Malcolm Turnbull Is No Solution As Prime Minister

WITH LEADERSHIP SPECULATION now swirling around the Liberal Party in the wake of the Queensland state election debacle, capping as it did a decidedly dismal year for the government, attention is falling on who might replace Tony Abbott if, regrettably, push should come to shove. This column restates its longstanding position that not only is Malcolm Turnbull unfit to lead, he should not be permitted to do so under any circumstances.

I remain supportive of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as I have been through his Prime Ministership, his tenure as leader of the opposition, and as an MP and minister prior to his ascension to the Liberal leadership in December 2009.

But the denial of reality is required if we are to ignore the fact that the government has performed poorly, and that Abbott himself now faces the real threat of being removed from his position for the first time during the Coalition’s relatively short stint in office.

This column has increasingly (and unhappily) come to the view that a disproportionate degree of the federal government’s troubles emanate from the Prime Ministers’s office: from the rigidly excessive and unhealthy degree of control it exercises over virtually every aspect of governance, including its arbitrary veto of every government policy or initiative (making it in fact responsible for some of the abominable measures the government has pursued), and from everything from media strategy to micromanaging even the most junior staffing appointments in far-flung electorate offices, and from micromanaging the government’s political strategies and media and communications efforts (which have been largely botched) to bizarrely failing to prevent the Prime Minister from kicking the ludicrous own goal that was the “Prince Sir Philip” fracas on Australia Day.

And just about everything in between.

Even the Prime Minister’s staunchest and most loyal friends in the media have tried to tell him where the problem lies — and one of the better articles that has appeared in recent weeks can be accessed here — in addition to, reportedly, a growing number of his MPs and ministers, who are as angry and as frustrated as those loyal Coalition adherents in the press, elsewhere in the Liberal Party and among the millions of supporters who voted for this government, that stubborn and blind loyalty to the official responsible for the mess the PMO has made of its brief apparently transcends all other considerations.

I had hoped good common sense would prevail upon Abbott — particularly in light of the disastrous state election result in Queensland, which was unquestionably influenced by federal factors — and that he would dismiss Chief of Staff Peta Credlin; the hope is and was that with a fresh hand in charge of the PMO and a more outward-looking focus adopted (and new people able to replace Credlin’s hand-selected, personally vetted ministerial personnel wherever necessary) the government would be in a position to dispense with the mistakes the PMO has presided over; that the Prime Minister and his colleagues would begin to receive a flow of advice and support of far superior quality; and that, gradually but distinctly, the Coalition would start to reset and retrieve its political position.

This, regrettably, has not been the case — and despite a modest but uninspiring attempt in his speech to the National Press Club yesterday to recapture the political mood and defend his position, the outbreak of leadership speculation that has gripped the Liberal Party of late seems set not just to continue, but to accelerate if the government’s performance fails to show rapid and marked improvement.

In a perfect world, I would prefer Abbott to remain as Prime Minister and develop as the success I always thought he could make of the role.

I don’t intend to canvass every infinitesimal aspect of any leadership ructions that are at hand.

But disturbingly, there is widespread speculation in the press that any change of leadership would involve a deal that sees Malcolm Turnbull become leader (and Prime Minister) with Foreign minister Julie Bishop as his deputy, and if Turnbull is to be the favourite as a successor in any leadership switch then that undesirable development must be addressed.

There is no question that on economic matters, Turnbull’s liberalism (in the classic sense) is beyond reproach.

But on social policy matters, his leanings are distinctly to the Left; and far from this representing any positive to the Liberal Party or, indeed, providing it the opportunity to access and build new constituencies as some suggest, Turnbull’s social views are simply a recipe to alienate and detach huge chunks of the party’s more conservative base.

We already know this: the first Turnbull leadership saw support for the party all but disintegrate, as conservative Liberals began to withdraw their support for the party in every reputable instrument of opinion polling.

Turnbull as leader the first time was a political disaster; his idea of “leadership” involved providing “bipartisanship” to the ALP that all but removed the difference between the Coalition and Labor, and it is no coincidence that many of the measures being pursued by then-PM Kevin Rudd were abandoned after the switch to Mr Abbott in 2009: as measures that the Liberal Party would ordinarily never support, that Turnbull’s leadership had appeared to enable, had been taken off the table.

