Malcolm Turnbull called the Liberal Party back to Canberra a day early. There was to be an important meeting. Julie Bishop cut short her overseas trip because it was important to resolve this whole marriage equality thing. You know that thing that nobody cares about. I know this because various Coalition politicians keep telling us that the average person is more concerned about rising energy prices and jobs and growth and making the country safe. However, in spite of the fact that it’s only a handful of people who care about this issue, it’s something that Parliament can’t vote on until all these people who don’t care have had their say on the issue via a plebiscite.
So, after much speculation about yesterday’s meeting, Turnbull managed what he does best. Nothing happened.
Since taking over the leadership, Turnbull has been quite successful at making nothing happen. But it would be wrong to think that it’s just since he became PM. It’s going to be the hallmark of his career. If we look back, he led the Republican movement – nothing happened. He was Environment Minister – nothing happened. When he took over the NBN from Labor, he managed to delight both Tony and Rupert with the speed at which he stopped things happening. Although, in this case, because some things had already happened he could only slow it down. Probably the one failure in a stellar career. Once he’d took over as PM, things started not happening at the sort of speed that make the nickname “Flash Malcolm” totally appropriate. I heard one of the Liberals call him that. At least, I think it was that. It could have been “Flush Malcolm”, Anyway… We’ve had a lot of things suggested on tax reform, but ruled out almost immediately. Then there’s all he hasn’t done on meeting our emissions target. And just recently, in his infamous phone call to Donald Trump, he managed to persuade the POTUS to honour a deal where no refugees would be resettled.
As PM, his main desire is to that nothing happens on the leadership front and consequently he’s been working day and night. He’s even given Peter Dutton a super ministry that will enable him to arrest anybody who criticises the government. “Look, Peter, you can have all the power, so long as you promise to let me continue in my role of ensuring change with continuity and innovation with tradition and government without slogans and anything else that you’d like me to say and not do.”
Yes, when Malcolm was elected leader, it was on the condition that he promise those in his party who thought that was a bit too clever, that he wouldn’t do anything that could be thought of as clever. When that wasn’t enough to win all of them over, he went further and promised to do nothing at all. And, after all the broken promises of politicians, one has to give him credit for sticking to his word.
At the end of yesterday’s meeting, the Liberals decided to stick to the policy that Tony Abbott crafted – with the help of the National Party joining the party room to ensure that he had the numbers. I can’t emphasise enough what a victory this was for Turnbull. An issue that was so important that people return from the winter break early, is resolved by the party deciding that it would stick to its policy.
Of course I’m being a little unfair. They did also work out a compromise where they decided to do what they normally do when a Bill gets blocked in the Senate: they’re going to have another go at getting it through, because it just looks a little half-hearted when you say, “We tried, ah well, I guess we can all just forget about it now and move on to talking about the economy and how Labor is starting a class war and look over there, more terrorists arrested but not charged.”
And, if the Senate block it again, they’ll use the latest in innovation: Australia Post. We’ll have a non-binding, non-compulsory postal vote. After which time, marriage equality still won’t be voted on, because a number of Liberals will argue that not enough people voted and therefore it isn’t a true reflection of people’s feelings.
Yep, Malcolm Tinbull certainly showed everyone who’s boss: Tony Abbott! Well, this was his policy, after all!
Here’s a little song for Malcolm and his mates: