For his own self-respect, Turnbull should quit

As I mentioned in my last post, Turnbull’s narrow win has left us with a government standing for nothing but delaying various inevitable outcomes, including
* equal marriage;
* participation in global action on climate change; and, most notably
* Turnbull’s removal from office, whether by voters or, more likely, by his own colleagues.

The “economic plan” on which the government was supposedly elected consists of a single element, a cut in company taxes mostly deferred far enough beyond the forward estimates to dodge the question of how it will be paid for. In any case, it’s dead in the water, as, in all likelihood is the pretext for the double dissolution, the ABCC bill.

Turnbull’s lame duck status was made farcically clear by Cabinet’s non-decision on Kevin Rudd’s proposed nomination as UN Secretary General. The Right-dominated party didn’t even bother to overrule Julie Bishop (and, pretty obviously, Turnbull’s own inclination). Instead, they told Turnbull to make a “captain’s call”, while making it clear that the wrong call would be fatal.

If Turnbull had any self-respect left, he’d resign and let this crew sort out their own mess. Instead, he gets to hang on in office, at the price of being made a fool of on a daily basis.

85 thoughts on “For his own self-respect, Turnbull should quit

  1. Labor lost the election because they were a hopeless government. Time for Labor supporters to move on and to forget about bucketing Turnbull in the hope that this will somehow dislodge the conservatives. I voted Labor when Abbott was leader and now vote will vote Liberal because Turnbull is streets ahead of Shorten. The decision on Rudd was sensible – his own party members recognized he was a hopeless manager with no people skills.

    The economy is doing OK and I don’t think there were huge imperatives to change the tax mix. It could never have addressed the adverse terms of trade shock over which no Australian politician exerts control.

    On climate change, the Coalition have been disappointing but that is democracy. Turnbull was the most eloquent supporter of pricing carbon – far better than anyone in Labor – but currently cannot get his party to shift. If he was deposed the situation for getting decent carbon pricing policies in Australia would be diminished – it would not help.

  2. @hc

    I disagree that the Australian economy is doing OK. Neither the Coalition nor Labor have any idea how to run the economy properly. Both are neoliberal in the main and are quite happy to tolerate 6% unemployment and an extended labour force under-utilisation rate of something like 13% (hard to get recent figures). These figures are a travesty but nobody in the major parties cares one iota. I can’t even recall a minor party mentioning these issues.

  3. The terms of trade shock we experienced was dramatic but the economy has adjusted reasonably well. The problems that remain are the high value of the Australian dollar and the persistent public sector deficits caused by squeamishness about cutting public spending on non-capital items and Labor obstructionism in the Senate. Shorten wanted to increase the deficits and the Australian public rejected this but the opposition to curtailing excessive government spending and/or refusing to increase taxes continues.

  4. @hc
    You’ll vote for Malcolm? Name one thing of substance that he has done in public life. Just one. He has wrecked havoc everywhere he’s gone (the NBN being the most outstanding example). Since he became PM there has been one gutless and stupid maneuver after another. If he gets even a sliver of a chance to f… up he takes it without doubt or hesitation. If “eloquence” is measured by the number of words required to state a simple concept, then he is the most eloquent man alive. People seem bedazzled by the fact that he’s made a lot of money. Big deal. Christopher Skase and Alan Bond made a lot of money too. I wouldn’t want them as PM either.
    Shorten, on the other hand, has real runs on the board in government, the NDIS being the most significant.

  5. @hc

    What about unemployment? Doesn’t that matter? There are 734,200 unemployed in Australia. Their situation means nothing?

  6. Actually, the above are just the official numbers which are a heavily manipulated lie.

    Roy Morgan Research found as at February 05, 2016:

    “Now 2.575 million Australians (19.7% of the workforce) are unemployed or under-employed in January – third straight month over 19% of Australians are looking for work or more work…

    This month’s increase from 9.7% to 10.3% means the latest Roy Morgan unemployment estimate is now 4.5% higher than the figure currently quoted by the ABS for December 2015 (5.8%).”