In dumping Turnbull in 2009, it was the Liberal base that was listened to, rather than the ALP to which the party under Turnbull was in danger of selling out to.

Politically, his stint in the leadership was a disaster, with the “Utegate” affair revealing a dangerous penchant to shoot first and worry about details later; that the fabricated emails over which Turnbull’s attack on Rudd was based were unquestioningly adopted as genuine belied a nascent and amateurish regard for detail. At best, it was careless. At worst, it could have led the party into far more trouble than it did.

But either way, it was a warning about Turnbull’s approach to the hard detail of sensitive political material that ought to be heeded even now.

Suggestions that Turnbull would bring a flood of new support to the Liberal Party if restored to its leadership are and were baseless: after all, no such army of minions swung its weight behind the Coalition last time he led it.

It is one of those enigmatic realities of Australian politics that Turnbull is genuinely regarded with warmth and some respect by the Liberals’ political opponents on the Left, principally on account of his social views.

But this “support” for Turnbull among the government’s implacable political enemies has never translated into widespread voting intention; it didn’t during his first ill-fated tenure as Liberal leader and it won’t now.

The wildly euphoric polling numbers finding Turnbull the “most popular” candidate to lead the Liberals are inflated and distorted by those on the Left who may indeed like him, but who would never vote for the Liberal Party even if he were to lead it.

And Turnbull was, where voting intention is concerned — a more salient consideration than how much people like him — an abject failure, with average two-party support for the Coalition under his leadership sitting at just 44%, but fluctuating between 42% and 48%. Not once did the Coalition under Turnbull head Labor in the polls, even as the wheels began to fall off the Kevin Rudd cart.

In short, there is no reason to believe a second Turnbull leadership would be other than an unmitigated disaster, and that view is underscored by the hard available evidence from his own performance as Liberal leader in the first place.

This column does remain supportive of Malcolm as a senior minister; we feel he has much to offer the Liberal Party in spite of our views on his calibre as a leadership candidate, and I restate my view of some months ago that — bluntly — he is the best candidate to fill to role of Treasurer, and should be appointed to that position forthwith.

I hope that Abbott is able to retrieve his position and again reiterate the view that for the good of the government, for the Liberal Party and for the country, Peta Credlin must be removed from her position: and if she refuses to depart voluntarily, that the Prime Minister has no alternative but to sack her.

As night follows day, a refusal to enact this change will inevitably bring on a leadership contest.

And if that were to occur, other candidates must be considered as alternatives to the Prime Minister; in fact, virtually every other hypothetical candidate has a superior claim to the Liberal leadership than Turnbull does if viewed through a purely political and performance-based prism.

Under no circumstances should Malcolm Turnbull be restored to the Liberal leadership and invested with the role of Prime Minister.

The Liberals’ march toward a return to opposition will continue until or unless a circuit breaker is provided. Making Turnbull the leader of the party would simply accelerate the process.

The Liberal Party owes Australia sound governance and the means through which to redress the consequences of Labor’s shocking ineptitude. Losing an election will not achieve this.

The restoration of the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott through a proper restructure of the PMO is one way to avoid such a fate. His replacement by Turnbull would merely guarantee it, and would speed the government’s demise.



26 thoughts on “Malcolm Turnbull Is No Solution As Prime Minister

  1. A good time to consider

    Our party headquarter in South Melbourne will open full-time from Monday, 2nd February.
    Later in the year we will call for interested members to come forward and assist with the
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    established and outlined in future updates.

    For now the most important task is to grow the membership base. Please support the initiative
    by encouraging others to join Australian Liberty Alliance as a party member.

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    Sad but true. The Liberal Party is as infiltrated by “progressives” as is the ALP.

    • I think we have more than enough splinter parties that usually become parties of obstruction. The only one that was ever useful was the DLP that at least kept the ALP out of government for a generation.

