Turnbull’s last chance for greatness (updated)

Since he first entered the Australian political scene as a leading proponent of republicanism, Malcolm Turnbull’s career has been one long series of disappointments, which involved failing (more or less steadily) upwards.  Barring a miracle, his career is now effectively over. In the unlikely event that he survives as PM to the next election, he is assured of electoral defeat and subsequent oblivion.

But, he has one last chance for greatness. It’s now clear that  many of his Liberal colleagues and, almost certainly, a majority of coalition MPs, want to hand the country over to an overt racist, bigot and climate denialist*. Yet it would only take 75 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives to stop this from happening.  A handful of genuine liberals in the Liberal party would be enough*.*

If Turnbull led such a group, he would be reviled by his own side, most of whom hate and/or despise him anyway, but he would finally justify the hopes of millions of Australians (including me) who actually believed he could change politics for the better.

Even if the requisite handful could not be found, Turnbull could resign his seat and recontest it as an independent, or support someone else pledged to oppose Dutton.  That would give at least some electors a chance to have their say.

Of course, this is all said in bitter jest.  Turnbull has never stood for anything and never will. He will hang on to the last possible moment, then capitulate meekly.

Update: Well, he hasn’t gone meekly. But rather than take a stand against Dutton’s racism, and support Bishop, or even Morrison, he’s made it all about himself. His whole political career has been a vanity project.

*  I mean Dutton, though his puppetmaster Abbott fits the bill also. In his inglorious run as PM, he at least paid lip service to racial equality and climate reality, but that has now gone out the window.

** Somewhere between one and five depending on how the independents and fringe parties went. I assume that any confidence agreements made with Turnbull would lapse.

43 thoughts on “Turnbull’s last chance for greatness (updated)

  1. Turnbull has never stood for anything other than his own advancement and never will.


  2. If Turnbull is removed from the LNP leadership but stays as PM due to a vote on the House floor then he would just be a lame duck PM with no party support.

    He is better off going rouge and getting someone to put up climate legislation via a private members bill. The ALP, Greens, Wilkie, Sharkie and McGowan would at least be vaguely pro. Of course, then it has to go through the Senate and you would need the ALP/Greens plus three crossbenchers. So, the two Centre Alliance plus you’ve got to convince an independent like Hinch also.

  3. I don’t like the cavalier deployment of the accusation that someone is racist but with Dutton it is impossible to think of another explanation for his argument in favour of fast-tracking white South African farmer migrants to Oz.

  4. Maybe he wants Australia to have a better rugby team. A few hard farming lads from the veld might be just the ticket.

  5. John,
    He had the chance of a bi-partisan policy and he rejected it.
    The ‘conservatives’ in the liberal party merely see this as a vital issue in the cultural wars.

  6. But Smith9 surely it would be a lot simpler to just re-allow free entry and residency to the Kiwis. They’re better farmers as well as better rugby players anyway.

  7. Dumping Turnbull for someone else would be a victory for the extreme element of politics; the Hansons Abbotts Katters et al. Time for the moderates to stand up, support Turnbull and send the other mob packing.

    I really don’t hold much faith in Shorten.

  8. Yes, DD, but the Kiwis don’t want to come here. The Seth Efrikens do, to get away from the blecks. And PM in waiting Dutton wants them here.

    By the way, to everyone who is shocked at the man’s world view and character, he is a Queensland cop. You were expecting Ludwig Wittgenstein?

  9. rog – Turnbull can’t stand up for himself. Why should anyone else support him? He has delivered, during the last week, the most craven exhibition I have ever seen from an Australian PM. He could have put forward a bill with serious measures on climate change and faced down Abbott and Co. He went to water and let them walk all over him. That is why he is now on political life support. Not only cowardly, but dumb.
    As for Shorten. A lot of people have let themselves be brainwashed by the “Kill Bill” campaign (which is now the central ideology of the fractured Liberal Party). Shorten is a very deft politician. As a junior minister in the Gillard Govt he got the NDIS up and running (as a junior minister!) and landed the FOFA changes. Each of those accomplishments is greater than anything Turnbull has done during his three years as PM. Shorten is going to surprise a lot of people on the upside when they open their eye and watch him in action. He’s going to be a great Prime Minister.

  10. Turnbull is the actor the Liberal Party employed to keep the small ‘l’ liberals happy. With him gone, they are exposed for what they are: a Queensland dominated paleo-conservative rump. I suspect that lots of the small ‘l’ liberals will join the tree Tories in the Greens. Some may go straight over to Labor. In any event, for the Libs, the party is over. Now it will just be a fight over naming rights.