    “Over the last four years in 47 out of 48 months total Australian unemployment and under-employment has been above 2 million Australians. This is a consistent trend that has not been addressed by either the former Gillard-Rudd Governments or as yet by the Abbott-Turnbull Government.”

    So, we pretend the economy is OK and the government supplies rigged figures. The reality out in society is much, much worse than is being acknowledged or shown on the mainstream media.

  7. @hc

    This is a very dogmatic approach to the dilemmas facing Australia.

    You do realise that the cuts you want to public spending will dump entire families into pauperism?

    The solution to deficits, even under capitalism, is to increase taxes on profits.

  8. hc :
    Labor lost the election because they were a hopeless government.

    Well, you make a compelling case with your argument – and I guess this is why the LNP was re-elected with a strong mandate and a majority in the upper house…. I suspect you are going to be in for some confusing times. Turnbull isn’t going to last the term and he has just proven to everyone who isn’t reading the Australian that he has no authority.

  9. Could it be that both Turnbull and Rudd are solipsistic narcissists? If so, Malcolm will be absolutely hopeless in dealing with the cross benchers (Arfur may well be the answer, but that presupposes
    self -awareness. Catch 22.) One double disillusion is never enough.

  10. @Ikonoclast

    Re your 33

    You ask: “So we have to ask ourselves why our system is maladaptively throwing up such poor leaders …”

    I thought, just for the sake of serene contemplation, that I might list all the people who have been Australian Prime Ministers since I was born (but not including Frank Forde or ‘Black Jack’ McEwan who were only very short term fillins). So, Ikono, what does this list tell you, or us, about “maladaptively throwing up such poor leaders” ?

    John Curtin
    Ben Chifley
    Robert Menzies
    Harold Holt
    John Gorton
    William McMahon
    Gough Whitlam
    Malcolm Fraser
    Robert hawke
    Paul Keaing
    John Howard
    Kevin Rudd
    Julia Gillard
    Tony Abbott
    Malcolm Turnbull

    That list covers 70+ years. Impressive lot, yes ?

  11. @GrueBleen

    The PMs I remember start at Harold Holt. It seems strange I don’t remember Menzies at all when I have other childhood memories which go back to 1960 at least.

    As one gets older and acquires more world experience, one can see how flawed each PM is. All I can see as far back as I can remember are a string of flawed and contemptible characters with the possible exceptions of Gorton and Whitlam. It seems like they might actually have been intelligent and decent human beings. It’s hard to tell at such a distance though.

    What baffles me is watching adults at the US party conventions carrying on like they are pre-teens at a Beatles concert. Don’t they realise how idiotic it is to hero worship people who are just in it for themselves and who are deceiving the populace? It’s the infantile desire for “leaders” which is holding us back from the next steps we need to take in social evolution. People who need leaders are held in contempt by those very leaders. Bjelke-Peterson expressed when he said, IIRC, “People are children.” I think people remain children while they expect leaders to tell them how to run their own society.

  12. The corporate memory here, on a variety of opinions, is marvelous (as is the enduring and inspiring commitment to seeing this country get a better shake of the sauce bottle despite appalling cynicism from certain political leaders).

  13. Those uncomfortable with the concept of leaders need only to look at the current US presidential process and the inexplicable rise of Trump, a hero to more than just a few.

  14. @hc Pre election Abbott made a number of promises that he broke when PM, which made him unpopular with the voter. Realising that they would lose the next election they changed leaders, installing Turnbull who’s advocacy had been more popular. Post election it seems that he is also not living up to his promise.

    Turnbull seems to catering to a minority ie the hard right and will suffer the consequences at the next election, should he make it that far.

