Josh Frydenberg was sent out to test a re-named and revived carbon tax, only to see his leader reverse course amid mutterings of a back-bench revolt. As there is still some spine in the Coalition, I yearn to see it flexed in the name of principle, pragmatism and the noble cause of this PM’s immediate ouster
Back in April, Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine coined the term ‘delcon’ for delusional conservative. It was intended to describe traditional conservative supporters so incensed at the knifing of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull that they would vote for almost anyone but a Liberal. The delcons’ rationale was that the party of Menzies had grown so corrupt it could only be reformed and resurrected by the salutary experience of a term on the Opposition benches. Whilst I sympathized with this view I could not bring myself to fully subscribe. As I wrote
I have been a Liberal supporter all my life but how I vote in the upcoming election is line-ball. For me the only compelling reason to vote for a LNP government that is looking increasingly like an ALP one is my absolute conviction that, if Labor gets back, the illegal immigrant trade will start up again regardless of what Labor may say or do, and that they will re-introduce some form of pointless and costly carbon tax.
A renewed flood of illegal immigrants was too big a price to pay for a possibly reborn Liberal Party, so my vote went to the Coalition with grave misgivings. The government did scrape back and, to date, the boats have not resumed. Thank God for that, but I fear there is still time for Turnbull to stuff this one too. His US solution for re-homing illegals from Nauru and Manus could still prompt a resurgence in the trade. What happens if President Trump repudiates the deal? My guess is that Turnbull will be scrabbling frantically for an alternative destination, which could well turn out to be Australia.
How might he justify that? Well, Turnbull believes, or claims to believe, that the US relocation will be the last concession of its kind and that it will deter the smugglers when coupled with a strengthened border-protection effort. That is highly debatable but, for the sake of argument, let’s go with him on this. If this logic works as a deterrent in relation to the US option, why wouldn’t it also work for Australia? Why didn’t Turnbull link the US option with the proposed lifetime-ban legislation? It would have been the logical and sensible thing to do, but he let it go without so much as a whimper. Conveniently, the absence of the lifetime ban gives Turnbull a fall-back position, which, as I suggest, could well be Australia.
Regarding the illegal immigrant issue, I may yet prove to have been over-optimistic in supporting the re-election of the Coalition.
What weight should people smugglers give to Turnbull’s firm statement on anything, given his waffling and vacillation on so many other issues? Here the confusion and contradictions of the Coalition’s recent re-visiting of a carbon tax — albeit presented as “an emissions intensity scheme” — make the perfect example. In recent days and presumably with the Prime Minister’s endorsement, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was sent forth with a brief to see how the notion of further elevating the nation’s electricity bills might go over with the electorate.
“We know that there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme. We’ll look at that,” Frydenberg dutifully intoned to purrs of satisfaction from his ABC interviewer.
Forty-eight hours later — again, presumably, with his leader’s support — the minister was furiously back-pedalling his green bicycle while point-blank denying he had intimated anything resembling a carbon tax might be in the offing. “I didn’t mention an emissions intensity scheme, it’s not in any document that the Coalition has put out, in relation to this review,” he told 3AW, adding: “The Turnbull Government is not contemplating such a scheme … we’re not advocating for such a scheme.”
From “we’ll look at that” to “we’re not contemplating such a scheme” in the space of just a few hours! Even by the standards of Turnbullian oscillation this was a remarkable about-face. If you don’t like Team Turnbull’s utterances on Monday, don’t worry — by Tuesday there will be entirely different positions in cabinet members’ daily talking points. Not that Frydenberg should feel especially aggrieved. Treasurer Scott Morrison could console him with his own experience of prime ministerial caprice, having been left similarly isolated and betrayed when told to go out and sell a program of sweeping tax reform, only to see himself embarrassed, abandoned and betrayed by his leader’s sudden retreat.
According to reports, Frydenberg’s repudiation of his own words followed a back-bench revolt, which prompts the hope that my decision at the ballot box to back Turnbull’s party might yet be proven righteous and correct. Apparently, somewhere in the Coalition, a vestigial backbone remains — a spine that might, just might, prove resilient enough to flex in the service of Turnbull’s ouster.
The Prime Minister’s most ardent — some would say “shameless” — groupie, The Australian‘s Nikki “Mrs Woolcock” Savva loves the term ‘delcon’ and uses it in almost every column, by which she means to heap scorn on anyone critical of her hubby’s boss. With the government looking increasingly like Labor on most issues and, worse than that, stumbling incoherently toward the extreme likelihood of a Labor victory at the next election, how disastrous would it have been if Labor had won? Just how deluded were those delcons, Nikki?
So call me a neo-delcon if you will, Mrs Woolcock, but it’s time for Turnbull to go. He should have offered his resignation after the election debacle. Any other leader would have, but he did not. Failing that, the party should have dumped him before he could do any more damage. Given that Turnbull’s own polls are every bit as dire as were Abbott’s at the time of his defenestration, now would be a good time for Turnbull to retire gracefully. If he can put the interests of the Liberal Party and nation ahead of his ego, that is. Yes, it’s a dubious proposition, but one lives in hope that there is something our current Prime Minister cares about more than himself.
Conventional wisdom says it would be political suicide for the government to dump another PM. But conventional wisdom, like the current Prime Minister, does not have a great track record of late.