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Day to Day Politics: Just go, Malcolm. Just go.

Saturday April 7 2018

No doubt as one day amalgamates with the next the media will feed itself into a frenzy over the inevitable 30th Newspoll in which the Prime Minister will have, by his words, self judged his performance.

Sure, he will have equalled his predecessor’s record and in doing so each will lay claim to the dubious position of being just as bad as the other. But in all probability it would be fair to say that Turnbull will surpass Abbott by a long-shot.

Realistically though, forgetting the individual leaders for a moment, what we are looking at is a government that, come Monday, will have lost 60 Newspolls in a row and given its intention to go the distance, the figure may go to 90. Needless to say that the Coalition will have spent around four and a half years chasing the tail of their opposition.

That they have learned nothing in that time goes without saying, and you have to hand it to Shorten and his team. They have out-politicked the Coalition at every turn and have been aided and abetted by stupidity from Turnbull and his cohort of highly-educated but dunderheaded politicians.

Birmingham’s botch with Catholic Education, Turnbull and Frydenberg’s mismanagement of Energy, Turnbull’s failure to sell his tax cuts and his party’s head in the sand attitude towards marriage equality. You can add into that some individual personality traits that leave the public cold.

Together with Shorten’s political cunning the opposition has left the government with not much to look forward to. Even their official conservative newsletter The Australian is beginning to concede that they will find it very difficult to win the next election.

Dennis Shanahan concedes that Shorten, with a revised Franking Credit policy that won’t affect pensioners, has outwitted Turnbull, and bested the government on political strategy and electoral strength. Add to that a disastrous quarterly state by state Newspoll analysis, and you can see their predicament.

On Thursday night they dragged out an ageing former Prime Minister to confront a bemused Lee Sales (what are you doing here?) to talk up the party’s chances at the next election. Instead, he made them seem as old in ideas as Howard himself.

“They will be very unhappy and very angry with the parliamentary party if, through what they regard as their negligence, the opportunity of pinning the Labor Party on many policy failures is passed over.”

An observation

“Instead of searching within when we are at fault the first human reaction is to apportion blame elsewhere. Why is that so?”

This is how Paddy Manning put it in The Monthly:

“The Prime Minister and his senior colleagues were convinced the tax grab would alienate Labor voters and give the Coalition a lift in the latest Newspoll”, Shanahan writes, “perhaps even heading off the dreaded 30th losing Newspoll survey in a row”. He concludes: “people are not listening to the Coalition.”

Elsewhere in the Oz, Victorian political editor John Ferguson writes [$] that the Newspoll, which shows the government heading for inevitable defeat, will divide the Coalition.

In another article the following day Manning said:

“Suddenly and yet predictably, the waters have risen around Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whom, we learnt last night, may have already lost the support of his party room ahead of Monday’s 30th losing Newspoll. Whether the leadership challenge comes from Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton, Tony Abbott or a resurrected Peter Costello, it seems only a matter of time.”

When Malcolm Turnbull came to power, I, like many others, naively thought that after Abbott’s confrontational gutter style politics we would see a new era in the practice of political discourse. Not exactly a lovey dovey one but at least it would be sensible and reasoned. After all, Malcolm for some time had been doing the rounds of media programs espousing his own particular brand of diplomatic civility. He was overwhelming seen as the conservative leader we had to have.

At the time I wrote:

“Conversely, Malcolm Turnbull, will it appears, obtain the office with a calculated mixture of personal charm, reasonableness, and consummate diplomacy. He presents a façade of calm confidence and understanding in stark contrast to Abbott who shows all of the traits of a man who has lost control of his emotions.”

The Saturday Paper in December 2015 said this of Turnbull:

“He has worked up a lovely public persona: as cultured as Keating but blessed with a kinder sense of humour; as intelligent as Rudd but far from as malevolent. And somehow, with his green-froth-drinking diet success and his endearing leather jackets and business shirts, his Stephen Fry-like adoration of gadgets and mastery of social media, his raffish smile and mellifluous voice, he has formed the perfect personality for most popular, and probably most trusted, politician in the nation.”

Now his future looks as black as the stuff that will bring about his inevitable downfall. Social media is alive with the news that a party room meeting has been called for Monday morning and that Peter Dutton will challenge. I cannot vouch for the veracity of that but it well maybe that the PM has lost control of his party and that the lovers of the black dust, the science haters, have won the day.

But wait, surely this cannot be right! This must be fake news or someone making mischief. Peter Dutton challenging Malcolm Turnbull. Parliament doesn’t return until May. Peter Dutton? NO. Pull the other one.

Back to Turnbull. I wrote three years ago that:

Try as one might it is difficult to feel even a touch of remorse for a man who sold out all his long-held beliefs for the title of Prime Minister of Australia.

