Liberal Leadership: ALP Right To Be “On Alert” To Bishop As PM

A REPORT in The Australian suggests that despite raising merry hell in its nihilistic, childish demonisation of the Abbott government, Labor is awake to where its real threat lies if the Prime Minister is torn down; Malcolm Turnbull may be the choice of pollsters and pinkos desperate to see the Liberal Party sabotaged from within, but conservatives who will never tolerate him will accept Julie Bishop: and the ALP knows this much at least.

Before we get too far in this morning, I should like to note there are now two (2) issues “in the backlog” that I will, time permitting, discuss with readers in coming days: the “economic and infrastructure policy” matter I alluded to late last week, as well as a foreign policy matter that is flying unhealthily under the radar at present but which — whilst completely “unsexy” — ought to occupy a presence in the minds of those who care about such matters, painful as it may be from time to time.

And the general election that is only seven weeks away in the UK has occupied no space in this column whatsoever, despite the close interest I have taken in British politics since I was a schoolboy, and this is something we may look at during the week as something of a cover-all wrap (although I believe, at this point, that the Conservative Party is looking likelier to survive its date with voters than not, albeit whether in Coalition, minority or outright government remains a point of conjecture).

But following on from my article yesterday, and the ill-considered and foolish link drawn by Labor’s Foreign spokesman Tanya Plibersek between asylum seeker policy and the fate of two condemned Bali Nine drug traffickers (which is getting a stronger run in the press this morning as it is recognised Plibersek has signalled — as this column called it yesterday — that Labor would abandon the measures that have stopped asylum seekers reaching Australia by boat), it seems the ALP is at least alert to a very real threat it faces from the Coalition even as it continues to ride high in opinion polls on the back of missteps by the Abbott government and its own tawdry mischief.

That threat — embedded as it is in the continuing uncertainty over the Liberal Party leadership — involves a degree of foresight that is uncharacteristic of Labor in its present incarnation, so obsessed with the trivialities of the here and now as it has been for the past 18 months.

It is the subject of an article in The Australian this morning by Troy Bramston, who reports that the ALP has been conducting focus group research into the alternative leadership prospects on offer to the Liberals if Tony Abbott is pushed under the proverbial bus by his colleagues, and the thing that really surprises me about this is that for once, Labor appears to have reached conclusions that actually mirror reality rather than the idiotic, dishonest pap served up daily by its “leader” as the ALP’s contribution (for lack of a better word) to the political debate.

In fact — given the electoral risk this column has stoutly maintained Malcolm Turnbull would pose to the Coalition as Prime Minister — I am very surprised Labor’s research calls it as it is rather than leaking material to a journalist that might better serve its own interests if doctored and skewed to make Turnbull appear as the Liberals’ salvation.

It recognises that many voters — just like many Liberal MPs — “remain hostile” to Turnbull.

It recognises that Turnbull is seen as “too ambitious,” too rich, and too out of touch.

It recognises that Turnbull heralds little appeal to voters in crucial outer suburban marginal electorates, noting that he is (correctly) perceived in these areas as “smarmy.”

And in an apparent distinction between the blithe accord it acknowledges that Turnbull’s stellar “appeal” might see the Coalition re-elected in a whitewash under his leadership and the hard reality that Turnbull would attract few votes from the Left whilst haemorrhaging conservative votes from the Right, it recognises that “soft Liberal and soft Labor” voters like Bishop and relate to her.

Implicit is the further recognition that unlike Turnbull, Bishop is acceptable to conservative Liberals (even if, in some measure, only because she is not in fact Turnbull) and that the Liberal Right would entertain her as a leadership candidate where it would never do so in regard to Turnbull.

Labor is right to be conducting this kind of qualitative research — and declining to colour its findings — for its own “leader” is a political and policy lightweight no better than a schoolyard bully throwing stones and taunts; in an irony that should be lost on nobody, Bill Shorten has much to be thankful for toward Tony Abbott and the defective, misfiring coterie of advisers that surround him: no properly calibrated tactical and strategic outfit would make the mistake of deliberately seeking to “marginalise” Shorten.

Rather, it would crucify him, and as gently as Bishop may be perceived in contrast to Abbott, the indications already exist that she would have no truck with either Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, or the shamefully inept apparatus she has erected around the government.

In short, Bishop would remake the government behind the scenes in addition to providing a fresh and more popular face. The same cannot be confidently said of Turnbull.

I’m not going to talk at great length about this today, and I think readers are best served in perusing Bramston’s article, for it covers the ground quite adequately without a simple regurgitation of its findings here although I note, without alarm, that it also identifies drawbacks in Bishop as a potential leader: and that any prospective leader of any mainstream political party comes with drawbacks as well as benefits. The more pertinent consideration is how those balance out.

Even John Howard, in early 1995, was thought in some quarters (including some friendly to and/or rusted onto the Coalition) to merely offer the Liberals a path to a close and honourable defeat against Paul Keating that could form the basis for a successful tilt at office at an election in late 1998 or early 1999. How events can change political speculation!