      • I can well understand that point of view, and it is one that I have held for a long time. However, I think we have reached the stage where you couldn’t put a cigarette paper between the policies of the two major parties. We need a UKIP.

        • The problem with this type of party is that they start out with the right motives and the best of intentions, but invariably become rump protest movements for the disgruntled (if they survive) or simply die out altogether after the proverbial five minutes, and either way they never amount to or achieve all that much.

          (No offence karabar – it’s a comment on these types of parties in sum I’m making).

          What they lack is critical mass: people, money, resources, and so forth. It isn’t a question of big parties squeezing little ones out; it’s more the case that establishing small parties requires a phenomenal amount of input that is often beyond their means, and certainly to achieve scale.

          The major parties are in no way obliged to provide this, although in fact — thanks to public election funding — they were largely responsible for lowering the bar to entry, perversely enough, which is why so many parties spring up every election cycle.

          This is obviously more a liberal/libertarian party than the kind of conservative party I would aspire to see, although there’s obvious crossover between the two threads, which have long proven their compatibility (on the rider, of course, that flexibility and a quid pro quo from time to time is a given).

          As such, it sounds at first glance far less likely to be hijacked by idiots or find itself out on the fringe somewhere.

          I have actually provided similar feedback to a number of people who have approached me to gauge my thoughts on the formation of a new, mass-based conservative party: a proper conservative party, born of the same frustration I suspect that motivates your interests in this Liberty Alliance, karabar.

          Unfortunately, that feedback was almost identical to what I have said here, albeit far more detailed; but until you can round up the thousands or tens of thousands of people (not some shitty 250 or 500 signature threshold) to commit to a major, mainstream mass undertaking — backed by perhaps $10 million in foundation and establishment costs, in addition to the securing of other revenue streams, such an enterprise is unlikely to get too far.

          Nonetheless, I wish you well; imperfect as it is, I’ll stick with the Liberal Party. Even so, the idea of a proper conservative party that caters to both the mainstream interests of both rural and urban constituencies — and operates as a professional outfit in the true sense of the term rather than the lazy option of difference minimisation and risk mitigation — is one that becomes increasingly appealing in the current climate, I can assure you…

          • “establishing small parties requires a phenomenal amount of input that is often beyond their means”
            You point is well taken. However, UKIP started out from nowhere. In Canada the Social Credit party became an alternative to the two major parties, proclaiming the ideals of Major CH Douglas in 1935. Unfortunately, Social Credit morphed into the New Democratic Party, whose leftist ideals are every different that the ideology of CH Douglas. In this country the two major parties are no alternative for one another. Case in point: Apparently Channel 9 cancelled a sort to debate that they planned for Turnbull and Pliberchook. They are too similar to have any meaningful argument. This situation can go on ad infinitum unless someone offers the taxpayers a choice. Folks that have the health of the nation at heart, and not some selfish blowhard with enough cash to make a huge stink.

            • I didn’t mean Palmer, although the risk of the allusion was there if interpreted. Palmer doesn’t have “a party:” he has a wrecking ball mounted on apparatus that complies with the Electoral Act for the twin purposes of self aggrandisement and destroying enemies. That isn’t “a party” in the sense ordinary people like you and I understand it, mate. Palmer is a monster.

              • I can’t argue with that logic. By the way, it looks like Pauline missed out in Lockyer after all. Nevertheless, the old girl must have sent some shivers up the spines of a few blokes. Had she won it would have made an interesting three years. I admit Pauline is out of her league, but, as Greg points out, she has a big heart, and it is in the right place.

  2. I’m not sure that the Abbott speech at the Press Club has solved anything and certainly didn’t convince many of his backbenchers, perhaps just bought a little bit of time but the allegation that Julie Bishop would not rule out standing against Abbott when he asked her is a sure sign that things are brewing.

    And the humble pie that many Libs would have to eat if Turnbull got in as leader may be too much for them to bear, even if he is the best chance of saving the LNP in the next election.

    Abbott’s opinion that the people hire and that the people should fire is truly naive, and if he thinks that will shore up his support internally he is mistaken – tough times for Tony continue.

