By Dr Strobe Driver
Normally I restrict my opinions to international relations issues with a particular emphasis on war and conflict however, the arrival of Malcolm Turnbull on the ABC’s Q&A programme made me want to offer a possibility of Malcolm being the ‘comeback kid,’ a term that was originally applied to Bill Clinton. So I suppose there is some relevance to international relations. Nevertheless, the opportunity was too much, as was the chance to suggest how he will ‘come back.’
The well-balanced, nuanced, articulate and commendable accuracy—albeit with only accomplishments writ large—in the ex-prime minister’s (pm) appearance on the ABC’s Q&A special edition as part of New South Wales Festival of Dangerous Ideas programme on 8 November, 2018, was exceptional only in that the ex-pm was able to contain his incandescent rage at those that unseated him (read: kicked him out of office). It should also be noted that Mr Turnbull also kept insisting that though he is ‘retired,’ that does not exclude him from making a comment about his ‘brilliant leadership,’ and the aforesaid ‘accomplishments’ therein. Nor should an ex-pm be excluded from the debate as a free and opinionated citizen in the liberal-democracy of Australia—all should have their say outside of the shackles of slander and smear in a robust democracy. Was it just me, or did others get the notional understanding that Malcolm Turnbull is in the nascent phase of being a ‘comeback kid’? The once ‘Honourable’ Malcolm Turnbull wants the title back! This was his first go at establishing what will be a fast and furious transition to Minister of Parliament, although a few things will have to happen first.
The most important ‘thing’ to happen is that the Honourable Bill Shorten wins the next election and within this happening there is a ‘blowback’ within the Liberal Party and its ‘rusted on’ voters. The demise of Ministers Abbott, Birmingham, Cormann, Dutton, Hunt, Seselja—or at the very least, a significant plunge in their popularity—and several others such as Craig Kelly and Nigel Scullion and other ‘faceless men’ (that term sounds familiar), will have to take place as this will segue into Turnbull being ‘invited’ back to the ‘sensible centre’ of the Liberal Party; and the Liberal Party per se. Where will this mysterious invite emanate from and will there be enough constituents in the area concerned to vote for Turnbull because he is well … the one and only Malcolm Turnbull. What has to happen is the revenge-vote has to come to the fore and the constituents concerned will want to send a message, to the Honourable Member Shorten and paradoxically, the Liberal Party as well. Who will it be and what seat will it be? Subtleness is the key here, and more to the point it will have to be like a hand-pass in Aussie Rules—seamless, a small move and able to help someone else kick a goal, something for the greater good. From then on it is Malcolm who will be kicking goals all the way back to the prime ministership. Turnbull has this as his ultimate goal after last week’s Q&A, and he knows time is short but he does have the sympathy vote in hand; a large portion of the Australian public thinking he is ‘PM material;’ and he is still young enough to pursue this avenue. And theoretically, if Shorten makes a hash of it then he only has four or so years to wait—and as it stands there is a dearth of talent in the Liberal Party—especially ‘leadership talent.’ This is perhaps Turnbull’s greatest weapon within the Liberal Party. Where will he go and what will he do to achieve this?
Casting an eye over the Liberal Party and their seats as well as their ‘rusted on’ supporters one can be forgiven for thinking that the Honourable Karen Phelps might be the first to have her seat removed as Liberal Party people remove a person who was a blip on their political radar. This is however, unlikely as to vote someone else in instead of Malcolm is tantamount to being traitorous to the cause, whereas voting in Phelps was not traitorous, it was a reaction—it was voting out the Liberal Party not voting Phelps in. This happened in the resurgence of the Labor Party in Victoria after the mind-boggling horrors of the Kennett years in Victoria, it wasn’t that Bracks was particularly great, it was he was so vastly more in touch with the people of Victoria that he would ‘do.’ Out with Kennet, not in with Bracks and the other ‘99ers’ as they were called.
So, who will give up their seat in order to place Malcolm in a robust conservative position with a strong middle-of-the-road sentiment? We have to go to the old stomping ground of Bennelong where they were willing to give a radical new-age thinking a go and an articulate woman a chance (Maxine McKew). After they realised what they ‘had done,’ they returned to lackadaisical ‘everything will be fine,’ ‘no need to panic,’ run-of-the-mill political mainstream—the Honourable John Alexander. This is where Turnbull’s greatest opportunity is, a solid Liberal seat that doesn’t want to venture into the unknown again, (because it was obviously quite scary to have an articulate woman in the job), yet it offers unlimited opportunity for another go at the prime ministership—and who in this seat would not be begging for a change from the humdrum of the current incumbent?
Turnbull and his advisors must be looking at Bennelong and their mouths must be watering, a seamless transition, a ‘rusted on’ group of voters and the chance for these ‘aspirationals’ to have a prime minister in their midst. And whats more, it wouldn’t cost Turnbull a cent (unlike his last grab at the job), he would just majestically reappear—the first step in his new Aussie ‘bloke having a go’ at what is rightfully his; and should never have been taken away. Don’t underestimate Turnbull’s ambition; or his rage.
This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.
Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University. The views expressed in this article are his own.