who came quickly to mind, but I cannot think of a career military person who was anything but a placeholder. (Hastie et al have yet to prove their worth, but they are much younger than Molan and have much more time to learn their new trade. Methinks that their culture of straight-talking will attract the venom of the PC media and the raving left-wing haters, but I hope they can surmount that.)

  4. whitelaughter says:

    Why would any Liberal with the ability to lead the Liberal party chose to throw themselves onto the grenade of the next election? Trumble has lost it for them. It makes more sense to accept the clobbering and then spend the next 3 years rebuilding the party from scratch.
    And yes, it’s entirely possible that it is too later to rebuild the party. Meh: Bernardi is waiting in the wings.

    • Bwana Neusi says:

      Maladroit is close to achieving his socialist objective.
      He originally sought to join the Labour party and they rejected him, but that never dimmed his vision of a Social Democrat Australian Republic preferably with himself as its inaugural President. He has almost single handedly demolished the Coalition and his next target will be a Republic with him as President.
      Shorten will push for the Republican cause, aided and abetted by Maladroit and the Socialist Left.
      There is nobody on the current Coalition that could turn around the current free fall and why should they. It is the classic poisoned chalice (maybe give to Bishop). Better to keep their powder dry and reform for a realistic challenge at the early twenties election.
      Abbott, Molan, Hastie, Porter and Morrison need to start planning now for the election after next and to effectively court other like minded conservative groups.

  5. Jimbob says:

    No more political “saviours” – they just don’t work and the only people who can do that particular job well are Divine!

    Tony Abbott – he may win the next election but even if he doesn’t, like a noble warrior of old, he will stand fighting under the banner until the last drop of his blood has dribbled out of his body…he doesn’t need to be popular, nor does he need to be liked. The diametric opposite of the current waffler and moral vacuum, he just needs to be committed and fight!

    • whitelaughter says:

      Tony Abbott’s very decency encourages his party to treat him with contempt. He was willing to campaign for John Alexander in Bennelong despite Alexander voting to get rid of Tony: yet ever since the coup they’ve accused him – without evidence – of white-anting Trumble.
      They won’t turn to him – despite, as Keith pointed out, him being the only candidate who *has* won an election – and even if they did, their own backstabbing has destroyed his chances of victory.

      A lion may lead an army of donkeys to victory over an army of lions led by a donkey, but not even a lion can lead an army of roaches.

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jimbob why is it you are the only one advocating someone who won an election?

    The others are all just hanging onto false hope.

    Jody, so now you’ve become backflip Jody, still Queen if the insults.

    I seem to recall you rubbishing Trump, supporting Turnbull and Jody, Abbott was the one politicianwho on two occasions ‘turned it around’