  11. I can think of at least a dozen MPs in the Labor Party (no, two dozen) who would make acceptable Prime Ministers. There is obviously not one (not ONE) in the Liberal Party. Hopeless, incompetent and stupid beyond belief. The lack of talent is mindblowing. The party does not deserve to survive.

  12. @ Freddo

    Couldn’t agree more. For a number of years now the Liberal Party has had one policy, to stay in power, to enact the the paranoid wishes of the IPA and to transfer State funds to big business. As a consequence they have attracted a coterie of politicians who have no interest in government and even less interest in the wishes of the people of Australia. In fact they wan’t to destroy the former and despise the latter. It is surely a miracle that they haven’t imploded before this.

  13. Sorry read “want” not “wan’t” and further to that they are true nihilists and should be labelled as such.

  14. There is obviously not one (not ONE) in the Liberal Party.

    Basically: candidates for winnable liberal-party seats are put forward either directly from the young liberals or from short careers as staffers and think-tankerarti that you only really get if you again were in the young liberals at uni.

    Or: to be a coalition prime minister you have to have thought that being a young liberal was a fun way to spend uni.

    The talent pool for the Right was always thinner than for the left, but it didn’t reach critical levels until:
    + the old successful-minor-local-businessman route gradually died naturally, through Keating demonstrating that the ALP were acceptably-competent economic managers
    + anti-“wet” purge by Howard [which mostly worked here by wets quitting the young liberals before they got to the pathway entry, putting the young libs into a hate-triggered demographic death spiral]
    + the remaining competent — not non-evil, but competent — old guard retiring their way out of politics. Last to go was Brandis, I think.

  15. “”an overt racist, bigot and climate denialist*. Yet it would only take 75 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives to stop this from happening.  A handful of genuine liberals in the Liberal party would be enough*.*”” Here is
    a quote from dutton yesterday whuch nicely highlights the depth of dissonance. (malfeasance? )

    “I would love to get everybody off there tomorrow. If I could have brought them to Australia in a charter flight overnight I would have. But I would have seen people drown at sea, which would have been tragic obviously.”
    The full quote; https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2018/aug/21/liberal-leadership-dutton-turnbull-energy?page=with:block-5b7bacb3e4b065d64de0b4d7#block-5b7bacb3e4b065d64de0b4d7
    Mr I Would Have. Delicios thought as you say, Turnbull becomes independent and floats such a proposal on entirely economic grounds. Any got the numbers on such a policy?
    In nearly 5 years…
    “33 boats and 771 people turned back.
    Known boat turn backs since September 2013 under Operation Sovereign Borders, the last boat turned around was in June 2018, the number of people it contained is not reported. Source: Senate Estimates and Australian Border Force.”


    It is cheaper to fly them in.

    Anyone hear guestimate cost of having Australian & Indonesia navy patrol this area for five years? Aren’t we already doing this? “”

    Cost since 2013 is “$4.89 billion
    Total spent on Manus and Nauru detention centres. In 2014-15 the centres cost $1.1 billion and in 2013-2014 $1.2 billion. Sources: Australian Parliamentary Library, Canberra Times and Refugee Council Australia.

    And who do I vote for to vote for a head of state please to cease our wack a pm games?

  16. Part of Turnbull’s problem was that he was neither a Liberal a conservative nor a progressive, but a moderate populist. Yes John is right, Turnbull never clearly articulated a coherent political position on any major issue and that will be his downfall.

  17. It should be pointed out that the Lib party today is a product of John Howard, who drove out all the ‘wets’ in fabour of his ‘dries’. This was borrowed from Thatcher, who used wet as a perjorative.

    Turnbull has had his hands tied by this mob and, somewhat like Rudd, has been overwhelmed by the party machinery. Restoring the Libs might take a few elections, if they have the will.

  18. Rog – that is all true. But the only person with a chance of restoring the Liberal Party as a “moderate” party was Turnbull. He had to take a bullet over the NEG and get dumped. He could have left office with his credibility enhanced. Then he would have stood at the next election and form a rallying point for the “moderates” when the Libs were in opposition. Instead, true to character (or lack of it), he totally whiffed his chance and destroyed his credibility. Now there is absolutely nobody who can lead the “moderates” in opposition except a few joke candidates (Pyne? Bishop?). I really do think the Liberal Party is washed up (at least as a “moderate” entity). It will have to split into “Liberals” and “Conservatives”.

  19. I think the idea of anyone leading a moderate resurgence in the Liberal Party was optimistic before Turnbull the first and it’s beyond a joke now. The far right have examples in the UK and the USA to help them complete their takeover of the party, and it doesn’t seem that the moderates have an answer in either of those countries (or in lesser countries that can’t even speak English like Germany, Ukraine, Poland, the list is long…).

