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April 07th 2018 print

Peter O'Brien

The Ego Has Landed. Crashed, Actually

Monday will make it thirty and beyond dispute: as a PM, political strategist, campaigner and man of principle, Malcolm Turnbull is a dud of the first order. An honourable man would stand down upon failing by the same yardstick with which he measured the greater achievements of another

turnbull largely empty suitWhere to from here for the Coalition? With Turnbull’s thirtieth negative Newspoll almost certain to drop on Monday, the first murmurings reportedly emerged this week from within his own camp. According to Seven News, key moderates have advised the PM he ‘no longer enjoys majority support within the party room’.

That tidbit does not seem to have been taken up by any other outlet, including The Australian, although Andrew Bolt made fleeting mention of the dissension on his Sky TV show. That’s curious, very curious, since it generally requires only a whisper of party-room vuulnerability to spark media speculation. For example, read this transcript of Christopher Pyne’s foot-in-both-camps appraisal of Tony Abbott’s chances of surviving a party room mutiny from February, 2015, when the first Turnbull attempt at a putsch was about to be implemented.

Of course, ‘no longer enjoying majority support’ is a statement that requires no great wit to grasp. Politicians can be venal, feckless and two-faced advocates for policies they know to be ruinously ineffective, but most are remarkably clear-eyed about their personal prospects. Even the dimmest now realise many will disappear after the next election and that a change of leadership will not avoid that fate. Maybe they have even given up on the idea that anyone, even Julie Bishop, could save some of the furniture a la Rudd redux in 2013.

I’m guessing that most Liberals are resigned to political oblivion, with the most stalwart seeing a term or two in opposition as an opportunity to review, renew and rebuild. That was the grim thinking after Rudd’s 2007 triumph — flawed thinking, as it happens, as Tony Abbott’s leadership lifted the Coalition to within a whisker of regaining government after one term.

Most pundits — many of whom touted for Turnbull as he schemed and leaked and honed his knife — seem to believe that a challenge is unlikely because ‘there is no obvious candidate’.  The unspoken caveat, of course, is ‘other than Tony Abbott’.

Columnists such as Miranda Devine, Niki Savva and Peter Van Onselen have sneeringly derided conservatives who remain disgusted at the way Tony Abbott was treated. According to the ever-faithful Turnbull cheer squad, any case for Abbott’s resurrection is ‘delusional’ at best. How then might one describe the dream that Turnbull can overcome the evidence of so many damning polls and win the next election? This is the man, remember, whose tin ear saw him delay going to the polls until his political honeymoon was well and truly over. He scraped back by one seat, as history records, and marked that wan triumph with a testy election night address and a demand that the Federal Police investigate why the electorate did not share the high opinion he holds of himself.

A common criticism of Abbott is to point to mistakes he made or things he didn’t do as PM, suggesting he is incapable of learning or growing from those mistakes. Popular sentiment seems already to have forgiven Steve Smith, confident that he will emerge from his banishment a better man and better captain.  Did the things Abbott do wrong outweigh his achievements? Quite the opposite, I would have thought.

Sure, according to political commentary, to polls and to quotes from his colleagues, nobody wants Abbott back in charge. Why then are they all still talking about him?  Well, firstly because they suspect he hasn’t stayed around just to keep his seat warm and, secondly, because they believe, in their heart of hearts, that he is the only one who could inflict major damage on Shorten and his apparently inexorable march to the Lodge. Whether or not Abbott actually wants the job once more remains to be seen, but his detractors are convinced that is the case.

There are two reasons why re-instatement of Abbott makes sense.  First, he is the best agent to ‘save the furniture’, not that there’s much furniture to save. Turnbull has burned most of it in the fireplace of his ambitions.

Second, because Abbott is the only one with an articulated manifesto that could form the basis of a conservative Liberal revival, one that clearly differentiates it from Labor. Both ideally and realistically, Abbott should be given the chance to take this to the next election, because one of the most critical items relates to the powers of the Senate.

Abbott’s proposal is that the government should not have to resort to a double dissolution in order to trigger a joint sitting of both Houses to pass legislation rejected by the Senate.  Under his proposal, if legislation is rejected by the Senate it would go straight to a joint sitting. Journalist, author, academic and columnist Crispin Hull agrees that the system needs reform but argues that Abbott’s proposal goes a step too far and would effectively neuter the Senate as a house of review.  His alternate proposal is that, following an election that sees the government of the day returned, any legislation rejected by the previous Senate would only need to be passed by the House. On the face of it, not a bad compromise and one perhaps more likely to be acceptable at referendum.

