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Turnbull out

April 7th, 2010

I’ll try to write a bit about Malcolm Turnbull’s career when I get some free time. In the meantime, with Minchin also leaving, I thought I’d point out how little is left of the Howard era in Australian politics, at least on the conservative side. Howard, Costello, Downer, Vaile, Nelson, Turnbull, Minchin and a host of lesser lights have all gone, one way or another. Assuming, as seems plausible, that Abbott will lose the next election and be dumped thereafter (I don’t think a losing conservative leader has ever avoided this fate in national politics, though both Peacock and Howard managed comebacks), there will be hardly anyone left except Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop, both very junior figures under Howard.

I don’t have a good feel for how unusual this is. Quite a few Labor figures left after 1996, but I don’t think it was such a wholesale cleanout. Commenters are invited to do the spadework on this.

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  1. April 7th, 2010 at 09:18 | #1

    In some ways I feel saddened by the loss of Turnbull. Obviously an intelligent and talented man he was frustrated in his two great ambitions: the failure of the referendum on the Republic and failing to hold leadership of the Liberal party (and therefore become Prime Minister). Not a man to wait. Personally, I have some sympathy for conservative values, and Turnbull IMHO represented a credible conservatism. With Minchin et.al on the way out and Joyce sidelined it only leaves Abbot to carry on the “Howard tradition”. That that tradition is now slowly withering on the vine is not a bad thing. I’d recommend the recent article “What’s Right” in the Quarterly Essay for a good overview of the key challenges to “liberalism” and the Liberal Party in Australia.

  2. Paul Norton
    April 7th, 2010 at 09:29 | #2

    Kim Beazley, Gareth Evans, Simon Crean, Robert Ray, Nick Bolkus, Peter Cook, Michael Lee, Bob McMullan, Laurie Brereton, John Faulkner, Carmen LAwrence, Duncan Kerr and Chris Shacht were all Keating government figures who were still on board for Labor at the 1998 Federal election.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Keating_Ministry

  3. jquiggin
    April 7th, 2010 at 09:45 | #3

    Also, Howard and Peacock, both senior ministers under Fraser, dominated the conservative side of politics for a decade after 1993 and in Howard’s case, far beyond.

  4. wilful
    April 7th, 2010 at 09:54 | #4

    Not sure what I feel about Turnbull now. He was pretty woeful as an opposition leader, if you remember clearly. But at least he had a brain, and a moral compass, and some verbal dexterity.

  5. BilB
    April 7th, 2010 at 10:08 | #5

    It seems to me that the “Coalition” is struggling to put a human face to their bizaar version right wing politics. This should be easy to mix the needs of the people with a right wing focus, but their failure speaks volumes of a lack of empathy with real people and their lives. It is as if the conservatives have applied the 80/20 rule to policy ie 80% of the policy to serve the needs of 20% of the constituency, with the consequence that it does not attract any great talent from their “preferred” constituent pool. Turnbull being the exception. So what is left? A bunch of desperate needy greedies!

    I’m keen to see what Turnbull turns to next once he is free of the loser naysayers.

  6. April 7th, 2010 at 10:15 | #6

    What can one say about a party that started wars of aggression and supported torture, practicing extreme cruelty towards asylum seekers? What can you say about a party that went into the 2007 with policies on hooning, graffiti and storm water drains, said nothing about the wars they had started, said little about refugee policy, said even less about climate change?

    I say they were unfit for public life, unprincipled, morally bankrupt and they had run out of tricks. As for Malcolm Turnbull, he had talent, he even had some principles. But he knew what party he was joining. We need not grieve his retirement from federal politics.

    Perhaps one day soon the Liberals will be at number three or four and the Greens might be the real Opposition. The Liberals do not own a position of power, they have to deserve it, and they don’t. I think we are all just a little tired of the Tony Abbott-Wilson Tuckey show and won’t miss these people either.

  7. Paul Norton
    April 7th, 2010 at 10:27 | #7

    JQ #3, I think you meant to type “1983″.

  8. pablo
    April 7th, 2010 at 10:31 | #8

    Watch for the Rudd appointment. My guess is that Kev will see this as a way to revamp his CPRS perhaps with the establishment of an adisory body on AGW/climate change with you-know-who at the head. Or he could see it as timely to establish a stronger Reserve Bank style body that would independently manage actions at arm’s length from government.
    Either way you can see the attractions for Turnbull to stick it to the deniers.

  9. Alex
    April 7th, 2010 at 10:34 | #9

    I always thought that Turbull offered his services the the highest bidder with the Liberals eventually giving him the best deal? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him line up for the ALP sometime in the near future.

  10. 2 tanners
    April 7th, 2010 at 11:30 | #10

    I’m not sure that Abbott will get dumped. I believe you are correct regarding the precedents, but on currently polling, the Liberal pool is also going to be unprecedently small. Joe botched his last shot at the job and I’m not sure who else would be considered a contender.

  11. Chris Warren
    April 7th, 2010 at 12:01 | #11

    Paul Norton :
    JQ #3, I think you meant to type “1983?.

    Rightwing labor (Hawke & Co) did the damage after 1983.

    Howard and Co did the damage after 1995.

    Gremlins in the ACTU also assisted so that now the Commonwealth does not have to worry too much about giving minimum wage workers a decent wage.

    Well done, them.

  12. April 7th, 2010 at 12:09 | #12

    @Alex

    Always thought Turnball was more a Labour-right wing kinda guy. He joined politics when Howard was in power, perhaps because like everything else he *couldn’t wait*. The Liberals were in power then. Had he gone Labour he’d most likely be heading up a significant portfolio at present.

  13. Ken Lovell
    April 7th, 2010 at 13:02 | #13

    I remember from the time when I worked for an industry association that we once hired someone to work for us who had previously been a senior manager of one of our member companies. His attitude as an employee was one of polite condescension, based on his belief that he came from the ‘real world’ and had nothing to learn from people who worked for an association. He too departed in an upsurge of mutual animosity.

    I imagine Turnbull’s entry to the Liberal party room was something like that and it would have generated considerable resentment right from day 1. All the media stories about him being an inevitable leader one day wouldn’t have helped either.

    Political parties have long had these fantasies about parachuting in a well-known candidate from outside of politics to provide a magic boost to their fortunes (think John Elliott, Peter Garrett, assorted sporting and media personalities). Turnbull’s story might finally make them see the appalling risks inherent in the practice. Such people in many cases simply don’t know how to be party politicians. Bob Hawke is often cited as a contra-example, but of course he had been engaged in party politics for years in both the ACTU and in the ALP.

  14. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 7th, 2010 at 14:02 | #14

    I think the perpetual political problem for the Australian right is, as BilB suggest, an inability to put an empathetic human face to their policy positions without selling out to silly leftist ideas that show empathy but make no rational or moral sense. The other is in my view is an inability to present as something other than as conservative, as in protecting the establishment and those elities that are served by it. I’d prefer that conservatism was replaced by small government liberalism of a more libertarian flavour. So far neither Rudd nor Abbott offer any form of agenda that I feel any passion for. They are in my view both a waste of space. Malcolm didn’t look a lot better. He may have been smart but I settle for a dim leader if they had good policy, good principles and a good team behind them.

    I expect the Liberals to get trashed at the next election.

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