This morning’s Bolt Report started with a declaration that the Turnbull honeymoon is over. Not surprising. But what was a bit off key was that the ABC Insiders seemed to reach a similar conclusion, although without saying so specifically. Has Scott told the ABC’s Cassidy that Turnbull has ceased to be minister of communications and is now in danger of applying his fairness policy to the ABC as PM? We even experienced an interview with a Shorten who argued that Turnbull should bring down a budget in May.
At any rate, both this morning’s teams rattled off a number of problems facing Turnbull and his group of ministers.
For one thing, while the Liberal candidate won the North Sydney by-election following Joe Hockey’s resignation (the candidate was a Hockey staffer and not all Liberal party members were allowed to vote for the candidate), he got less than half the vote and there was a preliminary TPP swing of about 7-8% against him even without having a Labor candidate. According to ABC election expert, Anthony Green there have been only three times when the Liberals have not won the seat on first preferences, two with a strong independent. On this occasion, the big vote winner after the Liberal was an independent who won 18-19 per cent, with the Greens recording little increase in their vote at 16 per cent.
Second, the retention of Brough as Special Minister despite his apparent contradiction of himself, has raised a question as to why Turnbull didn’t ask him to stand aside until the police have decided if he should be charged. Turnbull has been accused of doing so because Brough supported him in the vote for PM.
Third, factors influencing the decision by Macfarlane to move to the National Party appear to include his dismissal from Cabinet after being told beforehand by Turnbull that he was a “very, very” good friend. If Turnbull continues to treat “very, very” good friends that way they may be in danger of further diminution.
Fourth, Foreign Minister Bishop has claimed that she told Abbott before Turnbull’s challenge that he would be challenged. Abbott’s contradiction of that, and Bishop’s retort that “there are different recollections”, will not have improved internal relations in the Liberal Party.
Fifth, in some ways the most important development has been the report that Turnbull phoned Frydenberg and told him not to be outspoken about the Islamic threat. I referred to Frydenberg’s spot-on comments last Sunday, which included a critique of the statement by the Grand Mufti on the Paris attacks. While no details are available as to what Turnbull told Frydenberg, any soft-pedal on the threat from the extremist version of Islam (which has been the approach adopted by Turnbull) would be continued bad news.
Since Paris we have experienced the Californian killings by two Muslims. The FBI has declared the incidents a terrorist act and Obama has said it could be a terrorist act. More importantly on Islamism in one respect, according to this report
“President Obama has appointed a foreign policy advisor known to be a friend of the terrorist group Hamas to be the administration’s new czar in charge of countering ISIS. The appointee, Robert Malley, has a history of sympathizing with Islamists, which makes the appointment all the more appalling”.
The report also says that this adviser is anti-Israel.
Obama has a record of appointing sympathisers to Islamists as advisers – and these advisers seem to have responsibility for the pursuit of policy. The message here is that, while Australia must retain the US as an ally, we should not necessarily adopt the detail of such policies. Turnbull has so far adopted Obama’s policy lines: he needs to be adaptable.
PS Relevant to our policy on Islam is this note by Middle East expert Daniel Pipes. Note in particular his reference to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2249, passed unanimously on Nov. 20, sums up the consensus that the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL Daesh), poses a mortal danger to civilization by calling it an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security.” He also argues that, with boots on the ground, ISIS could be defeated quite quickly. ISIS is far from being the only Islamic problem.