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Sodding the Australian Voter: Accidental Prime Ministers and Political Indulgence

It is a continuation of Malcolm Turnbull by other means. The new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison and his freshly appointed Deputy, Josh Frydenberg have ensured that the “insurgents”, as Turnbull deemed them, did not come through. Both were respective architects – failed ones at that – of the company tax plan, voted down in the Senate, and the National Energy Guarantee, torn up by the Liberal Party room. Both claim that this was a “new generation” of leadership. These claims were extraordinary in their repudiation of reality.

Turnbull, who has promised a swift exit from federal politics, was never a comfortable fit with the Liberal Party. He was never counted amongst them. “It was, and always has been,” observed Annabel Crabb, “the inability of the party to accept collectively that Malcolm Bligh Turnbull is one of them.” He did not drink from the same watering holes, nor dine at the same venues with hack and operator. And he had more than flirted with the big power stalwarts of the enemy: the Labor Party.

Turnbull started with a bruising entry into federal politics, overthrowing incumbent MP Peter King in the seat of Wentworth in the 2004 pre-selection process. He was a beast who terrified the Liberal party apparatchiks. Through the course of his political stint, he was keen in a field deemed toxic by his colleagues: climate change. Never the party man, never true blue, and only reluctantly pro-coal. He called in the consultants, the experts, the various figures who would give him options. But in politics, numerous options can be fatal to the vision; certitude demands distillation.

On the ABC, Crabb seemed to worship Turnbull’s multitasking, merchant banker-barrister brain as it was making its exit from Parliament. In conversation with fellow journalist Andrew Probyn, both reflected on his achievements as the figure who was a creaky politician but could still doodle on his phone and master the agenda of a meeting while reading an article on Roman architecture. They admired his doggerel as a student, which sounded awfully like a steal from Rudyard Kipling. (Lawyers can be such frightful plagiarists).

None of the individuals who found themselves in the leadership roles had articulated any specific vision of the country prior to entering the party room where the bloodletting process was ceremonially affirmed. Now, a man ruthless as immigration minister (“Stop the Boats” was Morrison’s crude sloganeering contribution that served to show the Australian voter that he would be remorseless about irregular arrivals), and blustering as treasurer, has become the accidental prime minister.

The media circus has also been high up on the detail, a reminder about how closely tied the scribblers and talking heads are with the political establishment in this country. Journalists were beamed from the respective electorates of the various candidates armed with straw poll methods, taking snatches of opinion from the café patron, the dog walker, and, in one instance, the bowls club. Photos of the contenders were shown: few were recognised. Turnbull was being assassinated by the unknown and the anonymous.

At his outgoing press conference, Turnbull got interesting after the usual platitudes. These involved references to the very policies he assisted fuelling: suspicions about race, big-end of town back-rubbing, reactionary tendencies, and ambivalence to climate change within his own party. He spoke about the greatness of Australia, and was hardly modest about that.

Then came observations about the coup within his own party, the red mist that had fogged up Parliament for an entire week. “It was extraordinary. It was described as madness by many. I think it is difficult to describe it any other way.” It was the madness that involved supporters of challenger Peter Dutton and long term rival Tony Abbott “who chose to deliberately attack the government from within… because they wanted to bring the government down.” He mentioned the influential outside forces which had also had their disruptive say in the process.

The saboteurs, in falling five votes short for their intended candidate, have gotten their comeuppance – richly deserved spoliation that will, in time, enable the opposition Labor Party to canter to victory. Turnbull bent over listening to the conservative factions, and capitulated. On capitulating, he was accused of being weak. Such village idiot navigation culminated in this week’s vicious machinations, a true variant of what Kingsley Amis described as a “Sod the Public” policy.

It was violence without need, a curious attempt to achieve a false unity that, in any case, has not been achieved. These Cassius types, without the same tutored way, have been attempting to identify false lines: this was a disagreement between left and right within the party, leaving the centre to come up for air. A more simple answer is in the offing: it was a matter of personalities with oceanic gulfs between them. Old scores needed to be settled; revenge was to be exacted from the previous knifing in 2015 inflicted on then prime minister and Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott.

The divisions within the party suggest the split in the right that has proven lethal. And it was unnecessarily encouraged. Senator Mathias Cormann’s intervention was vital and undertaken with “great sadness and a heavy heart” (treachery tends to be such) but premised on a capitulation to sentiment. In shifting loyalties from Turnbull to Dutton, he stood on the grass of Canberra’s parliamentary lawn along with other mind changing loyalists, ministers Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash, suggesting that the prime minister had lost the confidence of the party. This was highly questionable: at that point, a mere 20 signatures had been obtained to force a vote (or a spill, as its termed) on his leadership.