Be that as it may, if Senate reform is to be on the agenda, the sooner the ball is set rolling the better.

This is also true of the disaster that both sides have made of energy policy. For a start, let me assert that for anyone to criticize Abbott for advocating public funds be spent building a new coal fired power station is, at best, hypocrisy; at worst, mischief by misrepresentation. There is no energy free market in this country and there hasn’t been for quite some time.  There is indeed a role for government to step in — indeed, a crying need and moral obligation — when it is government policy that has distorted the market and led directly to some of the world’s highest electricity price. This in a country quite literally sitting on stupendous reserves of gas and coal — resources we dig up and sell to others but will not consider burning ourselves for fear that Tim Flannery will disapprove.

The only way this problem can be solved is if we free ourselves from the shackles of CAGW ideology. Those who thought CAGW would eventually collapse under the weight of mounting counter-evidence must surely by now be completely disabused of that naïve notion. There are now too many vested interests ‘keeping the dream alive’ with outright lies. The next time you hear some green shill swear that wind and solar are cheaper than coal, keep an even tighter grip on your wallet because AGL is coming to pillage its contents.

There is ample evidence that, if warming is occurring, it is much smaller than predicted, largely (if not wholly) beneficial and, judging by the actions of countries such as China and India, unstoppable anyway.  If there is a potential problem further down the track, the best thing we can do is to prepare to manage it by building, for example, useful infrastructure such as dams which don’t need to be filled by pumping water uphill.

With acknowledgement to Craig Kelly and his longstanding opposition to our slavish obeisance to CAGW, Tony Abbott is the only CAGW sceptic who might conceivably shoo the rent-seekers and profiteers away from the trough.

I note that even Peta Credlin is supporting the status quo on the basis of putting a stop to the in-vogue practice of knifing sitting PMs and there is some merit to this logic.  But I can’t help feeling that even if it won’t make a huge  difference if Abbott’s elevation were to occur after the election, there is also a wrong to be righted – an acknowledgement by the party that ‘we got it horribly wrong’.  Abbott was not given the chance to defend the handsome majority that  Turnbull squandered.  At some point, like the dog that caught the car and came off second best, he needs to be taken to the vet and put to sleep.  The only reason to leave him in place is so that he can take full and undisputed ownership of the humiliation he has brought upon both his party and himself.

Will he stick around that long?  Or, more pertinently, will he be allowed to stick around that long?

Comments [25]

  1. BJAS1961 says:

    The inertia in the face of Turnbull’s obvious failure is difficult to understand; and it seems probable that the wets who now infest the Liberals prefer political oblivion to any return to true conservative values and policy settings. At this point I am content with that position, as the Liberals have abandoned the centre right and the vacuum will be filled by another after the inevitable electoral carnage.

  2. madd320 says:

    I’m in two minds over this. I believe the return to Tony Abbott would bring conservative voters back to the party, but as you rightly said the furniture this might save has already been burnt. My second desire is one of revenge. I want to see the look on Turnbull’s face on election night when he realises that he, the smartest man in the world, has been done like a dog by the Union bovver boy. I also want to see the likes of Wyne and his fellow Black hand, bedwetters squeal as they lose their seats to the Labor tsunami (powered in large part by ex-liberal DELCONS)as it sweeps them away. I reckon it will all be over for Turnbull and his coalition by about 7.30pm EST.
    I know this means Labor in power, but the corruption of the Liberal party by the wets has gone too far to heal without radical surgery. The Liberal party will return to its centre-right roots or it die like the Canadian Progressive conservative party. I’m hoping for the former, but I fear the wets have destroyed so much that it will be the later.

  3. Doubting Thomas says:

    I’m done with the Liberals. I don’t expect the party to survive at the federal level, and it doesn’t deserve to. Realistically, at my age it’s unlikely that I’ll live long enough to see another centre-right government, and I don’t believe that there ever will be again any Australian right of centre party that Menzies and his generation would recognise let alone join. If, as I suspect, Labor will move rapidly to lower the voting age to 16, and open the borders to ‘refugees’, loosely defined, it could easily be a generation or more before a non-leftist government is elected at the federal level. Labor will not be constrained by any inherent sense of decency that used to inhibit all but the most extreme zealots from rorting the system to their advantage.

