Turnbull for PM

There are three people prominent in Australian politics whom I would happily support as Prime Minister[1]. Of these, the one who has the best chance is, I think, Malcolm Turnbull (it shouldn’t be hard for readers to guess the other two). He’s reminded us again what we lost when he was replaced by the lightweight opportunist who now leads the Opposition, against a mirror-image PM. If the Libs would put Turnbull up again, they would get my vote for the first time.

fn1. That reflects a fairly pessimistic view of what progress can be made. A competent government with a decent and consistent policy on climate change is as much as we can hope for at present.

74 thoughts on “Turnbull for PM

  1. I do work within the system but not a lot happens because of that. My perspectives on life are too remote to be particularly relevant to the political discourse in this nation, that is how it seems.

    Every now and then a party throws up a policy I could live with, whether it is for dealing with AGW, or something utterly unrelated like employment policies. Trouble is, the party (or parties, in this case) put forward an idea as encapsulated in bills, bills which either have had the guts ripped out of them before they get beyond the inner circle, or get killed by senate. The most usual situation though, is to have a good idea dangled as a voting carrot, only to become a non-core policy after the fix is in. It is quite frankly difficult sometimes to accept that this is the best process we humans can manage as a means of developing long term vision. Noone wants dictatorships but that doesn’t mean that the current process isn’t a broken one (ie the Australian brand of democracy, or even the USA’s) or at least a severely dented one in need of some repair.

    Finally, I think Chris Warren (or his Doppelgaenger) is wrong about the policy, not the person or party, mattering. If a person votes only on the policy, they may still find that the policy fails to be implemented: after-the-election “blackholes”, or the mysterious “non-core” promises? Fact is, the people that end up in power must be principled enough to follow through on their collective (or individual) word, not to welch their end of the bargain. On some rare occurrence of a need to change or drop a policy commitment, then people might forgive it, but to trash a bunch of policies put forward as election enticements? No, voting for unprincipled people gets you that sort of behaviour (both major parties have had their senior politicians do this); a good policy dangled on the stick by an unprincipled politician buying your vote is hardly a reason to vote for them, in fact it is quite the opposite. Then there is the recent decision by people on mass to vote for Green candidates: recent voting for the Greens has put Bob Brown out there among the Media Murdocracy, and he gives them serious indigestion. They don’t like it when their snide remarks embedded in their questions are flung right back at them and with interest! It’s a hoot to see and hear.

    On a bad day I might grimly agree with CW, yet still wish we had a better way of doing things. Someone has to struggle for change for that to happen, and it isn’t going to be done by people who benefit from being inside the tent. Groups like GetUp! are one way of trying to get change happening (from within the system, where the system consists of democratic electoral process and the media), and they have been effective on some items of significance (especially to me). On the other hand, sometimes standing in front of something or being chained to something or marching in protest – illegally – is necessary. A pity, but no less necessary for being that.

  2. It seems clear that Labor is in very deep trouble when the John Quiggin crowd is busy rationalising the circumstances under which they would vote for the Liberals. The Labor brand, not to mention the Labor product, has become toxic. I suspect we are witnessing the begining of some serious tectonic political shifts. I don’t think they will leave any political party untouched but for now Labor is the most likely to get trashed by the process.

  3. The “John Quiggin Crowd” sounds like the name of a new political party doesn’t it? One opposed to zombie policies from Liberal and Labor alike, and which treats libertarian fundamentalism with contempt. And considering voting Liberal? You’d have to believe in the Rapture to believe that.

    Speaking personally, my opinion bearing no necessary relation to those of others on this blog, with Aneurin Bevan I say “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical and social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party … So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”

  4. Donald @1 page 2 (why can’t numbering be consecutive?). Good post, agree with all of it. I too have those grim days looking at the current bunch in power. Then there are better days when I remember that the system can throw people out of power like Pauline Hanson.

  5. Or, I don’t know, a party concerned with social justice, equity issues, the environment. What could we call them? The Browns? No, um, ….

  6. TerjeP :
    What we need is a Whig party.

    The Whigs were the barbarians who massacred political dissidents in the British Isles and banished others to toil in labour camps in Africa and Botany Bay. They also invaded North America, India, Africa, Europe, and SE Asia using smallpox as a weapon whenever necessary. The Whig economy was based on plantation slavery.