When he allows and condones the xenophobic racist rhetoric of the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton any thoughts I had left that he might bring a new era of politics have been finally laid to rest.

Given that all this is true and a challenge is imminent, Turnbull does have a couple of things that could save him.

Firstly, he could threaten – if confronted by the possibility of being rolled – to immediately resign his seat and bring about a by-election.

Secondly, he could tell the party room that if they ditch him he will give them the greatest spray (the far-right in particular) ever given by a departing PM. Effectively he could bring the government down.

Either would have the effect of certain defeat.

Could it be that come Monday Tony Abbott will extract his full revenge by seeing his rival defeated? Will it finally reveal to the public that this has had nothing to do with the common good of the nation but everything to do with the ego’s of two men who’s only interest is their own grip on power?

Two men whose failures stand out like neon signs as testimony to their egocentric self indulgence. Turnbull for his hypocrisy and Abbott for his lying.

Now we have a group calling themselves the Monash Forum demanding that the government spend billions of taxpayer’s dollars building a new power station that would be unprofitable before completion. All the usual climate deniers are involved … Joyce, Kelly and Abbott etc. They are probably more intent on damaging the Prime Minister than anything else.

Senior ministers like Morison, the man who was just a short time ago exposing the virtues of coal with a piece of it in the parliament was now slapping down the idea. No, I’m not joking.

But the biggest kick up the backside came from the descendants of Monash himself when they said he would not have wanted to be associated with such an “anti-science and anti-intellectual” group.

Tony Abbott has said he will respond if Mr Turnbull loses a 30th Newspoll, arguing his rival should be expected to explain why the standard he set in 2015 does not apply to his own prime ministership.

And we the public will just have to contemplate our own collective conscience and ask ourselves why we elected either of them in the first place.

My thought for the day

Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s well-being for the sake of it.

PS: Former prime minister Tony Abbott’s on-air claim that “there is a very serious situation developing in South Africa. Something like 400 white farmers have been murdered, brutally murdered, over the last 12 months,” was ranked “baseless” in an RMIT and ABC Fact Check. Lying comes so easy for the well-practiced.

PPS: Thanks to everyone who contributed to my post “A New Way Forward”. I have been a bit stressed out of late and needed a short break, but I will be onto it ASAP.

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  1. Graeme Henchel

    I don’t believe that the coalition party room will ditch Turnbull. They know that he is the least worst option they have. They will lose with Turnbull but will lose much harder under any of the other pretenders. The only way for Abbott to survive long term is to become opposition leader after the election lose. If he were to take power now he would lead them to oblivion and lose his own seat in the process. The same can be said for any of them.

    If they were to ditch Turnbull I think we would see the biggest dummy spit of all time. Rather than resign and cause a by election, Turnbull could resign from the party and sit as an independent thus denying them a majority and precipitating an election. He is that sort of guy.

  2. Terry2

    Welcome back John

    Malcolm ‘Bligh’ Turnbull is a parody of the former master of the Bounty and Governor of New South Wales from whom his family have adopted the name.

    The British naval officer William Bligh had a turbulent career largely, it seems, frustrated by those around him who sought at every opportunity to bring him down.

    Tony Abbott is Turnbull’s Fletcher Christian, a truculent popinjay who struts and postures – frequently in lycra – and seeks to undermine Malcolm’s authority and turn this ship of fools against against their captain.

    Or is Abbott Bligh Turnbull’s John Macarthur seeking to disrupt the orderly management of Australia’s economy and have his version of a rum rebellion to overthrow the prime minister.

    Perhaps the analogy with Fletcher Christian holds more water and perhaps it would be in Turnbull’s interests to allow Abbott to take the Bounty and shove him off into the wide blue Pacific with the prospect of him running up on some remote Pacific Island, perhaps even Nauru !

    Meanwhile. did the Monash Muppets turn into pumpkins at sunset on Friday as demanded by Time Fischer ?

    Popinjay, such a lovely word and so appropriate : *a vain or conceited person,
    especially one who dresses [ lycra again ?] or behaves extravagantly

  3. New England Cocky

    Interesting alternatives available Graeme. I am reminded of the split between Muddles Turdball and Kerry Packer over the failed purchase of Fairfax. Muddles was unapologetic and defended his position by telling some of the details. The social and business status of Packer was an irrelevancy.

    Your proposal for independence and precipitating an election for lack of Parliamentary confidence appears similar. It would fit his “ethical position” of making the best possible decision for his electorate of Wentworth and throw the unelected political hacks who control pre-selection in the Liarbral Party into confusion. Indeed, such a strategy would ensure that his immediate successor was among the shortest duration holders of the office of PM in Australian history.

