“One version of the get-together is as follows.
Mr Turnbull was back late in Parliament House because his department was being grilled in Senate Estimates hearings. As he left he ran into a friend, business executive and Liberal Party vice-president Tom Harley who also was a friend of Mr Palmer. They agreed Mr Turnbull should text Mr Palmer and invite him to dinner. Another businessman, John Fast, was with them.
In the Parliament House car park Mr Turnbull ran into Dr Parkinson, who had been head of the Environment Department when Mr Turnbull was Environment Minister in 2007. He, too, was invited to dine.”
A couple of weeks ago, I tried to explain to someone that Labor and The Greens couldn’t force a double dissolution in the current circumstances, and that I couldn’t really see a scenario where Abbott was likely to declare one. For a start, even if they blocked supply, Abbott could simply wait till the new Senate and have a great time shifting the focus from the Budget to their “economic vandalism”. Even in the highly unlikely event of the new Senate still refusing to pass appropriation bills, Abbott could still just wait it out, all the time blaming Labor for any problems being caused. “Wouldn’t the Governor-General sack him – like in 1975?” When I tried to explain that John Kerr’s sacking of Whitlam was incredibly divisive, the person declared that it was either a double dissolution or a revolution. Like Russell’s Revolution where we all declare we won’t vote until they get their act together? At this point the conversation broke down.
However, when I’m wrong I’m the first to admit it. Maybe not loudly, or even audibly, but, at least, I do admit it. So I’m going to give you a far-fetched scenario on how a double dissolution may occur. But before I do, I’d like to give you an account of the events leading up to the “secret” dinner between Turnbull, Palmer and Company.
Turnbull – Hi, Tom, good to see you.
Harley – Hi, Malcolm, what you up to?
Turnbull – Just going to grab some dinner. Want to join me?
Harley – Sure. But what if we order too much and can’t finish it?
Turnbull – I know, Clive Palmer’s a friend of yours. Why don’t we invite him along?
Harley – That’s a good idea. And he’s a friend of mine, why don’t you text him at the Minerals Council dinner and ask him to leave that to join us at the Wild Duck.
Turnbull – Slow down, Tom, we haven’t agreed we’re going there yet. We have to get our story straight.
Harley – Sure, you text as we walk into the Parliamentary car park.
Turnbull – Hey look, there’s Martin Parkinson. Hey, Martin, you want to come to dinner with us?
Parkinson – Sure, there’s nothing I’d rather do than hang around with a couple of Liberals, given how Tony Abbott has liberated me from my job.
Harley – Clive’s probably going to join us.
Parkinson – Super. Clive’s so much fun. I hope we’re going to The Wild Duck. I hear they have a banana split to die for.
Now, for the far-fetched scenario.
With Abbott languishing in the polls, Turnbull is doing the numbers. His dinner with Palmer was all about garnering support for certain items, so that he could add his ability to convince Clive to pass them as an extra selling point when making his case that the time has come for a change. Palmer, on the other hand, is extracting deals from Turnbull. And Parkinson would have a good idea about what was and wasn’t possible.
Abbott gets wind of Turnbull’s plan, and decides to do the only possible thing to ensure the long term future. He calls a double dissolution, so that leadership speculation has to stop and the party has to unite behind him. Once he wins that, he figures that his leadership will be safe. But what about being behind in the polls? Abbott decides that he’d have a better chance of winning an election where Murdoch backs him, than a party room ballot where nobody does.
Yep, that does sound far-fetched, doesn’t it? Scenario A sounds much more credible. Like I said, I always admit when I’m wrong.