    • Bull shit, Iain? Oh no.
      a) The temperature of the atmosphere has been gradually cooling since the Holocene Maximum 8000 years ago. The temperature today is at most 2 degrees lower than it was then. Any control system designed by man to control a parameter such as temperature, speed, flow etc. experiences excursions from the set point. Over that period of 8000 years these excursions have been limited to a variation of +/- 1 %. This is despite the fact that the system is extremely complex and has dozens of variable inputs. In other words, there is no “GLOBAL WARMING”. Not today, not yesterday, and not tomorrow. The temperature ‘records’ have been tampered and manipulated in Australia, the USA, and the United Kingdom. The BOM, the NOAA, and the CRU are all guilty of fraud, and have admitted as much.
      b) The only “greenhouse gas” is carbon dioxide, which is purposely pumped into a greenhouse so that the plants grow larger and faster. This is the reason that crop yields have been rising ever since the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising. Atmospheric CO2 bears no correlation with atmospheric temperature; not now, not yesterday, not tomorrow. NASA’s recent OCO2 satellite clearly indicates that CO2 is concentrated above the rainforests. The so-called “anthropogenic” component is a fairy tale.
      c) The “greenhouse effect” is as much a fairy tale as Santa Claus and the three little pigs. If there were such a thing, it would violate several natural laws including the first and second laws of thermodynamics, Maxwell’s equations, and Navier-Stokes. It is an abomination of Stefan-Boltzman.
      d) We should be so lucky as to see Earth’s atmosphere warm a couple of degrees to the levels during which mankind thrived; the Egyptian Old Kingdom, the Minoan, the Roman, the Medieval, and the late twentieth century warmings. These occur roughly every thousand years, and the peaks of the excursions are less each time. This one has passed. It’s OVER. (Before it began)
      CAGW. There is no warming, and if it were “anthropogenic”, it would be the very opposite of “Catastrophic”.

      No, CAGW is no bull shit. It is a very real political movement for the elite to exercise complete control over the sheeple. It pops up every once in a while as it did with the Egyptians, the Venetians, the Romans, the Vikings, and ???

      • Karabar
        Maybe in my haste I was not clear enough, I am an AGW skeptic and as such the though of having a true believer like Turnbull anywhere near the levers of power, or the Big chair is almost as bad as having an ALP government!

        • You were clear. Perhaps it is me that was not clear. It is a sham, a hoax, a prostitution of science, a transfer of assets from the poor and the middle class to the elite. Into which of those categories would you park Malcolm Bullshit?
          The wheels are falling off, but the Club of Rome and the Trilateral Commission are Hell bound to seal a deal in Paris. Unfortunately, our young and naive Bishop would appear to be sucked in to the melee. Turncoat has always been on the receiving end of the stolen funds generated by bat chomping bird squelching windmills.

  3. Unfortunately, the ALP have set the precedent that is it now the norm for a government to sack it’s Prime Minister. This was a task that previously only the Governor General could perform.
    I don’t entirely agree, however, with Mr Abbott’s statement that it is the people who hire and who should hire.
    That may be the case with ALP voters who vote on their ignorance and a candidate’s personality rather than the values and policies of a party.
    We now live in such a throw away society.
    Malcolm Turncoat should never be Prime Minister, although, as my sister pointed out to me – he would attract Labor voters as he is almost one of them anyway.

  4. I do not think Peta Credlin can leave her position as head of the Prime Minister’s Office without her husband Brian Loughnane leaving his position as Federal Director of the Liberal Party. This conjunction of a married couple in two such powerful positions has always been dubious. In the current situation, how can Loughnane give proper political advice on whether his wife should be sacked? Loughnane has the responsibility of guiding the political fortunes of the party. Whatever the cause, the political fortunes are going very bad, very quickly and the Federal Director should be changed before the PM is changed.

  5. Your central point about Turnbull is correct. He is unelectable as Liberal leader. Many I know would leave the party or stay in the Party and vote otherwise. I am happy to see him contributing elsewhere.