    • Jody says:

      Except that Menzies was a create of the period in which he presided. Nothing stays the same. The younger generations have been propagandized in schools and universities for 2 generations now. A friend complained recently that her 30-something daughter had sanctioned her recently, “mum; stop being racist”. I’ve know this woman since school and racism has never been in her constitution. But children feel empowered now to finger wag at their parents because they don’t share the same impeccable values and world view. Dear god, have they got a shock coming to them.

      My advice to your concerns is to spend your money, leaving none to the next generation through Shorten et al. As a sister says, “a long time dead”.

      • Jody says:

        Sorry, a “creature” of the period. More haste, less speed.

      • Doubting Thomas says:

        While undoubtedly there are racists in Australia, as exist everywhere, I have lived and worked in SEA and PNG for an appreciable number of years, and I can assert with some confidence that those who claim that Australia is a racist country ain’t seen nothing yet.

  4. Jimbob says:

    The left-wing media is becoming increasingly rabid in it’s attacks on Tony Abbott in the lead up to MT’s 30th Newspoll loss. Fear has overtaken them. If TA wasn’t a threat to their grand plans why would they even bother giving him column space? Trouble is, Abbott is the only leader the nation has at this time and he is deadly dangerous to Labor. He has completely taken over the debate agenda and it’s his policies and ideas which are driving it. MT is no more than the naked emperor playing with the pretty baubles sitting on his head while the rest of him is totally exposed. His vanity is hurt when ill is spoken of him whereas ill will towards Abbott does no more than make him more determined and even more potentially deadly to the creeping Marxism of the Liberal wets and the obvious Marxism of labour and their Green friends. Cabinet is a sorry collection of infantile, self serving, sycophants and even the very best of them (Dutton) is too scared to have a challenging thought of his own. So good on Tony Abbott. He needs to stay as loud as possible.

    As readers here understand, there are indeed more things in heaven and on earth than all our philosophy can dream of, and Abbott redux may seem highly improbable for now but that does not mean that it is impossible. When he does return I think he must follow on the policies that are absolutely critical;

    1. Aim to remove all subsidies on renewable energy. Subsidies stifle inventiveness and give rise to a proliferation of unproductive rent seekers
    2. Aim to leave the Paris Agreement – it really is next to useless with pollution going up in gigantic bucket loads. It’s no more than an other “wealth redistribution” con, penalising the productive and rewarding the unproductive and their institutionalised brigands (oops…I meant guvermints)
    3. Sell the ABC – there is no need in the digital age for a government funded broadcaster when every shade of political opinion and other information can easily be accessed (and often for free) on the world wide web. SBS is definitely unnecessary. It’s cheaper to give satellite dishes to any migrant who wants one to have direct access to news and entertainment from the “old country”. The $1.2B a year saving capitalised at 5% (which of course is very expensive but it does make it easy for me to do the math) is equivalent to around $24B in capital which will build us a nice mix of some nice HELE coal fired and nuclear power plants. When power prices drop to a fraction of what they are now and global manufacturing sees Australia as a cheap energy market, we may indeed see a resurgence of investment in manufacturing. The government can then sell the shiny new power plants and the taxpayer will get the money back to be used here. Surely that has to be better than letting the subsidies enrich windmill and solar panel manufacturers in China and the like of Elon Musk in the US? Ah, but I get ahead of myself…..whodda thunkit
    4. Halve immigration as a preliminary measure and change the immigration mix so that we get prospective “nation builders” and “entrepreneurs” seeing that our education system has succeeded in producing very few of either.
    5. Finally, cut loose our better Universities and let them compete at the very high end in the world education markets. We have enough left over to meet the needs of locals

    OK – so it’s wishful thinking but at least TA has been willing to speak up

    • Peter OBrien says:

      Jimbob,

      I think withdrawing from Paris, removing subsidies etc is not enough. These measures, even if you could get them through, can be overturned by future governments. What needs to happen is for the whole CAGW edifice to be so thoroughly discredited in the public mind that it would be electoral suicide for any government to propose job killing initiatives based on this fantasy. My point is that CAGW now has a life of its own that makes the science almost irrelevant. Despite ample evidence from emminent skeptical scientists the message is not cutting through. It will only cut through if senior political leaders, hopefully on both sides, pound the message day after day. It will not happen overnight but unless someone starts the process it will never happen. In my mind, Abbott, despite the ridicule he attracts, is the best person to commence this task. He may not last to finish it but his example might inspire others. Craig Kelly would be a great wingman. And, by the way, add to your list imposing a watchdog body (including Jennifer Marohassy) to oversee quality control at the BoM.

