Last week, we published an article demonstrating that Prime Minister Turnbull really hasn’t changed all that much
. While he has fiddled around the edges and has shown some ability in attempting to explain policy better, Australia is still treating refugees who attempt to come here abysmally; there is still an expenditure ‘problem’ rather than looking at expenditure and
revenue (tax); there is no change from the expensive and unproven ‘direct action’ environmental package, same sex marriage or becoming a republic.
The Nationals have an important role to play in the current coalition government: they are the people that give Abbott or Turnbull the numbers to govern. The Liberal Party controls 75 seats in the House of Representatives — they need 76 for a majority. Apparently, each time the Liberal Party leadership changes the coalition agreement is re-negotiated. This time, the agreement (which hasn’t been made public
) apparently documented a number of issues from the Abbott government that were to remain as Coalition policy.
Turnbull has history as one of the more progressive members of the Liberal Party. He was Opposition Leader when Prime Minister Rudd was working on an emissions trading system and supported the concept. The ultra-conservative faction of the Liberal Party was aghast, organised the numbers and replaced (by one vote) Turnbull with Abbott. With the signing of a new coalition agreement, plus a list of policies that won’t change, and possibly a separate letter regarding policy before they would re-sign the coalition agreement, it’s easy to suggest the Nationals, in their eyes at least, believe they ‘Won’t get fooled again’.
Turnbull has bigger problems than keeping the Nationals happy. While they ‘talk tough’, it is easy to argue that in the past the Nationals will compromise their principles for the smell of ministerial leather.
Turnbull’s first problem is Tony Abbott. At the time of writing, Abbott was indicating that he would stay on as a Member of Parliament. Abbott, while promising to get out of the way, has recently ‘subjected’ himself to interviews from some of his favourite media ‘players’ — Ray Hadley, Neil Mitchell and The Daily Telegraph
. While some form of justifying his actions and protecting his heritage is natural
, Mark Kenny, writing in Fairfax publications
begs to differ:
His assertion that he could have done a David Cameron, and be re-elected despite a period of being down in the polls, is fanciful and speaks to the depths of his office's self-delusion.
The Political Sword
has previously touched on the war between the conservative and moderate sections of the party, as played out inside the Coalition, News Corporation and in the wider community
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, former Prime Minister Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin gave a speech at a ‘Women of the Future’ event in Sydney.
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.
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.
It seems that some within the organisation [News Corp] have decided that Abbott lost and have (perhaps reluctantly) thrown their support behind Turnbull as Prime Minister. Others haven’t.
While their ‘standard bearer’ is sitting there on the backbench, there will be mutterings regarding his ‘wasted’ skills in a similar way to those made by Rudd supporters after Gillard became prime minister. While Gillard initially made Rudd Foreign Minister, we know how well that worked
. Rudd resigned as Foreign Minister (from overseas) and sat on the backbench for some time before his successful challenge. In addition, when conservative radio announcer Alan Jones lectured Turnbull
he ‘had no hope of ever being the leader, you have got to get that into your head’, there is obviously some element of revenge that is yet to be extracted, as it seems that Jones is always right — just ask him. When you consider that Abbott era Minister Abetz has threatened to cross the floor if ‘necessary’
, and both Abetz and Bernardi have openly discussed the formation of a ‘new’ conservative party in Australia
, it’s probably fair to suggest (with a hat tip to Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch
), that Abbott isn’t dead, he’s just resting. While it’s probably labouring the comparison a tad too much (sorry), Abbott sitting on the backbench ‘pining for the fjords’ of leadership claims he ‘refuses to snipe
’ but will be in an ideal position to emulate Rudd and attempt to gather followers and take back the leadership/prime ministership.
Turnbull also has to manage expectations. The elevation of a new leader brings an opportunity for all to attempt to promote solutions for their own specific needs and wants. As an example, this article suggested at the start that Turnbull hasn’t made any immediate changes to refugee policy, environmental policy, same sex marriage or promotion of a debate around the republic.
The Western Australian
governments are confidently predicting funding for public transport. The overturning of the emasculation of the original National Broadband Network (NBN) is being promoted by others
, while muzzling the overreactions of government organisations such as Border Force are being questioned as well
. Again without much surprise, the New South Wales Teachers Federation is asking Turnbull to deliver on the (ALP’s) Gonski reforms to education
For the record, TPS
isn’t the only media outlet asking for change in Australia’s refugee policy. A group of coalition and independent politicians are asking Turnbull to heal the ‘weeping sore’ of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. Gillian Triggs, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner is also asking for change
In response to recent rape allegations made by refugees on Manus Island, Turnbull claims he is ‘concerned
’ but the policies are working.
