Pass the Popcorn


It is now a month into the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull. Based on previous history, Turnbull is considered to be a ‘left wing’ Liberal, judging on his pronouncements over the years — being in favour of emissions reduction, same sex marriage, Fibre to the Home (FTTH) internet connections and other issues usually attributed to ‘the greenies’ and ‘latte drinkers’ from the ALP. When Turnbull outmanoeuvred Abbott, there was a delay in the necessary trip to the Governor-General to be sworn in as prime minister as the Nationals (the junior partner to the Coalition) wanted some additional conditions added to the agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals in order to retain the Coalition. Most of these conditions were to ensure the conservative policies espoused by the Abbott government were retained.

So far the major difference between Abbott and Turnbull seems to be actions like the release of a policy to inject $100million into programs to eliminate domestic violence and assist the victims. Announced by the newly minted Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, and flanked by Turnbull and Rosie Batty (current Australian of the Year and domestic violence elimination advocate), Turnbull’s contribution was to correctly state that being disrespectful to women was ‘un-Australian’. It is doubtful the previous holder of both the prime ministerial and minister for women roles would have made the same statement. However to give the previous incumbent some credit, pulling a policy like this together probably started under his tenure.

The political blame games have begun in earnest. Probably the first off the block was Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin. A few days after the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to the prime ministership, she gave a speech at a ‘Women of the Future’ event in Sydney. In the speech, she argued that she was not responsible for the demise of Abbott, she did not control access or policy in the prime minister’s office and she refused to be defined by ‘insider gossip’. Credlin also claimed:
… she had been unfairly targeted by the media because of her gender and that there were different standards applied to women in powerful jobs. “If I was a guy I wouldn’t be bossy, I’d be strong,” she said. “If I was a guy I wouldn’t be a micromanager, I’d be across my brief, or across the detail.

“If I wasn’t strong, determined, controlling and got them into government from opposition, then I would be weak and not up to it and should have to go and could be replaced. So, it’s very binary when it comes to women.”
Katherine Murphy, writing in The Guardian disagrees, as does Barrie Cassidy from the ABC and Michelle Grattan who writes for The Conversation. Murphy, Gratten and Cassidy paint a picture of a controlling person who isolated her ‘boss’ from reality to such an extent that he didn’t see the writing on the wall. The obvious response to Murphy, Grattan and Cassidy is ‘well they would say that, wouldn’t they’ as each has written critical articles on Abbott and his government in the past. When Janet Albrechtsen writes a similar opinion piece in The Australian (paywalled), maybe there is some truth to the claims. (It is interesting that this type of writing is only done after the demise of the victim such as Rudd or Abbott — but that is a discussion for another day.)

Peter Costello, hardly a friend of Abbott’s, appeared on Four Corners and claimed it was almost certainly the right decision to elevate Malcolm Turnbull. Part of the justification was:
I think probably in the end it was the polls. That a majority of his colleagues felt that they were not going to win the next election and in those circumstances they decided to effect a change.
Clearly the conservative political media identities weren’t happy and they were prepared to let everyone know about it. On Channel 10’s The Project, Andrew Bolt made an appeal that Abbott really was a ‘decent bloke’ and that a number of his positives — such as his community service through Lifesaving — was ridiculed and thrown back at him. Ray Hadley raged against the 53 ‘dunderheads’ that voted against Abbott. Alan Jones wasn’t in a good mood either:
Judas, Judas, people not happy, the way it’s done, I mean the way it was done was beyond belief. The way it was done, unbelievable.
According to The Saturday Paper, the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull has fuelled a war within News Corp Australia. It seems that some within the organisation have decided that Abbott lost and have (perhaps reluctantly) thrown their support behind Turnbull as prime minister. Others haven’t. It must have been galling for some News staff that Turnbull started and finished the day after the demise of Abbott on ABC programs. On his radio program, Bolt declared that:
“We’ve actually won. Me and Alan,” he boasted. “We’ve house-trained Turnbull … we knocked him into shape, Alan and I.”

Then at tortuous length, he went on to enumerate all the ways in which Turnbull now was presenting as a convincing analogue of Tony Abbott, all because of the brilliance and courage of himself and Jones.

“Alan and I will bask in our success,” he concluded. “Behold our neo-Turnbull. Let the Left weep.”
Our good mate Cory Bernardi has a long history of opposing Malcolm Turnbull. It probably started when then opposition leader Turnbull sacked Bernardi from his front bench in 2009. In 2010 Bernardi was at the [US] Heartland Institute’s convention claiming that ‘Malcolm misled us’; in 2013, he was ‘advising’ Turnbull to accept the conservative position on same sex marriage; and as recently as early September complaining that, while his new NBN connection was fantastic, the organisation of NBNCo (part of Turnbull’s then communications minister responsibilities) was less than acceptable. He (along with Andrew Bolt) is openly talking about setting up a new party — one would assume for ‘true’ conservatives.