The damage done by backing the stalking horse of Dutton yielded a Turnbull-lite solution, when it was intended to yield Dutton, the shock jock’s choice and Murdoch press punt. Morrison, Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister, will hope that evolution (or the divine) gifts him eyes in the back of his head. In the meantime, the Australian voter can sod off.

12 comments

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  1. John O'Callaghan

    A very good article and a plesure to read… thank you!

  2. noname

    Ho hope towards any change in this, unless there is a choice for people not to go to voting cabin without penalty. The fear of penalty brings all sorts of people, that are not interested in politics but…were told by someone how to vote. So you eliminate them, and the rest is people who care, they will bring changes.

  3. Frank Smith

    Good article Binoy. If ever there was a time and event that warranted calling on the voice of the people in the form of a General Election it is the chaos the Government indulged itself in last week. And the “fix” of promoting ScoMo and Josh is no “fix” at all. As I commented on Kaye Lee’s excellent “Letter” yesterday:

    “With a vote of 45-40 and Abbott, Dutton, Abetz, Andrews and the rest of their RWNJs still around it will only be a matter of days before the “insurgency” is resurrected. They are incapable of learning from mistakes. And of course the NEG issue still has to be satisfactorily resolved and as Turnbull said in his final address, it is imposible to have any rational discussion about emissions in the Coalition. Adding to their woes, Morrison will have to govern with a tied Lower House at least until the Wentworth byelection is concluded, assuming that Shorten does not grant the Coalition a pair – and why should he?”

    I now read that another insurrection has already started with the Lying Rodent Howard advising that the white-anting we have witnessed for three years be rewarded by bringing Abbott into the Ministry (where he will once again immediately destabilize as he himself wants the PM job back) and Murdoch’s UnAustralian falsely reporting that the Public Service ordered communications be cut off to Ministers who resigned. Get ready for a deluge of invective from Murdoch, Sky News and the evil 2GB shock-jocks. The Australian people have NO CONFIDENCE in this Government so we MUST have a General Election immediately!

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/25/tony-abbott-faces-calls-to-quit-after-liberal-leadership-carnage

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/25/top-bureaucrat-denies-communication-was-cut-off-for-ministers-who-resigned

  4. Mick Yemm

    Stephen Bradbury?

  5. Frank Smith

    No Mick – there are plenty more “suits” lined up to satisfy their ego in this Coalition – I don’t think this could be a Steven Bradbury moment.

  6. Alpo

    “The new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison and his freshly appointed Deputy, Josh Frydenberg have ensured that the “insurgents”, as Turnbull deemed them, did not come through.”…. We have no idea yet. Yes, Dutton did not come through as PM, but we now have to see the composition of the Morrison ministry. If senior Hard Conservatives who had been confined to the backbench by Turnbull become ministers: e.g. Abbott, Abetz, Andrews, etc. Then the insurgents would have come through and therefore Turnbull completely lost the contest: He is not PM anymore and the hard Conservatives have returned to the ministry.

    …. Let’s wait and see….

  7. Wun Farlung

    Good riddance to the hypocritical bankster. He should piss off to The Cayman Islands and stay there
    The hide of him crying foul over media interference.
    The dickhead has been more than happy for the media to run with rampant bullshit and arse covering for the lnp and so smart and smarmy he didn’t see the knife coming. To clever by half
    Roll on next election and what these conmen and women fear most a Federal ICAC.
    I’ll give the next lot of grubs a week before they start with Labor’s fault and Kill Bill crap, they have nothing else

  8. jamesss

    Binoy

    The oceanic gulf is between these idiots and the People of Australia.

    Have they been considered during their 5 years occupying the big house? (NO)

    They act like an occupying army.

    I doubt there to be any change during Morrison’s short lived PM roll.

    They acted like a flock of seagulls fighting over a chip on the beach.

    Will the opposition do any better? (NO) They all come from the same clone model.

  9. vicki

    This group of Parasites are imploding from with in and have no doubts Australians are Feed up with their Greed and ME attitude, This will be the Ultimate down FALL of the Liberal Party, the next election will bring about new parties and the Liberals will NOT be never be heard of again.They have CUT their own throat and been seen for what they truly are.

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