  7. I’m with those who would never endorse the Liberals, subject to the if my uncler were a woman, she’d be my aunt. Unless the Liberals were unrecognisable as the party of Howard/Menzies and were instead hard to distinguish on core issues from The Greens I’d not consider supporting them. Since that’s improbable I might go as far as to say that if the party were composed overwhelmingly of people of Turnbull’s disposition it might not be as horrible for them to win as it would if they won now.

    Turnbull won’t come back, IMO, at least not before 2013 and a significant coalition loss in which Turnbull-like voters voted ALP. Turnbull would need that to have any authority at all.

  8. I also don’t share your view on Rudd PrQ. While he was undoubtedly the most cerebral PM we have had since Whitlam the mess the ALP is in now is largely of his doing. He had a chance after Grech to establish his grip on the office by driving a serious climate change solution, and yet he squibbed, reducing Garnaut to “input” and getting into a negotiation with the Libs to brown out (in both senses) mitigation policy. That undermined both Turnbull and him, though he fancied it would only do the former.

    Rudd was naive and utterly lacking in political acumen. While he appealed to intellectuals that very thing subverted his authenticity. Climate change is largely seen as in the province of boffins, and thus political action often turns on what one thinks of boffins. Rudd needed to show how policy touched the lives of people in the here and now. He didn’t. He needed to show he could kick heads. He didn’t and instead made it a game.

    His posturing over “boats” was appalling, and further made him subject to credentialling by the Howardistas. Nobody was going to believe he’d do as good a job beating up vulnerable people as the Libs.

    So while he’s a better man than the Murdochracy allowed, his flaws make him unfit to be PM. I’m not sure there’s anyone from either party who’d do as good a job though. Couldn’t we have Adam Bandt? Andrew Wilkie? Not sure who’d second them of course.

  9. @Fran Barlow

    Rudd had his flaws, and I agree with you that he squibbed on AGW when Ross Garnaut came across as a loose cannon. Garnaut wasn’t a loose cannon in actual fact, although he did show a lack of political judgement in interviews. His report was a little too frightening for some in caucus (the kitchen-sink cabinet, or the TV room cabinet, I don’t know which), and anything that spooks the horses is a bad thing for a leader. Rudd just panicked, I think, and side-lined Garnaut at the first sign of potential difficulty.

    The real damning thing though is that the evidence of AGW just keeps mounting up, already consigning the original Garnaut report to a historical footnote. Garnaut has kept at it though, publishing various updates and reviews on the web.

  10. Harcher is right. Gillard has two years and in the meantime she shouldn’t care less what the polls say. Let the media endlessly examine the entrails of the various polls, discuss petty political issues rather than policy and follow the circus that is Abbott. The independents do not want an election and will support Gillard for another two years. In two years the electorate will be considering a whole set of new issues (and interpretations) and this week’s poll, let alone the debates of today (set top boxes or whatever) will be largely irrelevant.

    Gillard has some things on her side: she is a better administrator than Rudd who wanted to control everything the Government did, eventually resulting in paralysis; she is a better negotiator; she is going to prosecute the case for a price on carbon; and (again) it is is not in the interest of the independents to seek an early election. She has the precious advantage of TIME.

    Turnbull, while a principled (small l liberal) politician (reflected in a 10% swing at the last election compared to Abbott’s 5%) should not be in a hurry – he has plenty of time for his run, with an election at least two years away! DON’T PANIC!

  11. I agree with Ralph’s sentiments. I remember John Howard’s first year. It was a shocker.

    There’s plenty of time for Labour to recover.

  12. While he was undoubtedly the most cerebral PM we have had since Whitlam the mess the ALP is in now is largely of his doing.

    Interesting. I actually think Rudd is dim relative to most PMs over the last few decades. He is also fabulously ignorant of his limitations. I have never been able to see what people admired in him. I’d rather Mark Latham or god forbid Kim Beazley.