Apart from the problems involved in running the country, Turnbull seems to have a fundamental problem in policy and governance within his party. The Nationals have an agreement that some of the more contentious Abbott era policies will remain in place. The Bolts and Jones’ of the media seem to think that while they haven’t anointed the current prime minister, they have his measure. Meanwhile the Australian public seem to think that Turnbull will cure all the ills of the Abbott era. Effectively Turnbull can’t win. Turnbull needs the Nationals as he cannot govern in his own right — he needs 76 House of Representatives members to do so. He has 75 MP’s that identify themselves as Liberals. If he doesn’t keep the Abbott era policies he stands to lose the Nationals and the conservative media as well as the ‘right wing’ of the Liberal Party who may decide that the Bernardi party isn’t a bad place to be (with a further reduction in the number of Senators that Turnbull can rely on). If he doesn’t change policy from the Abbott era, while the Nationals and right wing will stick with him, he stands the risk of being seen as trying to sell the same agenda from a better postcode, in a nicer suit.

Either way, Turnbull’s initial bounce in the polls is not a precursor of success. While the ‘preferred PM’ statistic has changed significantly, the ‘two party preferred’ has only moved a few points, and recent history in Queensland and Victoria would suggest that 51-49 in your favour is not an election winning lead. While it all seems calm and serene on the surface, it is probably a reasonable assumption that just under the water, the business of working a way through the policy problem is being worked on night and day.

So Turnbull has to negotiate a Senate that he doesn’t control; a former chief of staff who is out for revenge — claiming the gender card as there is no other basis for the argument; potentially an ex-prime minister who will sit and stew on the backbench becoming a lightning rod for discontent in a similar way to Rudd and Keating; sections of the media that believe and publicly proclaim they have the sole prerogative to pick the prime minister of this country; members of his own party who are talking about leaving; a large section of the public who are expecting change for the better; along with an Opposition that is, according to the opinion polls, knocking on the door of majority popularity. All of these groups will have no problem in finding any number of statements Turnbull made in the past that directly contradict his political party’s current policy settings. While wise people change their mind when presented with additional information, Turnbull is already looking vulnerable on the continuation of the Abbott ‘Direct Action’ climate change policy.

The next few months are probably going to have more twists than the latest action movie. A comfy seat, dimmed lighting and popcorn seems to be appropriate.

What do you think?
Another former Liberal prime minister once said ‘life wasn’t meant to be easy’ and that may be true for the new prime minister. Can he ride the waves and survive the swirling currents around him or will he wipe out?

Next week Ken continues our look at new PM Turnbull in ‘Same old, same old’. And also watch out for pieces on this theme by Ad Astra on TPS Extra.


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11/10/20152353 What a timely piece you have written. The initial flush of excitement generated by the Liberal Party’s rejection of the unpopular, inept, incompetent, worst-ever prime minister in favour of the popular-with-the-public Malcolm Turnbull, has begun, almost imperceptibly, to fade away. While the public are pleased at long last to see the back of Abbott, wise heads in the commentariat are now asking whether Turnbull can and will permanently restore confidence in the LNP, or whether he will be so constrained by the deals he has had to make with the big-C conservatives and the Nationals to garner the votes he needed to topple Abbott that he will soon be seen as 'Abbott-lite', as a cypher simply following Abbott’s conservative agenda. Have the right wing shock jocks got his measure as they claim? Will they be able to manipulate him, having, according to their irrepressible egos, ‘house-trained’ him, ‘knocked him into shape’ and ‘anointed’ him? How will he manage a Senate still hostile to many Abbott policies? [b]You raise all these legitimate questions, questions that demand answers, answers that perhaps only time will make known. It will be a fascinating exercise to predict the answers and watch how they emerge.[/b] It is opportune that both you 2353, and Ken Wolff, address these questions in today’s piece and those scheduled for the main site of [i]The Political Sword[/i] for the next two weeks. There are some other questions that are exercising political minds - questions that arise from Turnbull’s performance and behaviour when last he was leader of the LNP in 2009. Then he exhibited a cavalier attitude, lack of due diligence, overconfidence, even arrogance, and a strong tendency to prolixity and gobbledygook, especially when answering questions or addressing issues where he seemed out of his depth. At times his judgement was questionable and his decisions debateable. In the end his public popularity sank, and some policy decisions about climate change that attracted the ire of the big-C conservatives brought about a leadership spill in which the ‘their boy’, Tony Abbott, toppled him by one vote. As a supplement to the pieces on the main [i]TPS[/i] site, there will contributions on [i]TPS Extra:[/i] titled [i]The Turnbull enigma[/i] that address these questions by reference to articles written on [i]TPS[/i] as far back as 2009. All told, [i]The Political Sword[/i] will address the Turnbull riddle from many angles. Only time will tell how germane are the issues mentioned above, how they evolve in the months ahead, and how they eventually pan out! Thank you 2353 for starting this fascinating process.