    Then there is the Barnyard Joke situation. Presently local gossip has the sometime representative of the National$ in Northern Tablelands and NSW Minister for Good Times Holla Marshall as the likely replacement candidate. Local political progressives (yes, they do exist despite the local MSM) have coined the preferred three word slogan “Adulterers prefer National$” and the more perceptive “Women supporting Adultery support National$” as a way of engaging the thinking half of the local population.

  4. David1

    Good morning from NZ. I have returned to the land of my birth after 23 years in Australia, most of which were enjoyable and in the company of many new friends and acquaintances on WA’s South coast.
    An enthralling article John, I will share it on Twitter with my 2000 plus followers and hopefully many like minded Kiwis. I am looking forward to keeping up to date with Australian politics through AIM and the downfall of this disastrous Tory Government with the victory of a Shorten Labor Government.

    Best wishes to everyone.

  5. Zathras

    After the Abbott disaster, Turnbull put himself forward as a principled and rational alternative that could unite his party but turned out to be just another disappointing, ineffective and opportunistic hypocrite.

    His party has become even more fragmented and extreme and rather than taking a personal stand against those challenging elements he has embraced many of their ideas in exchange for hanging onto his ego-satisfying job.

    Because he had to buy his way into politics by using his own money to fund a campaign against a sitting Liberal member suggests that he was never “one of them” in the first place and therefore had no factional support.

    Going back to Abbott would quickly remind everyone of his Trump-like irrational behaviour and I don’t think the public are ready to embrace the arrogant Mussolini-like approach of Dutton as an alternative.

    I agree that the best thing Turnbull could do for what’s left of his reputation is to resign, walk away and leave the rest of the party to eat itself from within.

  6. helvityni

    Welcome back John; what happened to Mal’s smile… ?

  7. johnlord2013

    It comes and goes helvityni.

  8. Ricardo29

    The Coalition is on a seesaw, or teeter-totter as the yanks would have it, and it’s pretty finely balanced.If the Murdock muckrakers see the writing on the wall, and apparently there is evidence some individual writes do, then editorial support might turn to outright criticism and while I can’t see Rupert advocating for Labor, a less than enthusiastic support for the Coalition (or even an even-handed approach) might be enough to turn the tide convincingly. The important thing, from my point of view, is that Malcolm isn’t given the chance to pluck a win as a result of MSM manipulation.

  9. Henry Rodrigues

    This PM was and is, just a selfseeker. Everything he says and does is to befuddle and confuse the electors into thinking he is different from the rest of the dunderheads and nasties in his rotten party. His attempts at bonhomie, black leather camouflage, fake cheery grin, desperately seeking to persuade unfortunate passengers on a suburban train to appear in a selfie with him, have all fallen flat. His continued occupancy of the Lodge is due in great part, to the conspiracy by MSM to promote his nonexistent leadership qualities and deny any legitimacy to a worthy opposition led by Bill Shorten, who has outwitted the poser from Point Piper from the day he ousted Mad Abbott.

  10. ajogrady

    The best of the L/NP is Abbott the grub and the Turnbull the jellyfish that has morphed into a grub. It does not say a lot for Australians who voted these cretins into govern Australia but says more about the medias ability to pervert rational thinking.

  11. Terry2

    Interesting what you hear !

    A conversation over Easter with a Canberra visitor and sometime lobbyist, he mentioned that it is common knowledge in Canberra circles that Peter Dutton is an incredibly lazy person and almost entirely devoid of policy initiatives within his portfolio. Most of his energy evidently goes into preparation for his weekly whinge and self promotion session on 2GB with Ray Hadley.

    Since becoming Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in December 2014 in the Abbott Government and then on 18 July 2017, Minister for Home Affairs , his one priority should have been resettling refugees from the Manus and Nauru detention centres but apart from the costly and disastrous deal with Cambodia and the swap deal with Obama (negotiated by Turnbull) he has done nothing and still they languish.

    Seems ably suited to be our next PM – The Stephen Bradbury of politics !

  12. Kronomex

    Herr Dutton is not going to let them ditch Turnbull because his replacement might just remove him from his super department and then he returns to being a little balding nobody on the back bench.

    On second thought, he helped knife Abbott and may well do the same to Turnbull if he can see some way of remaining where he is. Gah, trying to figure out what this horrid sprout is going to do is frustrating.

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict that they won’t get remove Trembles, he’s too important as a puppet leader and PM.

  13. wam

    Compared to the rabbott and his joey, trumball and the son of a small car are a long way in front of the shorten image.
    ps Who expects humans to be reacting other than human? You are in good company, laud.

    ‘That seems to point up a significant difference between Europeans and Americans. A European says: “I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with me?” An American says: “I can’t understand this, what’s wrong with him?”