    • padraic says:

      If they went to the next election, Jimbob, with your Points 1, 2 and 3 above, they would romp it in.

  5. padraic says:

    I agree with you Peter, that “there is no energy free market in this country” and I think there never was and never will be. It will always from now on be a mixed public/private sectors market. Australia would never have developed as quickly as it did into a mature economy if it had not been for governments financing and owning infrastructure that took years to be paid off and generate a return. These sorts of projects would never have been undertaken by private concerns because waiting for years for return on capital was unacceptable. The sorts of things Governments undertook to build in our early days were railways and ports and energy generation facilities. In later times the Harbour Bridge, Qantas, the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the Opera House and Motorways spring to mind. These developments were still funded mainly by private money borrowed by Governments whose repayments of interest and principal to the lenders immediately removed their objection to having to wait a long time for a return on their investment. This is a good model for large countries like Australia with small populations with a relatively small tax base – Governments undertake the building of essential infrastructure that private investors won’t touch because of the long wait for return on capital and after the government has eventually paid off the loan to private investors they then sell it to private concerns who can immediately get a return, whilst hopefully keeping down prices through competition.
    So the purist direct-private-investment-only argument of the academic economic ideologues is fantasy in the real world of how governments manage their economies. There has to be flexibility in approaching the developing a country for the betterment of its people and its industries. Even China, with its alleged rigid Marxist economic model, has nuclear power stations, very fast trains etc, etc while we are still wallowing in slow diesel trains on creaking rails between cities. If the Very Fast Train project had been undertaken in the 1980s you would not have the current real estate disasters in the major cities because, for example, places like Goulburn, Bathurst-Orange, Wollongong and Newcastle (even Canberra) could have become dormitory towns for Sydney, thereby keeping the price of housing to bearable levels. Another opportunity missed. India and Iran are leaving us in their wake. Whenever something sensible and great for Australian citizens is proposed there immediately forms an activist group of unemployed young lawyers and drug abusers and instant frog lovers to bring it down, aided and abetted by a pathetic media and political opposition. It’s equally sad when politicians say that they can’t build state of the art coal fired power stations because of the long lead time before they receive a return but they can fund Snowy 2.0 with public money when this type of generation depends on cheap off-peak power. I’m all in favour of Snowy 2.0., but without cheap off-peak power from coal and/or nuclear this bird won’t fly. That’s why they’re putting pressure on AGL to keep Liddell going for longer.
    As outlined above, in recent years there has been a sell off of those government-developed energy assets once they had been paid off with the view that the new private owners would compete with each other on price, thereby keeping the industry and household energy bills at a low level. This has been delusional because of the subsidies given to solar and wind on top of their income from charging the same as coal generators to consumers. Why would you not close down your coal power-fired generator and join those with their snouts in the taxpayers’ trough? Too bad about high prices for consumers. It’s no use whinging that companies and their shareholders should have some sort of moral concern for the socio-economic needs of their customers – that’s not how a “free” market works. Woolworths couldn’t care less about my weekly household budget, nor should they. In 2002 Mrs Thatcher privatised the water and sewerage utilities, among others. Everything worked well until in a Midlands region city a plague of rats developed in the sewers and they began to exit and invade homes. The “peste” of Camus was looking likely. Previously, the government owned utility had taken responsibility for the rats but the new private company said it was not their concern as it was a public health issue. Their job was to provide water and sewerage facilities to their paying customers. Eventually, the local municipal council took the necessary steps to prevent an outbreak of bubonic plague. I don’t recall animal rights activists and flea lovers demonstrating outside the Council Chambers.

    • padraic says:

      Just a retrospective correction on line 7 – obviously the investors would not get back repayments of the principal immediately. That occurred over time, but interest payments on the loan would begin immediately.

  6. ArthurB says:

    I doubt that restoring Abbott as leader will bring about a Liberal revival, and in fact the Liberals could do worse at the next election under him than under Turnbull. It is true that under Abbott the Liberals won the 2013 election with a substantial margin, but after six years of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd the punters were never going to re-elect Labor. While Abbott is one of the few genuine conservatives in the Liberal party, he will never be able to convey his message to the electorate, such is the degree and depth of the hatred for him in the media, in particular in the ABC.

