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No Virginia, there is no moderate Malcolm

The idea that there’s a nicer, kinder, small ‘l’ liberal hiding away inside Malcolm Turnbull, waiting for the right circumstances to come out, dies hard. Even now, when his very narrow win makes it more likely that his policies will appease the right wing of the Liberal Party and all of the National Party, some commentators are still looking for that elusive moderate Malcolm.

Yes Sean Kelly, I’m looking at you. On Friday in his daily blog, Kelly gave us ‘Turnbull discovers his voice, a little’, urging him to seek the middle ground and assuming hopefully he has a different and more moderate voice than we have seen recently. On Monday, admittedly among other more critical comments, he considered the changes Turnbull had made to his ministry. This is what he had to say about environmental policy:

The most significant change was getting Greg Hunt out of environment, and replacing him with Josh Frydenberg. The prime minister should be applauded for this. Hunt, by now, has managed both to hold too many positions on how to tackle climate change, and to dig in far too deep on Direct Action. Moving him frees Turnbull to execute a shift in the Coalition’s approach, which will be necessary as he seeks to re-establish credibility with the electorate in the years ahead. This was a canny move.

But there are a few problems with this ‘canny move’.

First, there’s no evidence that Josh Frydenberg – formerly an Abbott supporter – holds progressive views on climate change that could result in a shift in the Coalition’s approach. Indeed, back in September, when he was appointed by Turnbull as Minister for resources, energy and northern Australia, Frydenberg said on Radio National that he fully supported Direct Action: ‘We have the mechanism absolutely right’. He completely rejected any cap and trade scheme. Perhaps he was telling porkies, and Direct Action will be morphed into a cap and trade scheme after all, but aside from the fact that you can never apparently believe what any of the government says, ever, there’s no reason to expect that he will now support effective action on climate change. At least Greg Hunt once upon a time, according to his Honours thesis, supported a market mechanism.

Furthermore, Freydenberg is a strong supporter of coal mining. The New Matilda reports that ‘Frydenberg has been a major advocate for coal, and has echoed Tony Abbott’s belief that the mineral is “good for humanity”’. On his appointment back in September, Andrew Bolt apparently called him ‘the new Mr Coal’.

Then there’s the fact that by giving responsibility for the environment to Frydenberg, alongside energy, Turnbull has effectively downgraded the importance of the whole environment portfolio. It’s true that Labor’s Mark Butler has shadow responsibility for both areas, and there can be synergy between them – but not when the Minister is an advocate for coal mining. A SMH headline reports Greenpeace’s view that ‘Combined energy and environment portfolio for Josh Frydenberg a ‘huge blow’ for Great Barrier Reef’. The Climate Council is more moderate, but then they have to try and work with him.

And another thing Kelly didn’t mention is that Turnbull has appointed Queensland National Senator Matthew Canavan as Minister for Resources. In today’s Guardian, Cavan is reported as saying ‘there is still a level of uncertainly about the impact of carbon emissions on global warming.’ Right. So Malcolm, who really believes in the urgent need to do something about climate change (“I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.” (ABC, 2009)) has put a climate denier not only in his ministry, but in charge of resources. Canavan is a huge fan of the Adani coal mine. What a surprise! That’s evidently how committed Malcolm really is.

One can’t but wonder what’s in that secret agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals about climate change. Or maybe even worse, if there’s anything at all about it.

‘But, but …’ I hear you cry, ‘moderate Malcolm hasn’t had a chance. Circumstances are against him’. No. A leader leads. Get used to the idea that there is no moderate Malcolm who will emerge one day like a butterfly from his conservative chrysalis. The real Malcom is the one who fully supported Tony Abbott’s 2014 budget – ‘I support every element, of course, including the Medicare co-payment’ – (yes, the transcript is still on his website), who acclaims the free market, and who will do anything – like spending $1million, or even more – to keep his job. Get over it.

Am I picking on you Sean? There is a huge amount of much worse journalism going around. You are clear sighted on many things. Please just get this one sorted.


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  1. Phil

    I agree with your thinking Kay. I see Turnbull’s flirt with progressive views as simply that – a flirtation – a mere titillation to excite away from the monotony and loneliness of extreme wealth. I hope he gets seriously rolled and shoved off shore to join his ugly wealth in the Caymans because he’s a fraud and he deserves the ignominy. Never trust a banker.

  2. kerri

    I agree Kaye! I read Sean Kelly’s daily email and am often astounded at his right wing leanings!
    As for Turnbull? The “real” Malcolm does not amount to much more than being PM.
    It really is that simple!

  3. Carol Taylor

    I thought the same thing Kay, it seems that the environment is only of use if you can make money out it, and money made a particular way aka ‘energy’.

  4. Freethinker

    IMHO there never was an old Malcolm, he is not a genuine person and perhaps more dangerous then Abbott.
    His greed for holding the position of PM even if he has to surrendering the power of that office made him a person that we cannot trust.
    Now he has Frydenberg and Canavan together with Hunt and Joyce in his team and a group of extreme right members that like to impose their agenda.
    I can see a chaotic government which will be capable to do an irreversible damage to the environment and the renewable energy industry in Australia.