"The one thing we know is these policies, tough though they are, harsh though they are in many respects, actually do work, they save lives," he said.
"This is not a theoretical exercise anymore."
He criticised former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd for dismantling the Howard era offshore processing regime, arguing the decision cost billions of dollars and an unknown number of lives.
Mr Turnbull said he personally argued against the Rudd government changes.
Turnbull, to his credit has sat down with representatives from business, community groups and organised labour on 1 October to discuss an economic way forward. While Turnbull was talking about reform and the reporting on the ‘mini-summit’ seemed positive
The Turnbull government has reached in-principle agreement with unions, employers and welfare organisations to reduce a raft of concessional taxation arrangements that benefit the rich, as all sides hailed the prospect of a new era of consensus and co-operation in Canberra.
In his first major interview since taking over as head of the Business Coalition for Tax Reform, Frank Drenth, whose lobby group includes the nation's biggest business groups including the Australian Bankers' Association, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Financial Services Council, Minerals Council of Australia and Property Council of Australia, said business was open to having a debate about the areas that were seen by the previous Liberal leadership as taboo.
Greg Jericho, writing for The Guardian
questioned the reality of the debate over economic reform, suggesting that ‘reform’ just means ‘policy that I agree with’
. So ‘having the debate’ over subjects that were ‘taboo’ according to the previous leadership is probably useless unless some action takes place. Jericho’s suggestion is:
You want to change Australia’s tax system, our IR system, our competition laws? Great, but tell us why and how that will improve our economy, and tell us who will be affected and how. If you need to say it will improve productivity, tell us how and explain what you mean by that word — because profit does not equal productivity.
Turnbull in his first month has created an atmosphere where business, government and the unions will talk to each other to make all our lives more equitable — which is better than Abbott could achieve in two years. That’s a brilliant outcome isn’t it? Well — no so fast.
On the same day as the economic ‘mini-summit’, where seemingly everything was on the table, Abbott made the decision to have a chat with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell
. The chat was on air. So despite Turnbull trying to change the discussion, the day’s memorable headline was that Abbott hadn’t ‘forgiven’ Turnbull
. By comparison, Gillard seems to have ‘moved on’ by limiting her comment on past political events and pursuing her interests on the larger stage that being a former leader of a country gives you
. Sitting on a stage in New York City as an equal with Michelle Obama, Charlize Theron and others discussing how to improve educational outcomes for girls worldwide is a class act.
Turnbull obviously made a number of commitments to fellow conservative politicians to gain power. There also seems to be some disgruntled Liberal and National Party members along with some members of the media. Human nature would suggest that people seek a rallying point for their discontent. In politics now — as was the case in 2012 and 2013 — they have a former prime minister sitting on the backbench, to some extent twiddling his thumbs. It would seem to those that are not members of the inner circle (such as me) that it would be easier to seek to influence others to support the failed ‘hero’ rather than form a new political party. A challenge to Turnbull is almost inevitable unless he retains the Abbott policies — Abbott, Abetz and Bernardi have almost said so. If Turnbull does retain all the Abbott policies, there are a significant number of generalist and special interest groups that will vote for anyone but Turnbull.
Turnbull is a ‘failed’ opposition leader, now prime minister. A raft of groups from ultra-conservative to progressive have placed trust in Turnbull to further their particular interests. While some see Turnbull as the saviour, it is probably better to remember Turnbull was rolled the first time when he agreed with an environmental policy that subsequently demonstrated efficiency and proof of concept. We know now that he is surrounded by those who won’t allow him to change the world and get away with it. That should ensure we ‘won’t get fooled again’.
What do you think?
Turnbull may have won the Liberal Party leadership and the prime ministership but as 2353 points out his troubles aren’t over. Conflicting expectations have been created for both the conservatives and progressives. Whether Turnbull can meet those expectations is debatable. But, if we are aware of them then 2353’s words may be true and we ‘won’t get fooled again’.
Next week we go back a little in political time when Ken takes a closer look at the radicalisation awareness brochure released in September, in his ‘Are you sure you’re not a radical?’