  15. When you consider that Turnbull called a double dissolution over the failure of both houses to pass ABCC legislation and the result of that double dissolution was a reduced majority in both houses and still no passage of the ABCC legislation, I think it fair to say that it is Turnbull not Shorten who has lost the election

  16. @Joshua

    I would argue, in fact, that Turnbull is absolutely shite at tactics as well

    I can’t disagree with your points there.

    I would count bollixing up the NBN as a tactical success since that’s what he was supposed to do. It was a strategic disaster and a good example of Turnbulls willingness to sacrifice the national interest for personal gain, but tactically it was sound. The Liberals had turned the NBN into an albatross for Labor, and I think no matter how they “turned it around under his brilliant leadership” it would still be seen as heavily Labor-oriented. If only because it’s socialist in nature, “everyone gets the same basic service” is just not a Liberal philosophy.

    He also managed to get the Liberal leadership twice, which says that at least at some level he’s got the tactical skills to get those votes. The counterpoint is that he gave away so much to get them that it has to count as poor tactically as well as strategically. Anyone can buy what they want if they’re willing to over-pay enough. I do wonder how much cash he put in, as well. Some of his backers in the Liberals are more known as money-men, so it’s at least possible that Turnbull influenced them in the most basic, venal of ways. By which I mean, of course, that he was a major source of funds for the campaign.

  17. Na, Turnbull is one of the more capable people around – certainly more so than Rudd or Abbott. But being capable doesn’t much help if you’re put in a hopeless position (Gillard anyone?).

    Of course he is a power obsessed narcissist but then you don’t get to be PM unless you are. My theory is that anyone willing to do what it takes to become PM is ipso facto a deeply unbalanced person & therefore not fit to exercise the office.

    His main weakness is that he has chronically crook judgement of people (which is not at all the same as being stupid). A Howard would have known instinctively when the idea was first floated that he’d never get Rudd’s nomination past the tribal troglodytes in his Cabinet. Whether it was a good idea in the abstract is beside the point; that Rudd had no chance of landing the job and therefore his nomination was a cheap popular gesture was beyond the wit of those bigoted old white men.

    The narrowness of the win for the Coalition has paradoxically greatly strengthened the position of the uglies who were responsible for the Lib’s unpopularity in the first place. I see no chance of their being re-elected if the government does fall.

  18. @Ikonoclast

    Hmm, my limited memory of Gorton is that he was, indeed, a decent human being (aside from the usual complex of Aussie prejudices), but not quite bright enough. My recall of Whitlam (and I was in Canberra for much of his time) was that he was just a bit “too clever by half” and not a very good politician in the usual “taking the people along” terms – but I remember his ‘duumvirate’ time (with the Tasmanian Lance Barnard) of running Australia. Just 14 days (5 – 9 Dec, 1972), but very exciting at the time.

    The one who just might have been the best was Benedict Chifley – but when he lost the 1949 election I was but 6yo, so my memory of him is just about nil. He did a lot of good things though – the Snowy Mountain Schweme being just one of them (its construction began 17th Oct, 1949, just before Chifley lost the election of 10 Dec 1949.

    But your lack of memories of Menzies is entirely understandable, he wasn’t all that memorable – but I did see him live once in my teens at the Caulfield Town Hall (in Melbourne, boc). However, I do grant him much credit for picking up and implementing Chifley’s proposal for Commonwealth Scholarships (which I once had one of) and opening up the universities to many, many Australians, including me. Just imagine, Ikono, back in those days my Com. Schol paid my uni fees and paid me a (means tested) living allowance all so that I could go to Melbourne Uni so as to drop out in second year and become a hippy ! Happy Days !

    As to the leadership thing in general, I do commend to you, as previously expressed, a real need for capable ‘decision takers’ (as per Andreas Faludi). The best of our leaders have been fairly capable and passionate decision takers – not that the decisions they were taking were always good ideas, but they were fulfilling the true role of ‘leaders’.

    As to the Yanquis, well, keep in mind that, especially for Democrats, the big job ahead is GOTV (Get Out The Vote) – a little bit of Getting Out The Vote Getter Outers passion is forgivable, isn’t it ? Especially on behalf of the great ‘ceiling shatterer’ ?