    It is possible that the prospect of being ruled by the bruvvas and the maaates may concentrate the minds of the punters in sufficient numbers to return the Liberals. However, I feel that the decline of the Liberals will continue, until they can find better candidates.

    These are strange times indeed. Some nations in Europe, such as Sweden and Germany, appear to be determined to commit suicide, by importing vast numbers of Muslims. On my favourite American website (www.unz.com) many contributors and commenters are expressing their dismay at the decline of their nation, if the present demographic trends continue, whites will become a minority, with profound implications for the future, not just of America, but of the nations of the West.

    • Peter OBrien says:

      “While Abbott is one of the few genuine conservatives in the Liberal party, he will never be able to convey his message to the electorate, such is the degree and depth of the hatred for him in the media, in particular in the ABC.” Yet Trump seems to be prevailing against similar odds.

      • Jody says:

        No get-out-of-jail-free card for Abbott. He was appalling in the leadership and we can provide a dozen reasons for this. Much of what is said about him here from the ‘dreams’ is straight hagiography.

        • Jimbob says:

          Jody,

          What exactly did he do that was so wrong? He made Prince Philip a Knight, ate an onion, skin and all and then what? He made some promises he couldn’t keep but I fail to see why he his held to a higher standard than every other politician that has ever held office in this land. What I see from the media and some detractors is not a reasoned argument but sheer, patahological hatred. What is the measure of the success of a politician? In a democracy, there is surely only one metric and that is to win an election. Without winning an election policies are no more than pipe dreams and wishful thinking. Malcolm also won an election but by nowhere near the majority won by Tony Abbott. Now, with regard to policies, Turnbull has been in government for two an a half years and he has done what exactly? He’s actually a big-government, crypto Marxist. The only question for us is whether or not we want up to 18 months + 3 years of various shades of Marxism or just 3 years (enough time for the required surgery to work).

          I though I would never say it but after toying with the idea that the Australian Conservatives could have some effect, I have given up. There is nothing left but to vote Labor and let nature run it’s course. Some time we just don’t know how bad a disease is until we feel it’s full effects. At the moment, the nation is on a morphine drip…slowly and mind numbingly heading to the grave

          • Jimbob says:

            Dopey fingers….”slowly and mind numbingly heading to the grave” when radical and painful surgery may save the body.

  7. LBLoveday says:

    “…instant frog lovers to bring it down”.
    Tangentially related to this article, I was a few minutes ago shaking my head, again, at the revelation that “AN endangered lizard has thrown a $3 million spanner in the works to build Victoria’s new youth prison” (Herald Sun).

    • en passant says:

      LBL,
      I did some work a few years ago for a gas explorer in the Coober Pedy Basin. Before they could drill an injunction was issued preventing them from beginning (the whole camp covered an area less than two tennis courts) because an ‘endangered’ insect had been found. It would take a minimum of eight weeks to get to court (and a lot of fees to environmentalists for research and reports. An arrogant 20-year-old save-the planet totalitarian Green Jihadi told me they knew their claim was not true, but the aim was to disrupt our operations until they became unviable. He then told me that they had twent other injunctions waiting to be issued … Lawfare at its ‘best’.

      The explorer packed up and took the rig to Indonesia – where they discovered gas that is enriching the local population. By the way, how is energy production in SA going? eading the way to 3rd world oblivion, I hear.

      Anyway, I followed my own analysis and moved overseas to coal-fired Nirvana – and have no regrets that I did so. It is actually depressing watching the slow motion, ‘alcoholic, drug-addicted’ self-destruction of Oz, because that’s exactly what it looks like from here.

      Peter,
      Despite everything (and your accurate analysis of his character) I am sure Turncoat has no capacity for self-doubt. When he and the Liberals are destroyed, there is a possibility that that was his intention in return for being made 1st President of the Oz Republic. Alternatively, it will be the electorates fault and therefore they deserve to be destroyed too. I am sure an update of ‘Downfall’ is just a certainty to be made …

  8. Bran Dee says:

    The word for Peter OBrien is that Abbott is no Trump. The highly successful US president has a lifelong history of dominating the agenda. He doesn’t take stick he gives it. Also the US [and French President] have huge power vested in them almost like a Monarch or a Tsar. The Australian PM has to govern by cabinet consensus.

  9. Keith Kennelly says:

    Trump has turned America around and is making the US great again.

    Why do you despise his effectiveness?

    Abbott with his Trump like policies will turn Australia around too.

    Why don’t you want that?