There’s a lot to agree with in James Allan’s piece Turnbull’s Tony Tokenism. In particular, he provides balance by listing Tony Abbott’s shortcomings as a conservative and, despite them, he comes to the unarguable conclusion that Tony was a far better Liberal leader. I greatly respect his views on this. However, I will not be alone in accepting his prescription to “hold your nose, drink a double whisky, and preference the Liberals below Labor.”
As to whether I can stomach even one term of a Shorten government on the basis that it will give the Coalition a chance to sort itself out and get back to a more conservative mindset, that is more problematical.
When it comes to the economy, which is the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed, I concede that a single Shorten term would not be the end of the world. Labor would undoubtedly inflict more damage, but after one term it would be still be achievable for an incoming conservative government to start the repair job. But what if it were two terms? What if no Liberal saviour emerges?
Amongst the bitter harvest of policy disasters the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments visited upon us, the one that stands out, the one that grated on me daily throughout that horrendous period, was the influx of illegal immigrants. The cost, the human misery and the utter hypocrisy of the Greens and their fellow travellers induced in me a constant state of tension, not overwhelming but always unsettling. I was very far in those days from John Howard’s ideal of the “relaxed and comfortable” Australian.
It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that if Shorten gets in the people-smuggling trade will start up again on day one. Shorten will buckle on day two. History will then repeat itself, with tens of thousands of so-far thwarted arrivals heading for their leaky boats, pausing on the way only to throw away identity papers and passports.
Apart from putting pay to Rudd and Gillard, Abbott’s greatest achievement by far was stopping the boats. He did it in the face of a constant criticism, abuse, and ridicule that lasted the full four years of his party leadership. He did it, while at the same time having to manage the fallout of another Rudd legacy, the bugging of President Yudhuyono’s wife. It was a monumental achievement that has been widely recognised overseas.
Since Abbott stopped the boats we have been mercifully spared the almost daily torment of Senator Sarah “Accidents Happen” Hanson-Young’s imbecilic oscillation between incoherent tears and strident assertions of her superior morality. Sure, she still pops up from time to time, but now in mercifully smaller and manageable doses. The thought of her delight in having yet further opportunities to parade her intellectual incontinence before the cameras is an appalling prospect.
The prospect of Abbott’s proudest achievement being trashed is not something that sits easily with me. Over and above the desire for a circuit breaker that will allow the Libs to re-invent themselves, there is also a school of thought that Turnbull should not be rewarded for his treachery. I understand that, but overriding this in my estimation is the consideration that neither should Shorten be rewarded for his smarmy hypocrisy. If you want to know what I mean, just watch the Leigh Sales 7.30 interview from Wednesday night (good job, by the way, Leigh).
And getting back to the argument that a first term defeat will cause the Libs to take a long hard look at themselves, a rather different scenario suggests itself. If I am right about a resurgence of the boat trade under Labor — if I were to bet on anything in politics, this would be it — might it not occur to the Libs that they can get straight back into government on the back of this issue? That they don’t really need to do any blood-letting, just let the new government implode over boat people?
How likely is it that a team which didn’t have the backbone to stick with the leader that almost got them into government in 2010, and then with a thumping majority in 2013, for even one term would be inclined to deep soul searching and reform if the prospect of getting back into government after one term beckons like a siren song?
If Turnbull’s depleted ranks prove incapable of securing passage of the bills which triggered the double dissolution, his supporters will begin to wonder whether the election was worse than pointless. He will lose prestige and his authority will be undermined, a weakness that will become more pronounced if a substantial number of those who backed him in the party room lose their seats. Abbott redux, perhaps?
Would a Liberal Party, chastened and back in government, be in a better position to realign itself with its traditional base, albeit with a humiliated Turnbull still in charge, rather than as a divided and recriminatory opposition? When it comes to holding my nose, I’m afraid it is the prospect of Bill Shorten PM that more offends my olfactory sense.
But logic can take you only so far and, like Jim Allan, I accept that some things are just too much to stomach. I used to reside in the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, currently held by the Peter Hendy, one of the key Turnbull plotters. Under no circumstances would I vote for him. I’ve now moved to the seat of Gimore, whose local member Ann Sudmalis supported Tony Abbott in the coup — so, thankfully, I can vote for her. But perversely, if the fall of Hendy results in the defeat of the Turnbull government, I can live with that. That’s the complexity of human nature, I expect – something the purse-lipped, one-size-fits-all commissars of the lockstep left’s PC orthodoxy will never understand.