Ken

11/10/20152353 The part I find most fascinating is Bolt's claim that he and Jones have 'house-trained' Turnbull. Both Jones and Bolt claim to understand pure political pragmatism. To get the numbers he needed at least some of the Right and they weren't going to hand him the leadership on a platter. If Bolt and Jones can't see that, or accept, then they are even more stupid than I already think and should not be allowed to comment on politics at all. You are right that there are so many underlying currents it will be difficult to forersee where the Turnbull era will go. I will enjoy my popcorn, or perhaps a wine and savouries.:-)

Ken

12/10/2015Just re-reading my comment this morning and a whole line seems to have disappeared. I can't remember exactly what I was saying but it was meant to be along the lines that both Jones and Bolt claim to understand politics but ignored that Turnbull's acceptance of some of the Right agenda was pure political pragmatism.

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12/10/20152353 My response to your piece started with: “[i]The initial flush of excitement generated by the Liberal Party’s rejection of the unpopular, inept, incompetent, worst-ever prime minister in favour of the popular-with-the-public Malcolm Turnbull, has begun, almost imperceptibly, to fade away.”[/i] Today’s [i]Newspoll[/i] tests the validity of that perception. Malcolm Turnbull still enjoys great popularity: his approval rating has gone up eight points and his net approval is plus 25%, the best rating since Kevin Rudd was riding high. Bill Shorten’s net approval has remained steady at a lowly minus 25%. Turnbull’s has soared in the preferred PM stakes to 57%, with Shorten falling to 19%! The TPP does not align with these encouraging results for Turnbull personally. It is now running at a 50/50 dead heat, two points down for the Coalition on the [i]Newspoll[/i] of three weeks ago. So it seems that while Turnbull’s popularity still reflects a ‘flush of excitement’ among the 1,631 polled, the same people have marked down the LNP, although that may be but a passing phenomenon. Let’s wait for the following polls before forming a firm opinion. [b]The one who can take no comfort from the poll is our recently departed PM.[/b] Asked whether the Liberal party did the right thing to replace Abbott with Turnbull, a substantial majority of 62% of those polled supported the decision, while only 27% opposed it. 11% were undecided. So more than twice the number who opposed the change of PM supported it, confirming the widespread relief expressed by so many voters and so many commentators that Turnbull had at last toppled the incompetent and unpopular Abbott. [b]What is even more disconcerting for Abbott is that a clear majority of 56% of Coalition voters supported the change, while only around one in three - 36% - opposed it. Even many of his own are glad that he has gone. All Abbott has left in his armory are a few verbose, self-opinionated right wing shock jocks, a handful of disgruntled Liberals who have suffered demotion and will now sit alongside him on the backbench, and only around a third of rusted on Coalition voters. If Abbott persists in his campaign of self-adulation of his performance as PM, and that of his government, it will confirm the serious extent of his delusional state.[/b]

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12/10/2015Folks What a disappointment was Question Time today! Apart from fleetingly seeing Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey sitting on the backbench, there was little else to excite Labor people. Bill Shorten and his senior ministers will need to do much, much better at framing questions, especially those directed to Malcolm Turnbull, an accomplished and glib-tongued barrister. Today we saw barbed questions directed to Turnbull, but easily turned back on the questioner and Labor. With obvious relish he ridiculed the questioner with a withering grin, redolent with condescension. It was like entering the boxing ring with Muhammad Ali, sticking out your tongue and an inviting chin, and wondering why he clobbered you. Surely Labor can do better than that! Do the organizers of Labor’s questions war game the possible answers? Do they assign someone to play the role of Turnbull to see what responses their questions might evoke? Even the casual observer could predict the answers that Turnbull gave. In my view, Labor would be well advised to not ask questions with a sharp edge, with a barb attached, because they will evoke the very responses we saw from Turnbull today. So please Labor people, ask straight, sensible and sincere questions, [i]sans[/i] sarcasm and taunts, the answers to which would inform us about Coalition thinking and planning, and enlighten us about what we might expect from Coalition strategists. Such an approach can’t be that hard, and would certainly be less embarrassing.

