There are those on the left who desperately wanted Tony Abbott to be Prime Minister at the next election. They rightly saw his unpopularity as Labor’s best asset. I thought that there was a greater imperative. As a believer in representative democracy first and foremost I felt that our political system would be better served if he was given the boot.
There is no individual in Australian political history who has done more to damage the conventions and institutions of our democracy, and indeed the Parliament itself, than the former Prime Minister. Personally, I hope he leaves politics altogether and takes the stench of his confrontational politics with him.
Abbott in both his tenure as Opposition Leader and Prime Minister had a breathtaking, pungent absurdity about him. A Christian man of unchristian demeanour.
Australia has never elected a person more unsuited to the highest office. He was a Luddite with little appreciation of science, the needs of women, and was out of touch with a modern pluralist society.
In hindsight the Australian people have learnt a valuable lesson. In future they should check out the credentials and character of the leader of the party they support. It was an experiment we cannot afford to have again.
The election of Malcolm Turnbull provides an opportunity to wipe the plate of democracy clean. Debate will now be able to take place without the negative pugilistic dog eat dog style of Abbott. It can still be assertive and robust but at the same time conducted with intellect and decorum. Given his sense of superiority (already displayed during question time) and ego don’t inhibit him perhaps his panache and wit might insinuate itself on the house and generally raise the standard of discourse.
Whatever you think of Turnbull’s policies, and he has many detractors in his own ranks, there is no doubt that he is a tough competitor with a formidable mind. One who can debate with true elasticity of intelligence and skill.
He will be a daunting opponent for Shorten and Labor. It is, however, an opportunity for Shorten to rise to the occasion and Labor supporters should challenge the party to also rise above itself.
Already the early polls are suggesting a resurgence of Coalition support. If Turnbull plays his cards correctly he will take many advantages into the next election campaign.
A ministerial reshuffle that rids itself of ministers with a perception of nastiness like Dutton should go over well with the public. As will a more refined and decent political language that no longer reflects Abbott’s crassness and sneering sloganeering.
Unlike Abbott who thought he was above the independent senators and the Greens, I believe Turnbull will seek to take them into his confidence to get legislation passed.
A major advantage he has is that the public are sick and tired of revolving door leadership. If my calculations or indeed my memory serve me correctly we haven’t elected a PM who has served a full term since 2004. That’s about a decade ago.
Unless he stuffs up in a major way the electorate will be reluctant to change again. Continuity of governance with the pursuit of ideology for the sake of it is not what the people want. Added to that is the fact that Turnbull is not beholding to the media. He has in the past told Murdoch, Bolt and Jones where to go.
During the Republic Referendum I worked assiduously for the Australian Republic Movement. I came to admire Turnbull’s capacity to present his case in the face of Howard’s rat pack that included Tony Abbott and Nick Minchen. Turnbull’s account of the The Reluctant Republic still resonates with me.
But if there is much to like about Turnbull there is equally as much to dislike. There can be no doubt that he has prostituted himself to gain power. All of those things that set him apart from the conservative wing of his party he seems to have been willing to capitulate on, and in so doing displayed an hypocrisy unworthy of him. He has spent the first week defending Abbott’s policies.
“No more Captains calls” he said. Then without even swearing a new Cabinet, he prostitutes himself (again) by reneging on his previously respected and long held beliefs on climate change. He then does a deal worth $4 billion with the Nationals and at the same time outrageously sells out the Murray Darling Scheme.
In his initial comments after becoming PM he made a big pitch about the future of innovation, science and technology. He would therefore know that a large part of our future is tied up in renewable energy. That the jobs of the future are in the technology sector, as is our economic future which makes his decision to stick with Abbott’s policy on climate change all the more disappointing. Conservatives around the world acknowledge these points, why can’t ours.
He has at this early stage left himself open to the charge that he is not his own man but rather a captive of the conservative right. It can arguably be said that the policies remain the same and an abrasive Prime Minister has been replaced with an eloquent but no less deceptive one. How he will prosecute the case for a Republic is unknown. It will be odd that we have a Monarchist Government led by a Republican Prime Minister.
Even the hypocrisy he shows on same-sex marriage has the smell of betrayal.
It is of course far too early to judge him but based on his immediate decisions it is obvious that he had to do deals to get the job.
For me his willingness to betray long held beliefs and principles has been nothing short of pathetic. I predict however that the general public will overlook it for what they will perceive as better attention to the economy.
As for the Leader of the Opposition. well according to the polls Bill Shorten is about as popular as Abbott was. He carts a lot of baggage that he will carry into the next election.
There is now no point in holding back on policies and allowing Turnbull to make all the running. He should in some way adopt the Whitlam approach, create a narrative, and release policy showing an innovative futuristic approach to economic issues and government. But above all Labor must attract the younger generations. It is the under 50s that will determine who governs.
Having said all that, if the polls continue in an upward trajectory Turnbull would be well justified in going to an early election. The next month will see Turnbull stamping his authority on the party and his leadership. He has the charisma to sell them and the public is in a buying mood. I can only hope that Bill also has something to sell.
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