Or Mark Latham, by contrast, was elevated by the ALP, believing his policy ideas would outweigh the risks presented by his volatile and unruly temperament: a calculation that backfired spectacularly, with Labor policy under Latham being a catastrophe (“Medicare Gold,” anyone?) and its election prospects fatally punctured on election eve by footage of Latham “shaking” hands with Howard in a radio studio that seared into the voters’ collective conscience the notion he was nothing more than a bully and a thug.

I remain hopeful that Tony Abbott can yet survive as Prime Minister and turn around the fortunes of both his own standing and that of his government, although whether he does or not seems to be nearing a decisive point: for every good performance and every advance the PM seemingly makes, a fresh snafu or own goal lobs into the political mix from friendly quarters; just last night, Education minister Christopher Pyne — ramping up pressure over the government’s higher education reforms — made the unbelievable mistake of apparently threatening 1,700 university research jobs if the measures continued to be stalled in the Senate.

It is the latest in an apparently endless list of needless errors.

As for Credlin, she may not be — literally — as visible as she had been prior to the abortive leadership spill attempt last month, but the fact she continues to direct the government from behind the scenes at all dictates that the piteous errors generated by her brand of centralised political control will continue: and perhaps deliver the knockout blow to Abbott’s standing quicker than some might care to think.

In this regard, the imperative for Bishop to be promoted as an alternative to Turnbull is, literally, a life-or-death matter for the Liberals where its electoral prospects are concerned.

Labor recognises it too. And from the material it has linked to Bramston, it appears the ALP is under no illusions as to the threat her ascension might pose to it.

Shorten and Labor have been given a free and easy ride on the Abbott/Credlin watch.

Were Bishop to become Prime Minister, the going would become far more difficult: and with Shorten shown up as the political lightweight and union bully he really is, the dangers for the ALP are obvious, and should not be underestimated: least of all, by itself.



12 thoughts on “Liberal Leadership: ALP Right To Be “On Alert” To Bishop As PM

  1. I find it amusing that you must think that the ALP is briefing journalists on these confidential focus group findings in the interests of assisting the LNP choose the right leader.

    What the ALP fears most is a clean transition from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull. But the ALP hopes to see a 3-cornered contest for the leadership between Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull & Julie Bishop. Only a 3-cornered contest would guarantee maximum damage to the LNP ahead of the 2016 election and also potentially destroys 3 leaders in one hit.

    • Alex, I can only speculate on your inclination (and that off very other non-conservatively inclined voter) to want to pump up Turnbull’s tyres: he is not the Messiah, he is not the ticket to a thumping Liberal election win, he is NOT the best candidate on offer, and he would lose far more votes than (the few) he would attract.

      Anything else I’m afraid is wishful thinking on the part of both Liberals desperate for a circuit breaker and/or those outside the party desperately hoping it falls willingly into the Turnbull trap.

      Which of these groups do you sit in, Alex?

      • I’ve told you Yale. I’m that rarest of bird that doesn’t have any tribal loyalty at all. I want to see Australia’s economy fixed, and Malcolm Turnbull is the only MP in the Parliament with both the communication skills, and understanding of how to balance economic rationalism with Australia’s egalitarian culture.

        So to get this straight: you just said that you think the ALP leaked these findings because they desperately want the LNP to fall into the Turnbull trap?

        • I recall. Yet you may have been looking to jump on board with a Turnbull-led Liberal Party…

          Alex, that is not the reason I gave for Labor leaking them; aside from the fact this sort of thing leaks all the time, the reasons could be any number of things — not least to try to damage Bishop by drawing attention to the drawbacks the Labor research identified (which I also alluded to in my remarks).

          Labor’s best option as it sees it is to leave Tony Abbott where he is, or failing that to have him replaced with the (leadership) liability that Turnbull is.

          I think if there is any motive behind the leak at all it is as a carefully balanced construct that dumps on Abbott but seeks to appear “reasonable” about Bishop whilst in fact propagating doubts about her too.

          Everyone knows what the pitfalls with Malcolm are — even those who want to push his barrow as leader. The leaked material in that regard is neither new nor particularly sensational.

          I do agree with you about Malcolm on one point — he should be Treasurer. Anyone who can convince him to put his delusions to the Prime Ministership away and his hand up for Hockey’s job — and commit to it if he gets it — will find me actively barracking for the same outcome.

          Turnbull, however, has no interest in this storyline, methinks.

          • Bramston’s article states that the focus group research was “briefed to this column by several sources”. I’d say it’s a very deliberate leak, at a time when the ALP is disciplined.

          • Yale, I think you are guilty of over thinking this and looking for the Machiavellian twists at every turn – but so be it.

            What is probably going to be more interesting is the Four Corners piece tonight on the machinations of the spill, the role of Credlin and the reactions to her. I suspect you will take some vicarious pleasure in the skewering she will get, but there will be some pain as the true extent of Abbott’s self preservation tactics are shown.