  19. @derrida derider

    Your #67

    May I respectfully request your indulgence in a wee bit of role playing, DD. We are in the room where the Royal Commission Into The Very Costly Failure of the Copper N-not veryB-N. And you have just testified that “Turnbull is one of the more capable people around – certainly more so than Rudd or Abbott”

    And now when, as counsel assisting, I ask you: have you any evidence to support that remarkable perception, what would you reply ?

    Any evidence at all ?

  20. @GrueBleen
    Totally right. The greatest scam that capitalists pull is to claim that people who become rich are somehow talented or smart, when it’s far more important to be thuggish, greedy and dodgy.

  21. @hc

    1. Some observations on the 2016 election outcome. The biggest loser is the Liberal Party (lost 13 seats). Still the Coalition (three parties) won the election marginally (literally). Given the noises by Coalition MPs, this government doesn’t seem to have ‘the core property’ that is, there are members of the Coalition which, in terms of their policy payoff functions, have an incentive to form other coalitions. (I am not convinced these people think about feasible policies.) This makes it difficult for Turnbull (liberal).

    2. You say ‘the economy’ has adjusted well to the ‘terms of trade shock’ and there are two major problems, the high value of the A$ and the budget deficit.

    The terms of trade is a value based measure. Where is your terms of trade shock, given you say the A$ value is too high?

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘the economy’. If one were to use rough macro-economic statistics, then I’d say it is quite difficult to manage ‘the Australian economy’ such that it becomes a basket case quickly because of its natural endowments, relative to population size, and its institutional environment. (Canada is comparable.)

    While the notion of ‘optimal resource allocation’ (defined w.r.t. individuals’ preferences and resource constraints) is merely a theoretical benchmark, I would maintain it is a useful benchmark for forming an opinion on economic policies. Looking at ‘the economy’ a bit more closely the following observations are close to hand:
    *about 100,000 homeless people
    *6% unemployment (uneven across the country)
    *rental stress
    *house prices inconsistent with wage earnings, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne
    *road tolls in Sydney too high for wage earners living in outer suburbs
    *increasing wealth concentration (seriously inconsistent with minimum wealth constraint, given the foregoing observations)
    *student debt
    *high private debt to disposable income ratios and signs of increasing financial stress
    *budget deficit not declining

    You consider only one of the above financial economics (in the broader than accounting sense) items, namely the budget deficit. Moreover, you suggest an improvement in this one item was hindered by Labor (actually the Senate) by not allowing legislation aimed at reducing government expenditure to pass.

    hc, I can’t agree with you at all.

    To the best of my knowledge, there was no legislation to reduce government expenditure on
    – private health fund subsidies (even though there are many complaints from the public about the usefulness of privatge health, both financially as well as service)
    – private VET education subsidies (even though the ‘industry’ is anything but an education provider)
    – private schools subsidies (even though there is no shortage of concerns)
    – negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions
    – top marginal tax rate cuts during the years, when, according to your terminology, there was a terms of trade shock in the other direction.
    – superannuation tax subsidies for the high income and high wealth individuals
    – tax subsidies for the mining sector (including non-payment of super profit tax and non-payment of emission tax)

    The failure to reduce government tax expenditure has contributed to the list of economic problems, particularly the critical concentration of wealth and financial stress.

    The head of the ACCC recently announced he is now against privatisation on the basis of empirical evidence. A man, who is obviously closer to reality than naive macro-economics.

    Lets see whether the current government will at least adher to reducing the tax expenditure on superannuation for the wealthy. Lets see whether the deal with the French manufacturers of the submarines will work out as advertised locally, or not, as written about in the French press. Lets see what will come of the aim of reducing tax leakages in the multinational corporations sector.

    The long term corporate tax cuts aren’t good policy even from the perspective of finance, as taught by accountants.

