Twice in the past two months, The Red And The Blue has suggested, e’er gently, that Malcolm Turnbull’s best course of action might be to go and sit on the cross-benches of the House of Representatives.
Today, Malcolm Turnbull has furnished the world with yet more evidence — if more were needed — of his incapability of operating as a team member and his refusal to adhere to Liberal Party policy.
Frankly, it’s time for Malcolm to shut up — something I wrote to him in a blunt and private email many months ago (over other similar outbursts at the time) and which I now say publicly.
And this opinion is mild, compared to that emanating from some quarters of the Liberal Party, who in recent days have begun to put the word about that it might be helpful if Malcolm were to leave politics altogether.
If you’re Tony Abbott, and you have friends like Malcolm Turnbull, why would you need enemies?
It’s true — as both Abbott and Nationals’ Senate leader Barnaby Joyce observed today — that everyone knows what Turnbull’s views on climate change are and what he thinks is the best policy approach to dealing with the issue.
But the declarations by Abbott and Joyce today are purely for form; the truth is nobody knows how to muzzle Turnbull or to compel his adherence to the Coalition policies to which, as a shadow minister, he is bound.
By continuing to stir up trouble over climate change policy — and as this column has observed before, Turnbull knows exactly what he is doing — all he achieves is to showcase a rift between himself and his leader, and to draw attention to himself as an alternative candidate for the Liberal leadership.
And in the process, to generate media coverage for himself.
And to hand a loaded gun to the opponents of the Coalition — the ALP and the Greens — to whom he is purportedly committed to defeating.
Today, Julia Gillard was having a field day on the issue, effectively attempting to spin Turnbull’s comments as an endorsement of her government’s policy.
It was Turnbull’s overt endorsement of the carbon policies of the Labor government that directly resulted in him losing the Liberal leadership in the first place, so clearly he has learnt absolutely nothing from that particular episode.
Were all this not bad enough, Turnbull today has resorted to the very type of intellectual dishonesty and false premises the climate change junta levels at anyone failing to fall in, unquestioningly, with its views.
His claim today that Margaret Thatcher — a scientist as well as a British PM — took climate change seriously and that it required action is only half correct: in 1988, she did indeed say precisely that.
But Turnbull forgot the other half, presumably because it was inconvenient: by 2003 Thatcher was on the record as having repudiated her earlier position; she had changed her mind. Not that there’s any crime in doing so, but one can’t have the first part of the story, as Turnbull sought to do, without having the other.
He also made the rather odious analogy that “vested interests” involved in coal mining were akin to tobacco companies who question the link between smoking and lung cancer.
Well, guess what? The comparison is ridiculous. For a start, coal — irrespective of any debate over emissions policy — has a clear and unquestionable benefit as a reliable and cheap generator of baseload electricity, without which we’d still be living in the Stone Age.
And for another thing, tobacco smokers (of which I have been one for a tick over 20 years) pay vast amounts of excise tax every year as a direct contribution to the healthcare system that may — may — one day need to treat them.
Demonise smokers if you choose to, but don’t use them to prop up dysfunctional arguments over an issue in which they are completely irrelevant (apart from the fact smokers work in the coal industry too).
Coming back to the main point, though, I’m tired of having to devote column space to Malcolm Turnbull and his overt and implicit displays of disloyalty as a shadow minister.
The time has arrived when he needs to accept his leadership of the Liberal Party has been lost, that he remains a member of the Coalition team, and to begin to behave accordingly.
The growing calls for his relocation to the cross-bench, or even out of Parliament altogether, will only grow louder if he doesn’t.
The great irony is that if Malcolm Turnbull really wants a platform from which to aid the interests of the Liberal Party — and rebuild his own credentials as a possible future leader in the process — he already has it.
It’s called his job: Shadow Minister for Communications.
Such has been the ferocity of the debate over carbon tax in recent times, that great white elephant — the National Broadband Network, which will cost $43 billion of taxpayer funds (or more if the same cost blowouts inherent in Labor government projects occur) — has been treated with scant neglect.
It emerged this morning that taxpayers could be paying up to $190 per month to access it when/if it ever comes on line, no pun intended.
How many people heard the responsible shadow minister in outrage over that?
And on any measure, such a figure is outrageous, especially as the government plans to force consumers into utilising the NBN.
It is but one example, but it’s telling. Nobody doubts what Turnbull wants to talk about. But if he instead knuckled under in his own portfolio, and applied his formidable intellect and debating skills to the issues therein — and left other matters in the hands of those responsible for them — then perhaps the prize at the end of the road would one day still be there.
For Turnbull today, it is a mirage. Should he continue on his present tack, it will remain as such forever.