  13. @TerjeP

    Being ignorant of one’s limitations doesn’t entail being dim, even in relative terms. It’s a flaw straddling the divide between the intellectual and the psychosocial. You’ve also admitted that you don’t know hius strengths, which for someone engaged in politics here during his time in office is a signiuficant admission of cognitive deficit. I suspect you are being rhetorical, and merely wish not to acknowledge his strengths, on cultural grounds.

    Neither Latham nor even Beazley was Rudd’s intellectual peer. While all three were prisoners of their right-of-centre paradigm, it’s likely Rudd at least understood that he was mere political flotsam, unlike the other two.

  14. You’ve also admitted that you don’t know hius strengths, which for someone engaged in politics here during his time in office is a signiuficant admission of cognitive deficit.

    I admit he was good at being sly, good at self promotion, and obviously he was bilingual but if he had some other strengths then they don’t spring to mind. Feel free to list a few.

  15. Andrew – the JQ prediction from 2007 reminds us that a week in politics is a long time. Not that John has been proven wrong yet but the fact that even he is thinking about the terms on which he would vote Liberal is telling. Whilst we are on the topic I must admit to a mild chuckle at the following bit:-

    “The conservatives haven’t won a state or territory election this century, and have suffered landslide defeats at the hands of Labor governments, some of which have been mediocre at best. Of course, things could go badly wrong for Rudd or for one of the state governments.”

  16. As leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott has been very effective – in keeping the coalition in Opposition. As time goes on the reality of their non policies, their misrepresentations, their deliberate attempts to mislead will be harder for them to deny.

  17. @TerjeP

    I admit {Rudd} was good at being sly, good at self promotion, and obviously he was bilingual but if he had some other strengths then they don’t spring to mind. Feel free to list a few.

    Actually, apart from the bilingualism, these were not sources of strength for him, and indeed I’ve made the point a number of times that his regime was one of the least effective at the politics. He was naive, assuming that the public at large shared his capacity to reason from evidence, to see spin when it was offered and so forth. When it dawned on him finally that this was not the case, instead of speaking more plainly and thematically, he started borrowing from what he (wrongly) took to be the argot of hoi polloi further delegitimising himself in their eyes.

    He had an enormous capacity to grasp the details of policy and their implications. He was diligent and analytic and sought to place his views within a coherent and textured ethical paradigm. While it’s my view that he ultimately failed in this last respect, and most critically, became the prisoner of the culture of xenophobia and existential angst that has beset this country’s politics almost continuously since its emergence as an outpost of British and then “western” civilisation on the fringes of the empire, this effort and his intellect still sets him apart positively from most of his predecessors.

  18. Failing to calculate how others will calculate is a pretty big failure in politics. It is a root failure of socialism. It isn’t consistent with having deep insight into the implications of a policy position. A deep insight into a policy position recognised how others calculate an the alternate incentives they have to do so. For instance the policy to implement an Internet filter using a secret list of blocked sites assumes that those administering such a list will calculate the the political, social and moral implications of a websight and respond rapidly to errors and changes. It is naive in the extreme to the incentives of somebody that does something in secret with no public scrutiny. Lots of the policy ideas that Rudd prevailed over were not deep thinking at work but run of the mill naive populist thinking. They presume governments have certain powers of cognition which they don’t. They in fact ignore the calculation problems.

  19. @TerjeP

    Without accepting your claim about “a root failure of socialism” which would take us a long way from the topic, it is clear that political acumen was not Rudd’s strong suit. In this country, he really ought to have been a senior policy adviser rather than a PM.

    In a Scandinavian country, where a higher value attaches to intellectual life, he’d probably have got 3 terms while Howard and Abbott wouldn’t have been prominent figures.

    I don’t agree with the internet filtering idea of course — but that’s what happens when you start pandering to the right.

  20. @TerjeP

    Capitalism is even worse at this calculation. It relies on increased debt to fill-in the gap. And of course, for those who take an evidence-based approach – the amount of debt increases and eventually destroys the entire economy.

    No economic system is based on “calculation” except a planned economy as during war years.

  21. In a Scandinavian country, where a higher value attaches to intellectual life, he’d probably have got 3 terms while Howard and Abbott wouldn’t have been prominent figures.

    I’ll ask my relatives about this. Maybe they can take him off our hands.

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