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Is Turnbull Campaigning?

Is Malcolm Turnbull deliberately waging a subtle campaign to undermine Tony Abbott? If one takes a closer look at some of his recent comments, one might detect just a hint of something along those lines.

While Turnbull continues to support the PM publicly, astute observers might wonder if we are witnessing a covert scheme to undermine Abbott’s authority.

Turnbull’s contradiction of both Abbott and Hockey on the superannuation idea, his open criticism about the budget, his somewhat comedic reference in parliament this week to Abbott’s infamous suppository remark, all have a tinge of ridicule nicely camouflaged.

Contrast those with Abbott’s three comments this week covering the post-tsunami aid given to the Indonesians, the Aboriginal rural ‘lifestyle choices’ and the response to the United Nations asylum seeker claims and we have two diametrically opposed attempts at playing the leader.

One is desperately trying to re-establish his credibility, the other asserting his own.

Take a closer look at this picture by Andrew Meares of The Age. One man looks completely relaxed while the other is clearly feeling the strain. It is a telling sign that the pressure to perform is very one-sided.

A few weeks ago, Turnbull gave a presidential-like performance on Q&A. Since then, his higher than normal profile suggests that a concerted campaign to force another spill motion is in play.

Even Turnbull’s defence of Abbott’s ‘lifestyle choices’ comments included what could be interpreted as a put-down. When he said that Abbott’s comments should not be turned into a “let’s-give-Tony-Abbott-a-belting occasion”, was that code for the opposite?

I’m not a politician, but I would have thought if there was a golden rule in this precarious occupation it would be: careful who you pick a fight with and never find yourself fighting on two fronts.

Tony Abbott has been in the game long enough to know this, yet in the space of just a few days he has broken both these rules; indeed he has now picked three fights on three fronts.

Right now, with two young Australians about to be executed in Indonesia and with us taking every diplomatic step we can to help them, picking a fight as he did by reminding their president of our assistance during the 2011 tsunami, was poor form.

If Abbott expected his comment to resonate with Joko Widodo he was right, but for all the wrong reasons. The Indonesian President’s response was entirely predictable and would most certainly have strengthened his resolve to see the executions carried out, if indeed, he needed any.

Perhaps the majority of Australians don’t give a rat’s hiss about Indonesia but international diplomacy demands greater respect than that. Tony Abbott’s insensitivity might have made things worse.

Then came his callous reference to Indigenous Australian’s “lifestyle choice”. For someone who boasts spending a lot of time in rural aboriginal communities, one would have thought he had some understanding of their connection to the land.

His comments on Alan Jones radio program are a testament to his ignorance of their culture, their religious beliefs and their traditions. On both these occasions, Abbott sounded and acted like a 19th century colonial.

The third front Abbott has constructed for himself is his confrontation with the United Nations over our government’s treatment of Asylum seekers.

Saying that Australians are sick of being lectured by the UN is, once again, not the choice of words a national leader should be choosing.

In the meantime, Malcolm Turnbull has taken to the stage and is looking and sounding more prime ministerial than ever. He has chosen when and how to broadcast himself cunningly and he has picked the right issues to do it.

Don’t be surprised if he starts popping up more frequently, in more and more places, espousing his views on issues that go well beyond his communications portfolio.

For me, it’s all too much of a coincidence.


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  1. Graeme Rust

    What if we asked the Indonesians if abbortt offered to resign would they spare the two ozzies on death row ???

  2. lyne

    Beware the snake in the grass….

  3. ahcid

    Either piss or get off the pot you miserable popinjay

  4. gangey1959

    And the difference to Australians would be…????
    Turnbull has far more etiquette than abbott ever will, but he has had several chances to show where he really stands on the issues that matter to mere mortals. I guess he has done that already.

  5. Terry2

    Malcolm is just playing the long-game and, with matters such as dipping into superannuation for a home deposit, he is just speaking his mind; I would expect nothing less.

    The spill that wasn’t could have been Turnbull’s opportunity and had Abbott sought to either secure or concede his leadership by a vote we would not now be needing to have this conversation – the leadership issue would have been sorted. By not having a vote on the leadership Abbott has invited continued conjecture and speculation.

    Turnbull has been around long enough to know that he doesn’t need to challenge, he just needs to wait for Abbott to use up his political capital.

  6. Roswell

    It would be the easiest campaign trail he’s ever worked.

  7. David

    Depart Abbott, enter Turnbull…out of the frying pan into the fire? Your scenario is on the mark John, the outcome is just as dangerous a the present, even if dressed in finer clothing.
    Only plus I can read into a Turnbull PM’ship is better International profile for the country and the end of a few of the dilburys on the front bench.
    As for Bronnie the bitch, he may not sack her but sure as her hairdo is not a concrete implant, he would demand she start behaving as an unbiased Speaker should…which may encourage her to stand down. (Not really sure about false concrete implant).

  8. lawrencewinder

    A nice gentle analysis of the reptilian “Von Ribbentrop” Turnbull. He knows they can’t afford to shut him up on two counts. 1/ The biffo would drag them further down in the polls and 2/, He’s about the only Lairbril left who seems to have any public credibility.
    A nasty piece of work.

    …and I love ahcid’s comment!

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    I believe Turnbull is being sarcastic when he says he supports Abbott. If not, he is being extremely insincere.

  10. Florence nee Fedup

    Turnbull also knows he is working to a tight timetable. Cannot afford to wait long, as Morrison is breathing down his back. The longer it goes, better for Morrison. As for Bishop, I have no idea where she stands, unless she believes she can come through the centre as Abbott did.

    Abbott is dead man walking, praying for amiracle.

  11. Rhonda Nay

    I have worked with ‘Turnbull’ on the National Ageing Advisory Committee and found him to be decent, funny and an all-round nice guy. I wonder why the media always presents him in a negative light. Tall Poppy syndrome?

  12. crypt0

    At this point it seems as though , for better or not so much better, Turnbull is the next in line …
    It is well known that many ALP voters are among his supporters when it comes to popularity polls, and if Shorten doesn’t get up to speed, the current 54 – 46 standing of the two majors will be a forgotten memory.
    I suspect the only thing standing between Morrison and LNP leadership is , for now Tony Abbott, and then Malcolm Turnbull, or who knows? Julie Bishop?
    Time is on Morrison’s side, and he epitomizes all that the LNP represents.

  13. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    I suspect that the majority of Turnbull’s critics are men because he has an urbane manner which could irritate them but women find reassuring – particularly face to face.
    The libs paranoia about following labor down the path of changing leaders is such that I suspect that Turnbull will bide his time till the coalition lose the next election and Abbott gets the well-deserved boot from his party.
    I would bet that in 2016 they will bring down a really attractive (if unrealistic) budget in the hope of lifting their rating and go to an early election on the back of it.
    Meanwhile hundreds of not for profit organisations are starved of funds and many will fold. Not to mention the desperation of many domestic violence victims with support services being closed down.
    Putting Humpty together again after the 2016 election will be a mammoth task.

  14. donwreford

    Is Abbot attempting to distance the Aboriginal from the land? and increase power for mining corporations?

  15. paul walter

    Surprised it is put as a question. The leaking, the odd sequence of stuff-ups and quite blunt repudiations of Abbott policy and Abbott ministers by Turnbull and others are symptoms of a Prime Ministership on its death bed.

    Abbott promise to change a month ago and he has- he’s got worse. Same with Eleventy.

    At the least, Turnbull will be treasurer, perhaps with Bishop or the monster Morrison as PM, if Turnbull himself can’t or won’t take the job.

    Then we see if crankish Abbott and his few friends try to undermine a new ministry from the back benches.

  16. crypt0

    Rhonda … If we’re talking about the murdoch press here, the answer is probably that they prefer the neo-con, tea party type of “liberal”.
    Malcolm Turnbull is rather too progressive for the neanderthal murdochers.

  17. Pingback: Is Turnbull Campaigning? – » The Australian Independent Media Network | winstonclose

  18. Rhonda Nay

    Mmmmm or as Ted Bailleu found decent leaders don’t survive

  19. Loz

    Turnbull followed the party line on NBN and climate change even though he did not believe in either of these LNP’s policies. As far as I am concerned he hasn’t got much going for him other than a nice speaking voice and a nice suit.

