Go Now, Mr Turnbull. Just Go

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

14 thoughts on “Go Now, Mr Turnbull. Just Go

  • en passant says:

    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 …

  • 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 )

  • ianl says:

    The usual trollster ranting. Straw men, misdirection, ad homs, irrelevant factoids – all there.

    1. > ” … mainstream science says may be necessary to stop the planet from cooking”. “Mainstream” science does not exist per se, apart from glib globules of greenwackery. Some activists suggest that atmospheric CO2 levels have reached dangerous levels currently at ~400ppmv, but hard geoscientific evidence puts the lie to that (1000’s of peer reviewed publications), which is why arm-waving is then used. And also why geoscience is routinely ignored by greenwackery propaganda output.

    2. Reducing power prices is not a greenwackery goal; rather, pricing electricity out of the reach of most of the population in order to deindustrialise is now the light on the hill. Civilisation must be destroyed to save the planet from … what, exactly ?

    > ” … fattening a few wallets in the pockets of the fossil carbon lobby”. The usual slimy lie.

    3. Then the familiar puerile straw man of “Abbott and the Neanderthals” or something. No one apart from the trollster mentions Abbott but the trollster thinks that running this straw man demonstrates something or other. Waffle is a vainglorious milquetoast, Abbott vaccillates between some occasional clarity and bullheadness. So ?

    4. > ” … taxpayer-subsidise fossil carbon …”. Another lie much favoured by greenwackery for its’ propaganda value. “Fossil carbon” is a complete non-sequitur – what exactly is non-fossil carbon ? I suggest one reads credible accounts of the carbon cycle before using ignorant terminology. Greenwackery also promulgates the lie that the diesel fuel rebate is a “subsidy for miners” yet refuses to acknowledge that primary producers, including farmers, fishing fleets and miners, are granted diesel fuel rebates on the grounds that these operations don’t use public roads (no roads at all in the case of fishing fleets).

    5. That solar pumps have a real use in regional water pumping is good, although not new and not surprising. It’s a trivial point, not in dispute. That solar panels and batteries are of little use in city high-rise (where windows are designed not to open to allow efficient air-con) is also not surprising yet never discussed by greenwackery. The “usefulness” of wind and solar for reliable base load is shown hour by hour at:


    This hard measurement is always avoided by the trollster, yet others are accused of cherry picking. Ho hum.

    Rural demand on base load is tiny, less than 3%. Industry and city demand is high. This is why both the SA and Vic Govts have installed hugely expensive diesel generators – they do not want their *own* operations and employees to suffer power loss (a similar mindset to installing their own hardened bollards). Diesel generation releases as much CO2 to the atmosphere as modern HELE coal plants but at 3x the cost. People may well argue that these diesel plants are not much in use, but the anero.id website records the truth.

    6. > ” … the increasing atmospheric CO2 load is warming the whole planet: or more accurately increasing the energy content of the global atmosphere-ocean system …” We are at ~400 ppmv atmospheric CO2 levels, of which about 3% is due to human activities. The planet has been at 4000-10000 ppmv many times (in fact the rich availability of atmospheric CO2 kick-started the process of catalysed photosynthesis, supplying the atmospheric O2) without our aid. The Argo buoys, purposefully designed to measure mooted oceanic temperature changes, have shown change so insignificant that the measured changes are smaller than their error bars. Abyssal depths, where most dissolved CO2 collects as carbonate ions, have shown no change at all (these are very poorly measured, though). ENSO (aka El Nino and La Nina) is one of the major mechanisms whereby heat is moved around the planet, including released to space during the Nino phase. ENSO is not driven by CO2 and is known from oceanic drill cores to have undergone intermittent oscillations for over 11,000 years. The best, albeit sloppy, measurements we have show that global temperature (if such a concept is statistically valid) has increased 0.8C in 150 years – panicking over trivia like that was satirised in an episode of Dad’s Army.

    6. > “we have known that CO2 concentration is the limiting factor on plant growth, all other nutritional needs being met, for donkey’s years”. Golly.

    Yet the trollster previously chose the low-level, puerile sarcasm of “plant food” to describe photosynthesis. Circular goalpost shifting is a sure sign of a trollster, as is avoiding hard factual content containing verifiable numbers. In fact, the Enlightment evolved as a response to such avoidance as it had given rise to real thuggery.

    7. The out-of-control meme (whose control ?), so scary, is specifically related in the link to methane CH4 levels (aka natural gas, now used as a peak demand saviour by the greenwacks), not CO2. Still, factual consistency is not a trollster’s strong suit.

    8. For a detailed discussion/debate on all this, with hard facts, numbers, measurements and uncensored but civilised debate, I recommend:


    This website has a UK bent but ranges far and wide, recently including the stupidities of current Australian flounderings. As it is run by a couple of geoscientists (one a geophysicist), the trollster will not touch it, thus remaining ignorant … oh, well.

    9. To cut the Gordian knot of never-ending concrete-head butts, my choice is modular nuclear power with CH4 peaking units. This will take 3 or 4 civil wars, though. So HELE coal plants are next-best choice since we are already well into that civil war. Economy-destroying windmills and moonbeams is what we have. Consequently, destruction of our civilisation built with so much blood and treasure, is the way of the future.

  • pawelek@ozemail.com.au says:

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

  • Keith Kennelly says:


    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.


    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.

  • 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?

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