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Brief candle

Turnbull’s Shakespearean tragedy is reaching the final act

11 February 2017

9:00 AM

11 February 2017

9:00 AM

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of PM time.

With suitable apologies to Mr Shakespeare for the paraphrase, but we have now had some seventeen months of yesterdays since 54 Liberal MPs defenestrated Mr Abbott, opting instead to put in office the most left-wing Liberal leader ever. The thinking was that this darling of the ABC luvvies and inner-city, chardonnay-sipping solar panellistas would scoop up oodles of votes from over on the left of the political spectrum while keeping most of the Liberal Party base’s vote. Okay, maybe he wouldn’t keep most of the base but heck if Turnbull lost the base no one need worry. After all, Mark Textor assured anyone who would listen that ‘the qualitative evidence is they [ie Abbott-preferring righties like me and a fair few of you] don’t matter. The sum of a more centrist approach outweighs any alleged marginal loss of so-called base voters.’

That was the theory that led a right of centre party to stab in the back, Brutus-style, the man who had led them to a huge election victory only two years beforehand. There were only a few problems with that theory.

One was that all those lefties loved Malcolm, but few of them would ever vote for him. They liked having the most left-wing person imaginable heading up the Liberal Party. But they still wouldn’t vote for him. You see he still needed to enforce border controls and he still had to insist that all the voters ought to be the ones to decide on same-sex marriage. Sure, they could have Malcolm and Lucy to dinner, by all means. But they’d still vote Labor or Greens. What a surprise!

Another flaw in the thinking of the Brutus assassins was to suppose that there would be no long-term costs to the Liberal Party in copying Labor and ditching a first-term (yes, first-term) PM behind the backs of the voters. That was incredibly naïve. Voters on the party’s right felt their man was never given a chance. They hated the fact the man who had undermined Abbott at every opportunity was now benefitting from his own disloyalty – and if any reader doesn’t believe disloyalty to Abbott was the Turnbull trademark ask Peter Costello why he left Parliament after the Rudd win in 2007, and enquire whether it had anything to do with how he reckoned Turnbull would behave. Here’s a simple fact about humans. If you are disloyal you can’t later ask others to be loyal. People aren’t hardwired that way.

Want to know what else our fatuous 54 fatheads overlooked? It’s simple. If the Liberal Party opts to become diet Labor, a sort of sugar free Labor lite offering, it will open up a gaping chasm on its right flank. Nature abhors a vacuum and something will fill it. Long term this would be poison to the Liberal Party. Who can doubt that Team Turnbull (I believe that’s the new mot juste for the Libs) is a left-wing vehicle these days?


The RET? ‘What Labor is proposing is crazy’, the Libs say. Instead you should pick us because our policies are only 67 per cent as crazy as theirs. (No principles, no beliefs, just ‘we’re a tad better than Billy Boy Shorten’.)

Or what of free speech and 18C repeal? What a joke the Libs have been on this first-order issue that lies at the heart of Enlightenment values and yes, western civilisation. Handed two of the clearest cases of outrageous 18C over-reach imaginable, the QUT saga and Bill Leak disgrace, what do we get from Malcolm’s Libs? A Yes Minister inquiry designed to move the issue off the front page, nothing more. I just gave evidence to this joint parliamentary committee. You’d be mad to think it will call for the repeal of 18C. Some of the Liberal MPs on the Committee are actually on record as being in favour of retaining 18C.

And the Turnbull spending cuts? Basically they don’t exist. Herr Turnbull prefers to raise taxes on your and my superannuation and looks for ways to get more tax revenue. Team Turnbull even uses Labor’s dishonest Orwellian terminology, calling these higher taxes ‘budget savings’ – as though the money is rightfully theirs and they’ll allow you to keep a bit as a sort of grace and favour indulgence. Small government liberal/conservatives my foot!

Look, the only way this Turnbull experiment could ever have worked was if he was incredibly successful at the polls. Illegitimate coups only work if the pretender goes on to win, and win big, and then systematically gets rid of the old guard. (Think Game of Thrones or medieval English history.) But Turnbull ran an incoherent campaign at last year’s election; he ignored 18C; he ignored the purported reason for calling the election; he didn’t attack the unions; it was the worst campaign I’ve ever seen.

Compare what Team Turnbull has accomplished to Abbott’s stopping the boats, getting rid of the carbon and mining taxes, and scoring all those free trade deals. Tony made many errors. But who in a sane Liberal Party removes Abbott and puts in the most left-wing option out there? And let’s be honest. Malcolm got a free ride from the media in a way that Tony never did. Tony was attacked relentlessly by the ABC and Fairfax. And let’s be blunt, even the Australian had weekly hatchet jobs run against him by Niki Savva and PVO while he was PM. Where in the Oz is the equivalent journalist writing weekly tirades against Turnbull? Let’s face it. Savva was for the coup. PVO was. Paul Kelly was. Janet Albrechtsen was. Bramston was. The list goes on. Heck, only Maurice Newman and Terry McCrann were early and sustained critics.   And this is the most right-wing paper in the country!

The point is that Turnbull could not have had an easier time in the press. He got a way easier ride than Abbott. And still his core lefty outlook tripped him up again and again. He and Bishop were against Brexit and clearly despised Trump. That alone tells you all you need to know about the values disconnect between Malcolm and the Liberal base.

Now it is all imploding. Back at the time of the coup I wrote that Turnbull would be a terrible PM who’d bring the Libs to ruin. I confess I was wrong. Malcolm’s been even worse than I thought. He and the coup ringleaders have lighted fools the way to dusty political death.

Out, out, brief candle! Political life’s but a walking shadow, a poor PM that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and God help us soon will be heard no more.

Shakespeare was right yet again. Too bad so many Liberal MPs got sucked in back in late 2015 and now can’t find a way to wash the blood from their hands. Lady Macbeths, the lot of them.


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