    Personally, I do hope Malcolm Turnbull will last because I hope he can make a significant contribution toward changing the nature of public debate. I don’t mind him floating some ideas which come to nothing other than easy points to pick on by some journalists and some cheap points by some politicians at some critical times. Let the public see it is not easy to be Prime Minister of a Coalition government. I also hope Mr Shorten will continue and Mr Xenophone and Mr De Natalie and some MPs who serve as ministers or shadow ministers.

  22. Oh dear, poor Captain Turnbull’s Royal Commissioner pick has come unstuck already. Everything he touches….

    Has the LNP ever nominated a commissioner that didn’t make you feel sick. Are these (mostly) guys the best we have? Really?

  23. @derrida derider

    anyone willing to do what it takes to become PM is ipso facto a deeply unbalanced person & therefore not fit to exercise the office.

    This is true. It’s hard to think of a single exception. Maybe Alfred Deakin.

  24. @Beethoven

    You could maybe add our very first: Edmund “Tosspot Toby” Barton who at least had the sense to get out of government and into a High Court sinecure at the earliest opportunity until his passing away in 1920.

  25. @Ernestine Gross

    That appears to be a very comprehensive analysis, Ernestine. Is there anything else of any importance regarding the Australia economy that you have left unsaid ?

    And who, apart from we benighteds, will take any notice of it ?

  26. DAVID ALLEN: If you were picking the 30 smartest people in Parliament, not one of them would be LNP. Turnbull wouldn’t even get in the top 100.

    And now Turnbull is getting into a public fight with Rudd (but won’t deny the central allegation he gave Rudd encouragement for SGUN). What a moron. Just shut up Malcolm and get off the political stage. Your time is up.

  27. Rudd was angling for this role from a long time back. If Malcolm Turnbull had not the wit nor the device to manage what was an inevitable train smash if left to run the course, then his time as PM is very limited. Morrison and others have been talking up the extent of Turnbull’s opposition to Rudd for that UN role, and they have been establishing that that an implacably opposed Malcolm was on display some time before the cabinet meeting. This of course wounds Turnbull, for Turnbull in May had nonetheless put it to Rudd to sort out the process for getting (successfully) nominated.

    If Turnbull had put it to the theo-neo-cons to stump up a couple of worthy characters for the role (i.e. instead of Rudd), they could have had a true contest in which the candidates were selected on merit. If the theo-neo-cons couldn’t find a suitable alternative, then that would be their fault if Rudd remained the best choice, and Turnbull could have supported Rudd’s nomination by arguing it was more important than ever for Australia to take a hand in the UN and to fill such roles if possible. If he’d done that, there would have remained the likelihood that Rudd would have failed in the international contest for the UN role of secretary-general, yet if he won it would also look good for Australia.

    Leaving the whole issue as a live one for so many months, and then getting entrapped by the theo-neo-con rump both in cabinet and during the aftermath, well that wasn’t a smart play. Abbottian leadership lives on, to our enduring dismay.

  28. @hc

    Harry, you clearly disagree with the Keynesians and MMTers on the subject of private sector deficits (aka public sector surpluses). Why?

  29. Just as well Rudd was dumped from that nomination. He would have lost to Helen Clark for sure, and then would have had to have spent the next 10 years backgrounding the international press, and sneaking around trying to get the numbers for a challenge in the general assembly.

    Also that video of him messing up Chinese and yelling about how awful it is would probably have not gone down well with certain influential international delegates …

  30. Climate science, CSIRO and Minister Hunt. According to an article in the smh of today, Minister Hunt has ordered CSIRO to ‘do a U-turn’ on climate science (ie reverse the previous decision to scale down climate research) and he announced additional funding.

  31. @Ernestine Gross

    Oh goody goody gumdrops. Now when is Walri Hunt going to get rid of that D__H__ Larry Marshall ? Waiting for him to finally go under in the Arasor case, perhaps ?

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