  6. I must say for the first time Yale, I think your wrong. This time the party MUST elect the leader that the centre right public wants. Purely electing a leader that appeals to the far right of the party is no different to when ALP elevated Gillard. Whilst your point that Turnbull brought the party back to centre held true. The ALP has moved so far to the left, that any move to the centre will still offer a substantial point of difference.

    The think Federally the biggest mistake we made was trying to scare the Australian people into accepting whatever Ideological policies our far right wanted to install. To quote the less than great Chopper Reed, “If you pull a gun on a cop just to scare him you’re likely to scare him into blowing your bloody head off”. What we are seeing is the political version of that statement and I’m afraid it will be the same result. Whoever the our great party elect as leader moving forward, MUST offer the Middle Class of this country hope, not scare it into electing a labour government… I think either Turnbull or Bishop could be that person.

    • Bishop or Turncoat, there is a very real danger that whichever it is will give our sovereignty to the UN on a platter in Paris next September. Then we will be done over and over. The White House chimp is already planning a reflexive law end run around the senate on this issue in the US.

    • I was thinking of Turnbull as Leader, but having reviewed his performance on the Godwin Grech affair, that has to be the greatest lack of judgement by a leader in recent history. Abbott gives a knighthood to some old fool, but Turnbull had egg thrown in his face.

  7. I’m sure that you will be pleased, Yale, that Pauline is leading by three hundred in Lockyer. Irregardless of whether the next premier is Tim Nicholls or Pulletchook, Pauline might end up being the rooster that calls the shots. Pauline, Queen of Queensland has a special ring, don’t you think?

    • Pauline is a lot more civic minded and disinterested in fat Clive the fitter, far more ethical and truer to her own conscience and much more in touch with reality. In fact, next to Tony Abbott, she might be the most virtuous parliamentarian in Australia.

      • So the former Oxley moron could be back representing the good burghers of Lockyer, and next to Abbott she could be the most virtuous parliamentarian in Australia…now that’s a big call, I’d like to hear what Fred Nile would have to say.

  8. Have you considered that the current government has the policies it does because these are the policies it believes in? Abbott has always been a party man, carefully tailoring his persona to match the mainstream of the parliamentary Liberal party. He isn’t an extremist with regards to current Liberal ideology, not at all. The current raft of policies is a reflection of what the party believes in; even the knighting of Prince Phillip fits within this schema.
    Now, it has become apparent that the beliefs the Liberal party holds dear, are not necessarily the same as the beliefs that vast sections of the electorate hold dear. This has always been the case. But, the difference now is that neither of the major parties has the base to win an election in its own right. Something like 20% of the electorate voted for a party other than the majors at the last election. I have no doubt this figure will be repeated at the next election. The nation has become far less tribal/ideological, which years of polling data has pointed to repeatedly. Can the same be said about our major parties?
    I think the confusing thing for most Liberal parliamentarians is they honestly believed the 2013 election was an embrace of their ideological position. Everything since has come as a complete shock. This shock was apparent even before the first budget, which is why the front-bench tip-toed around the commission of audit; they knew it was not going to go down well.
    The government is now looking for a scape-goat, which is really a bit rich considering. Removing Abbott or Credlin, or even the entire front-bench, wont change the belief in the community that the current governments policies are not what a majority of the voting public wants or needs.
    I think many commentators and some MP’s have an inkling of this, which has lead to a really unedifying display of disdain for the people they only recently claimed to intrinsically understand. Its unhelpful to blame ‘selling’ or people being stupid or ungrateful: most voters are able to access a multiplicity of information services, and they have a better understanding of how policies affect them personally than any politician or commentator does.

    As an aside you can already discern a sea-change within sections of the Coalition. Many interviews with parliamentarians over the last few days have involved talk of jobs, economic growth, and opportunity. Austerity is out (which we never really had). I wont be surprised if the next budget is far more expansionist, at least in the short to medium term. It would be nice if sections of the right commentariat stopped comparing our fiscal position to that of Greece’s, which just makes them out of touch and look silly. It wont help the government in the task it has ahead of it.

  9. Pingback: Malcolm Turnbull – A Prick and a Turd…. | millermatters's Blog

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