2353

12/10/2015It's on. The 'big C' Conservatives in the LNP are already trying to test Turnbull http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbull-urged-to-back-partial-repeal-of-racial-disctimination-act-as-senate-stoush-looms-20151011-gk6jx9.html

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13/10/20152353 The [i]SMH[/i] article is an early instance of the big-C conservatives attempting to bully their new leader. Resentful at the overthrow of their man, they will extract revenge by pushing hard on Turnbull to return to the repeal of s18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, the one that brought down their media mouthpiece, Andrew Bolt. They have three objectives in mind: to embarrass Turnbull, to flex their own political muscles, and of course to reinstate the right of the Bolts of this world to insult a person on the basis of their race. These guys, by their very dogmatic nature, are not likely to give up on their entrenched beliefs. They are not amenable to compromise. In my opinion, the Big-C conservatives are a greater threat to Turnbull’s success, even his survival, than is Bill Shorten and Labor. He seems to have Labor’s measure, but clearly dose not have the measure of the conservative clique, which rumbles subterraneously like a dormant volcano. When it erupts, Turnbull will be in deep trouble, enveloped in the fire and ash of angry and intolerant adversaries. Watch this space!

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13/10/2015Folks This evening I will post on [i]TPS Extra[/i] the next in this [i]TPS[/i] series on what to look for in Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership, and what we might expect of him in the months ahead. Based on a piece titled: [i]The Turnbull endgame?[/i] published on [i]TPS[/i] six years ago, in August 2009, a few months before Turnbull lost office to Tony Abbott, it recalls the events of the short period when he was Opposition Leader. It asks a number of questions about his suitability for high office, and queries whether he is a different Turnbull from the one we knew then: intensely unpopular with the electorate and deeply flawed. The title of the piece suggests the riddle we face: [i]The Turnbull enigma[/i]. It will be published in two parts. I shall leave a note here when the first part is published.

Casablanca

13/10/2015It seems Canberra is suddenly full of visionaries Mungo MacCallum For the six years of the Abbott regime, both in opposition and in government, it was all about threats and crises: we were constantly warned that we were about to become broke and destitute, that we would be murdered in our beds. Now the screaming is about to abate. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-13/maccallum-it-seems-canberra-is-suddenly-full-of-visionaries/6849004

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13/10/2015Folks I have just now posted on [i]TPS Extra[/i] the next piece in the series on [i]The Political Sword[/i] on Malcolm Turnbull and the prospects for his prime ministership. It is titled: [i]The Turnbull enigma[/i] and will appear in two parts, the next one in a few days. http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/2015/10/13/malcolm-turnbull-revisited The piece on the main site of [i]The Political Sword[/i], [i]Pass the Popcorn[/i] will remain contemporary until next Sunday.

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14/10/2015Casablanca That was a fine article by Mungo MacCallum, one that reflects the view of so many. The awfulness that characterised the Abbott era was suffered by all but his close sycophants, and the relief at his passing from power experienced by a clear majority of Australians. Does Abbott still believe his bold assertion: 'I could have won the next election convincingly'? Peter Lewis has written a good article in the same issue of [i]The Drum[/i], based on [i]Essential[/i] data: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-14/lewis-malcolm-turnbull-turns-the-temperature-down-on-terrorism/6852870 If Abbott has any lingering belief in himself, he should read it, and particularly the comments that Lewis' article evoked.

Casablanca

14/10/2015We shouldn't trust orators, visionaries and dreamers to lead us Michael Jensen. 14 October 2015 10.43 AEDT Tony Abbott’s giftless gab was legendary. His replacement, Malcolm Turnbull, is a noted wit. Like other orators, though, Turnbull is likely to disappoint.......Governments aren’t for telling us how to dream. They aren’t there to tell us who we are, and what our story is. And so we shouldn’t choose visionaries to lead us. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/14/we-shouldnt-trust-orators-visionaries-and-dreamers-to-lead-us#_=_

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14/10/2015Folks Anyone interested in reading the facts about the effect of raising the GST as presented by the Productivity Commission, rather than remaining confused by the conflicting rhetoric, should read the masterful, graphic-rich article by Greg Jericho in [i]The Drum[/i]. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-14/jericho-the-latest-pc-report-wont-vindicate-a-gst-hike/6852212

Casablanca

14/10/2015Malcolm Turnbull turns the temperature down on terrorism Peter Lewis. 14 October, 2015 Under previous management, the political focus would have been on the evil of IS. New polling suggests the Prime Minister's inclusive rhetoric may not only be productive in building community support, but will also make Australians feel safer. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-14/lewis-malcolm-turnbull-turns-the-temperature-down-on-terrorism/6852870

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16/10/2015Folks [b]I have just now posted on [i]TPS Extra[/i] the next piece in the series on [i]The Political Sword[/i] on Malcolm Turnbull and the prospects for his prime ministership. It is titled: [i]The Turnbull enigma – Part 2[/i]. Enjoy.[/b] http://www.tpsextra.com.au/post/2015/10/16/the-turnbull-enigma-part-2
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?