  5. Carol Taylor

    Freethinker, I most definitely agree. How else can an up and comer differentiate himself from the stale old Howard giving the impression of being ‘progressive’. However, I do see him as weak and from accounts from those who know him, he also has a habit of giving up and moving on from various projects if it all gets a bit too hard for him. Lose? Never, just moves on. I cannot see him as having the temperament nor the stamina to pursue any of his agenda (the threadbare remnants that are left). Look how quickly he caved in to the right, the ‘everything on the table’ became the cupboard is bare. The far right sense this weakness and will make the most of it. Unlike Abbott, Turnbull doesn’t have a Credlin to prop him up.

  6. Gangey1959

    ”My lord, I have a Cunning Plan”………..
    Is that anything different from a canny move ? Methinks not.
    Our new pm, as in this one bought himself the elected position this time instead of being pushed into the job because the effwit pom that used to sit in his seat sucked at.
    Our mal hasn’t got a snowflake in hell’s chance of achieving anything more than being pm. That was his aim from leaving kindergarten, and he has taken every opportunity and slice of the limelight that he has had access to between then and now in order to get there.
    He can’t control what his ”team” do from now. Look at what he has to work with. It’s like he picked them out of one of those crane machine coin-in-the-slot thingys outside the supermarket.
    The trouble is, being PM is all he wanted. Being good at it wasn’t a consideration. And great ? Don’t make me laugh.

  7. Lorraine Stansfiewld

    Spot on Kay! Malcolm is what he is – a rich man who always wanted to be PM. Those who think he is chained up by the right wingers and will eventually set himself free are just deluding themselves.

  8. cornlegend

    From what I heard today, it seems like Malcolm kicked in $2 million, not $1 mill in Liberal Party donations to prop up his PMship,

  9. David

    George Bush (Dubbya) urged the term Global Warming be called “Climate Change”. Could it be that he had access to the credible scientific data which indicates planet Earth is entering a big freeze. Another ICE AGE to be precise, with a peak expected about 2055. If this is remotely possible, then extra cloud cover from cloud seeding, and coal burning, could in fact reduce the rate of surface cooling. I wonder if the Turnbull Government will decide we are “adult” enough to learn about this and other “secrets” arranged by the former PM?

  10. Möbius Ecko

    George Bush (Dubbya) urged the term Global Warming be called “Climate Change”

    Sorry David if you got that wrong then the rest of your conspiracy nonsense is just that, nonsense.

    To a scientist, global warming describes the average global surface temperature increase from human emissions of greenhouse gases. Its first use was in a 1975 Science article by geochemist Wallace Broecker of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory: “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”

    Broecker’s term was a break with tradition. Earlier studies of human impact on climate had called it “inadvertent climate modification.” This was because while many scientists accepted that human activities could cause climate change, they did not know what the direction of change might be. Industrial emissions of tiny airborne particles called aerosols might cause cooling, while greenhouse gas emissions would cause warming. Which effect would dominate?

    For most of the 1970s, nobody knew. So “inadvertent climate modification,” while clunky and dull, was an accurate reflection of the state of knowledge.

    The first decisive National Academy of Science study of carbon dioxide’s impact on climate, published in 1979, abandoned “inadvertent climate modification.” Often called the Charney Report for its chairman, Jule Charney of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, declared: “if carbon dioxide continues to increase, [we find] no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”

    In place of inadvertent climate modification, Charney adopted Broecker’s usage. When referring to surface temperature change, Charney used “global warming.” When discussing the many other changes that would be induced by increasing carbon dioxide, Charney used “climate change.”

    In scientific literature to this day the following definitions are used:

    Global warming: the increase in Earth’s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases.

    Climate change: a long-term change in the Earth’s climate, or of a region on Earth.

  11. Jaquix

    Matt Canavan has made his position clear in an article in the Guardian this morning. On groups like GetUp and the Greens, and anyone who doesnt love coal or belief its good for humanity, we are all simplistic morons, and its all BS. (on the other hand he thinks Cory Bernardi’s idea of conservatives aping GetUp, is a great idea) THIS IS ONE WHO MALCOLM HAS CHOSEN !!!

  12. Freethinker

    Jaquix Malcolm has not chosen Canavan, Barnaby imposed the nomination with the support of the extreme right in the party.
    Malcolm is only a figure head that it is all.
    Regarding the environment IMO this ministerial team is more radical and dangerous than the one appointed by Abbott.
    We are going backwards and the damage can be irreversible.

  13. Jaquix

    Thanks for the clarification Freethinker – I was so furious with the Guardian’s report that I deleted it, so couldnt refer and write my post more accurately. However, Malcolm Turnbull is the person we see on TV pronouncing “The government I lead …” ad nauseum, so whether imposed by Barnaby or not, I hold him ultimately responsible.

  14. Freethinker

    I agree with you Jaquix that Malcolm is responsible for his lack of decency due to his greed to hold a position of power (which he surrounded)
    But then again we go back to the old say, each country have the democratically elected government that it deserves.
    Only education of the young at high school level can reverse this situation in the future.

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