    As far as Kiwis go the problem is that they’re not all white. As we see from who gets deported, skin colour is *really*important. With South Africa it’s much easier to say “white racists have a genuine fear of persecution” and accept them as refugees, whereas the useless kiwis can’t even be proper bigots about it. If they’d strung of those not-nazis or even Brash we’d have an easier time saying “white kiwis are welcome”.

  20. “But, he has one last chance for greatness.”

    I think Andrew Elder’s take is more likely – accept that he’s a dead man walking and do a deal with Shorten to pass the NEG is a useful form. He really only needs to carry a few Liberals to get that through and it would be a solid statement that reality-based politics has a place in the Liberal Party. Part of the point would be that it would drive the lunar right both inside and outside the party into a complete frenzy. Can you imagine Abbott being interviewed by Bolt after that?

  21. I really do think they are borrowing ideas from the US and UK – but are too dim to realise that compulsory voting, the inability to gerrymander and the absence of a significant rural class (the shires in the UK, the west and south in the US) make this a non-starter in Aus electoral terms. I wonder when (if?) they’ll catch on.

  22. Peter, I think those just stop them forming government, they won’t stop them gutting the Liberal Party.

    What’s the right-wing equivalent to “purge”? I think we’re going to see more shuffling as various far right representatives get elected, de-elected, snubbed, frustrated, bribed and so on. Once Cory’s beastiality bill fails* he’ll discover that he needs more than just his own microparty to actually get anywhere … or maybe the whole reactionary right ideal is the eternal cry of “help help I’m being oppressed” rather than actually being responsible for jackboots in the town square.

    Counterpoint: Dutton seems pretty comfortable fronting up and justifying the concentration camps and use of military force in Aboriginal communities. I can’t imagine he’d draw the line at anything. If terrorists were being dragged out of their homes in broad daylight never to be seen again… is that really a bad thing in his mind? (You can bet that once he started doing it there would be terrorists. That’s one of the anti-virtuous circles that some countries rely on).

  23. Smith9, Bill Hayden was also a Queensland cop. True, he is also no Ludwig Wittgenstein, but still a fair way removed from Peter Dutton in world view, I believe.

  24. J-D, last I saw of Bill Hayden he had moved so far to the right he was on the opposite side of the known universe. He was Chairman of the Quadrant board during Paddy McGuiness’s tenure as editor.

  25. Now, now – credit where it is due; Mr Turnbull said he would never lead a party that didn’t take climate change seriously, and he didn’t. They led him, but he never led them.

    Could be water under the bridge but I would be interested to know if the claims could be true that back when he took over as PM that there was a secret deal with the Nationals, where Mr Turnbull agreed to step back from the climate and clean energy issue to get their support. ie the climate problem that the LNP worked so hard to fix during his tenure was actually the “problem” that lots of people think there is a climate problem, and they have been sincere and relentless in their efforts to fix it. Dedicated to ‘fixing’ THAT climate problem, yes, but never to fixing global warming.

  26. They can elect Dutton and probably will, and the investigations aren’t about corruption.

  27. Ken Fabian, I would say that once he achieved his primary objective ie beome PM, Turnbull has not had sufficient conviction or resolve to develop proper policy and has allowed other groups to have their way.

  28. Dutton will be very lucky to hold his own seat. That’s if he is even eligible to stand, which looks rather doubtful.


    The Liberals are handing Labor so many free kicks that Labor can sweep up the field and keep kicking goals all day. Shorten should be the next PM hands down. I have two hopes. That Labor will deal with our climate change emissions and they will be sensible enough to keep Shorten as leader for the three terms they will win if they keep him.

  29. Smith9

    I don’t know much about how Bill Hayden has shifted position over the years, but I do know that the Bill Hayden of the 1960s and 1970s was just as much a former Queensland cop as the Bill Hayden of now. In fact, if is true that Bill Hayden has changed position a lot, that just goes to prove my point, which is that there is a limit to how much you can tell about somebody solely from the fact that he’s a former Queensland cop.

    Jim Cairns was also a former cop. Admittedly he wasn’t a Queensland one, and he too was no Ludwig Wittgenstein, but still, how much would you have been able to tell about him, reliably, from the fact that he was a former cop?

  30. Pr Q said:

    The central claim is that the Liberals lost votes to One Nation, which more accurately reflected the views of their conservative basis. The corollary is that to win seats in Queensland the LNP needs to become more overtly racist, most obviously by elevating Peter Dutton to the leadership.