    — (Terry Pratchett)

    but miles away from the professor.

  14. richard

    Take care of yourself you are important to us.

  15. guest

    David Flint has been writing in The Spectator recently, exhorting Turnbull to resign. Turnbull, to Flint, is a treacherous, backstabbing failure. And who should become PM in Turnbull’s place? Why, Abbott of course. He said what?

    Abbott, says Flint, performs “better than anyone else” because “he speaks the language of the people”, there is “no better campaigner” and he has a “Trump-like agenda”. Of course, to say this, Flint has to ignore Abbott’s many lies and deep ignorance, as well as the fact he and his government lost 30 Newspolls in a row. Remember, also, his wonderful first Budget?

    Flint believes Abbott’s downfall was all part of a conspiracy against him, combined with a contrary commentariat. Is he perhaps thinking of the ABC?

    Flint looks forward to Abbott as PM, because he is not like Turnbull, who is “born-again believer in the increasingly questionable theory of man-made global warming”. And we need him to “save us from a Shorten government”.

    One way he could do that would be to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, like Trump, and go for cheap energy (burning coal) – and the Coalition would win the next election in a “landslide”.

    Is this delusional or is this delusional? Where has this man been? Why does he think he is writing wisely or irrefutably? It is weird beyond measure.

    And if Abbott does not succeed, would Flint be willing to advocate someone such as Dutton, perhaps?

  16. Glenn Barry

    Guest, David Flint – magnificent, although I had to google to verify his identity, and sure enough he is the very same pompous monarchist arse from the republic referendum issue.

    The man thinks he is worthy of some level of royal recognition, thoroughly deluded, conceited and overly self important, accordingly a perfect match for those same characteristics in Abbott.

    Abbott is actually a pompous guttersnipe, contradictory as that may seem, though most of his self assessment is diametrically opposed to reality – this he shares with Turnbull.

    Whenever I hear Turnbull levelling criticism against anyone else – the only phenomenon I witness is pure, unadulterated hypocrisy – which leads to one inescapable conclusion – he practices talking into a mirror, a lot – AAH the inadequacy and the vanity…

  17. Chris Ellis

    His best option might be to throw some cash around in the May Budget and then call an election,

  18. diannaart

    Malcolm Turnbull, the very best we will be able to say about the man, when he has finally left politics, never to return, never to utter another unctuous lie, to retire to the Caymans or other low lying Caribbean Islands… to sit and watch the sun rise over the increasing ocean tides with all his conniving mates…

    … the very best we will be able to say is … “At least he didn’t eat entire raw onions (in public), say quite obnoxious things to many women while on a self-aggrandisement tours, Knight an effin’ Prince, wreck everything… not necessarily in that order …

    … ah yes, the things Turnbull did not do … we remember him well.

  19. Stephen2012

    I can’t see the LNP getting rid of Turbull at this stage of the game. 99% of LNP MPs will be resigned to a horror Federal general election, where a number of them are going to lose their seat, therefore you will see them hoping its not them and will be looking to shore their own seat.
    They will not want to bring abbot back and they know in their own mind that dutton really is dangerous, morrison is a nut case and bishop well shes just a celebrity wannaby.

    Yep I sure have been wrong before but thats my opinion.

  20. Kaye Lee

    Tony is going to be pedalling his way through the Latrobe valley on Monday so I doubt anything will happen in Canberra. Most likely they will see how the budget goes.

    The Guardian has an interesting interview with Dutton….

    “Of course I want to be prime minister,” Dutton tells Guardian Australia. He pauses for half a beat. “One day”.

    “I think it’s best to be honest about that, that’s an ambition long-held and is only realistic if stars align and an opportunity comes up.”

  21. Florence nee Fedup

    Turnbull could always call a House Representative single house election. #auspol

  22. Florence nee Fedup

    The PM is throwing cash about, especially Queensland.

  23. New England Cocky

    @Terry2, another perceptive comment. I noted a market testing MSM media campaign for Dutton about six months ago. It was very short, and not widely reported in news broadcasts, but surely checking out public opinion of his acceptability to the voters.

    @Kaye, it is most important that RAbbott pedals his way through anywhere during the break in House business, because that way he may claim Travel Allowance and other expenses on the Parliamentary Allowances Scheme. Well … a man has to make a crust any way he can while he can and prepare for his imminent retirement.

  24. diannaart

    If I was to compare Dutton to Trump (something I can only do in broad daylight), I suggest Dutton is more cunning than Trump, more viciously capable, not a world threat as is Trump, but a very real danger to the future of all Australians.

  25. Julia Ramshaw

    Yes, take care of yourself. You are a rare breed that helps keep a little light of hope alive in these dark times in Australia. You are important.

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