            Then again, given that Four Corners is part of the ABC leftist conspiracy to overthrow the LNP government, you may prefer to watch My Kitchen Rules and improve your cooking technique.

            • I’m already a self-trained chef, Bob D. I don’t need to watch horse shit like MKR and I certainly wouldn’t do so if I wanted to “improve” anything. 🙂

              That said, I will be watching Four Corners tonight. Something has to ultimately provide a catalyst to rid the government of Credlin, her husband, or preferably both. Who knows, your lefty conspiracy might just be the thing to do it.

    • Dont agree at all.
      The ALP would love a transition to Turnbull, because old Full of Bull would lose LNP supporters in their droves.
      I would not vote for him, none of my friends would, also recent polling a few weeks back has come up with a similar result, conservative voters dont want to know about him…the ABC and Fairfax does tho, Andrew Bolt says he is inundated with calls from conservative voters saying the same thing, how you can possibly think Turnbull as the leader of the LNP would worry the ALP is ridiculous.
      Then there is his past, his the HIH scandal, thats not dead in the water by any means, his dodgy practices with Goldman Sachs, what about when Malcolm Turnbull was chairman of Axiom Forest Resources in the early 1990s? their Solomon Islands’ subsidiary was described as having some of the worst logging practices in the world…leaving permanent environmental damage, then theres his hopeless stint as leader of the LNP when Rudd was PM.
      I could go on and on, all I would say is if I was in the ALP I would be rejoicing if Turnbull was made leader.
      I assume you are an ALP voter and therefore want Turnbull as leader, because you seem to know little about him.
      However he may be OK as a treasurer..maybe.
      His past dodgy reputation is only eclipsed by Union thug and deadhead Shortens reputation, who will be dead in the water if the LNP get their problems sorted out and turn the blowtorch onto him and his union past and lack of any vision at all.
      Actually the LNP’s best asset is the new ALP state premiers in Queensand and Victoria, the problems have already started, billions to the Unions in Victoria, Hells Angels bike rides through Queensland and a premiere who did not even know the GST rate, and the party is only beginning, it will be stern reminder to gullible voters what the ALP is like.
      Of course once Shitten is forced to admit he wants to bring back the boats by overturning the current LNP policy, plus take in more refugees from Iraq and the middle east (free votes for Labor) and bring back an ETS….then watch his popularity drop like a stone.
      Actually I think any leader of the LNP (even Turnbull) will beat the ALP at the next election, once the cards are laid on the table and the new Queensland and Victorian premieres have had time to wreck those states.

  2. Abbott doesn’t stand a chance for three little letters. ABC. No matter how good he is or does, the ABC will tear him apart. Until they are brought in line his leadership doesn’t stand a chance.

    • Ahh, the ABC will be the downfall of the LNP with their leftist agenda and hatred of conservatism….. what a crock.
      The ABC’s ratings are significantly below those of the commercial TV stations, and in radio the same applies.
      Just admit it, shooting the messenger is all you have as you try to support this inept government.

      • Don’t forget that the ABC is allowed far more audience penetration than any commercial outlet is.

        Generally I think the ABC issue should be kept separate from any others, and the salient point is this; We are paying a Billion $$$ per year for what is literally a third or fourth rate network. Given the resources available to it, the ratings should be far higher.

        This begs the question of why don’t they rate better? Simply put, they have nothing new to say. On any topic, you know what the ABC is going to say before they broadcast. They’re as consistent as Pravda was in the 80s.

        Let’s face it. If Abbott beat Shorten in a race, the ABC report would be that Shorten came second and Abbott came second last. 😉 Predictability is boring and interests nobody and this is a sad state of affairs for the national broadcaster to be in. Australia deserves better and so does the ABC.

  3. I have read the foregoing comments with interest and amazement. Voters could NOT wait to be rid of a very defective & inept Labor government, managed by two hopeless PMs in Gillard & Rudd, who came very close to stuffing this country completely. As for shadey Bill being the next PM…………………………… God forbid!!

    LNP need to be seriously looking at damage control measures! It seems that every time Abbott opens his mouth lately, he shoots himself in the foot. The ABC & others are just waiting to dramatise anything they can to such a point that Australians will start to believe that they have an idiot at the helm who, if re-elected, will be the demise of life as we know it!!!!! All the crap that went on for years under the previous Labor regime, will be either forgotten or forgiven, giving Labor a very real chance of getting back into office……………………….Heaven forbid, again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Malcolm would certainly be Labor’s pick for LNP leader, as they would be seriously thinking with him at the helm they would be a “shoe-in” at the 2016 polls. Julie baby would be a whole different matter. Me thinks that when it comes to playing hard ball she would teach bronco Bill a think or two. Out of Turnbull or Bishop I know who will get my vote & it wouldn’t be the former!!!

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