    Pr Q also said:

    But, he has one last chance for greatness. It’s now clear that  many of his Liberal colleagues and, almost certainly, a majority of coalition MPs, want to hand the country over to an overt racist, bigot and climate denialist*

    Thats two posts by Pr Q in a row castigating LN/P “racism”, counting the gratuitous his driveby against the deadly duo of Abbott and Dutton.  He is thus on an anti-fa hat-trick for his next post.

    The commenter fielders are crowded around the pitch and an excited buzz in the stands as we await the appearance of the next right-wing batsman to face this hostile spell of Quiggin fast bowling.  And we are now moving into the conservative tail, with Fraser Anning  waiting in the pavilion, already padded up but yet to take the crease.  Surely a bunny, if ever there was one, and therefore a chance to make anti-fa blogging history.

    Seriously, Orwell, a human lifetime ago, noted that “the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies something not desirable”. The word “racism” is now so overused it has suffered the same fate, essentially debased into troll bait.

    Is there any evidence that the Lefts constant regurgitation of ideological swearwords, such as “racist”, “bigot” etc, as all-purpose defamers of conservative opponents, does anything but turn-off moderates as well as entrench the targets?  The Left just lost an unlosable US election (and me $300) with “basket of deplorables”.

    Intellectually, Alt-Right sociobiologists have won the Culture War on the scientific front, as the Lefts leading intellectual lights have more or less grudgingly conceded (Robert Putnam is a conservative Durkheimian on sociology.  And David Reich is a conservative Darwinian on biology.)

    The Left has been using cultural theory to dig itself into an agnotological hole for more than a generation.  With the result that the EU and US are now hosting insurgent nationalist parties claiming 20-30% of the vote.  It continues to tether its fortunes to a discredited anthropology and a failed carbon emission policy.

    I am suggesting that scientific conservatives on both sides of politics should perhaps concentrate less on trolling and more on constructive solutions to the clear and present danger to the Three Horseman of Apocalypse riding our way. I mean

    Global Warming threat to ecologic sustainability,
    Multiculturalisms threat to ethnic solidarity and
    Artificial Intelligence threat to economic prosperity.

    But the adrenaline buzz of trolling is catnip to partisans.

  31. jackstrocchi:

    ‘Seriously, Orwell, a human lifetime ago, noted that “the word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies something not desirable”.’
    Seriously, Orwell was wrong about that. And …

    ‘The word “racism” is now so overused it has suffered the same fate, essentially debased into troll bait.’
    … seriously, so are you.

  32. 1. Treasurer Scott Morrison devises corporate tax cuts.
    2. PM Malcolm Turnbull fails to get corporate tax cuts into law.
    3. Scott Morrison becomes PM.

    “There is absolutely no doubt that global financial markets want the Liberal Party to select Scott Morrison as prime minister.” – Christopher Joye writing in the Fin Review yesterday.

    Capital rules the world and gets what it wants. Nothing’s changed.

  33. Not, everybody, just capitalists with an interest in the 13th largest economy in the world and its significant resource and agricultural production. That’s still enough capitalists to take notice, pull strings and promise party donations, through subsidiaries if necessary.

  34. PS. And they don’t usually talk openly about their influence-peddling behind the scenes.

  35. Strocchi asserts that Orwell considered fascism an otherwise meaningless assertion that something is undesirable. Not so.

    Orwell, in his short piece What is Fascism? (Tribune, 1944) certainly deprecated the misuse of fascism as an epithet to apply to someone to malign them regardless of their actual views. But he makes clear here (and elsewhere) that fascism has a real meaning: and deprecates misuse of the term. Nowhere does Orwell treat fascism as actually meaningless – his concern is precisely that indiscriminate misuse of the term prevents understanding and applying it.

    When Strocchi asserts that all use of the terms ‘racism’ or ‘fascism’ in Australian debate is merely all-purpose defamation, he assumes what he needs to prove. When he expresses concern that identifying racist positions as racist will turn off moderates and entrench the targets, this is about as absurd as an argument can get. Someone complaining that increasing diversity in a suburb deprives the former racial or religious majority of their power is insisting on racial or religious power contrary to popular numbers. That’s identifiably a racist, and only a racist, position.

    A ‘moderate’ uncomfortable with pointing this out is no moderate. A ‘target’ entrenched in this position was always a racist and is glad to be identified as one: their position has been understood correctly and they are open in confirming it.

    If a position is racist, identifying it as such is a real observation. If racism is absurd and evil, then a particular racist position is properly deprecated when its racism is exposed.

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