  20. kickhimout

    what about is eligibility to be an MP let alone a prime minister.. he still hasnt shown his renunciation papers.. so, if he is still a dual citizen, does that mean all his legislation he has signed is now null and void? can we force him to repay every cent he has earned.. stolen, as an MP, and then deport the useless $%^&*!

    why is there no action on this front? what is shorten doing?

  21. Paolo Soprani

    No real change here if Turnbull takes over. Same old, same old. Besides which, does he not realise the PMship is never given? You have to take if by the scruff of the neck and SEIZE it. And then wrestle if off whoever has it.

  22. Margaret McMillan

    I have worked with ‘Turnbull’ on the National Ageing Advisory Committee and found him to be decent, funny and an all-round nice guy. I wonder why the media always presents him in a negative light. Tall Poppy syndrome?

    Your comment is interesting to me Rhonda as I believe it encapsulates one of the problems I see with our current system. He might be a “nice guy”, but that should have no impact on our decision to support his leadership. Surely policies are more important than personalities? In my opinion this ‘I hate Abbott (or Gillard, or Rudd, or whoever) is irrelevant. “I hate what this person is doing to our country” seems to me to have more point.

    And if we thought like that, we would not want someone as PM who is prepared to swallow their convictions for the sake of power as we know Turnbull has on so many issues.

  23. Rhonda Nay

    Don’t disagree re policy vs the individual, I was just making a point about how the media portrays individuals in this case Turnball. I can’t get a handle on how Australians decide to vote. I could never believe Howard had charisma, so guess in that case it was policy. In the recent Queensland election I was completely flummoxed that people could reelect a government they had comprehensively dumped at the last election. I know power corrupts blah blah but our political leaders seem to become oblivious to who they were and what they valued before they were surrounded by minders. Yes Minister maybe…

  24. Terry2

    Rhonda, you obviously don’t live in Queensland – I think the electorate fairly quickly realized that they had fallen for a slick LNP con job, that they were comprehensively lied to and intensely disliked the style of Newman.

    Labor may not be the complete answer but they are miles ahead of the alternative and,so far, have a great deal of goodwill from the community and the fervent hope that a Cabinet with a majority of talented women can bring some honesty and transparency to government and not just ideology : it’s not much to ask, is it ?

  25. stephentardrew

    Big fat scardy cat too hypocritical and self-agrandising to sit on the back benches and stand up for whats right.

    Compromise your ethics to leadership of
    the loony unethical grandiose funny farm hey Tunybull..

    Great CV.

  26. Rossleigh

    Is Turnbull campaigning? Is the bear a Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods? Or something like that.
    Well said, John Kelly.
    He’s campaigning his arse off, so to speak. Tony’s already sold his apparently. Whoops, is that libellous?

  27. John Kelly

    Relax Ross, you have qualified political privilege, unless of course it is untrue and you knew it to be untrue. Is it? I dunno.

  28. Rossleigh

    It’s ok, all those lawyers sacked from the DPP have offered to go pro bono…

  29. mark delmege

    Piss off Tony your wrecking ball has done too much damage already. Just…. piss …. off.

  30. Pingback: Is Turnbull Campaigning? | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

  31. Blacksmith

    I think Malcolm is waiting until he can get the numbers to form the cabinet he wants.
    If he can rid the front bench of Howards dinosaurs and win enough seats so he doesn’t need the nationals, who are becoming irrelevent, we may yet see some sense coming back to politics.
    He would make a very good PM if he can achieve this.

  32. paul walter

    Dont be optimistic, Blacksmith. Turnbull is pure market economics and potentially even more destructive because he makes less noise.

  33. Blacksmith

    Agree with you Paul but something has to fix this broken govt. I went through this neo con pure market economics bullshit in NZ30 years ago and the countries still not good.
    Can’t believe any govt. could be so stupid as to try something that plainly does not work.
    Don’t ever want to go through that again.

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