My Commentary of 4 August examined Turnbull’s decisions in the period since the July 2 election when there was an opportunity to elaborate on policies neglected during the election. I concluded there was in reality a continuation of bad judgements as to both substance and process in the limited policies announced.
Yesterday John Stone wrote Del-Con Notes in The Spectator surveying the election results. He described Turnbull “as a supreme narcissist”, a term seemingly being used overseas to characterise a culture seen by some as having developed around people in various walks of life who have excessive self-esteem (see discussion in an article not available digitally “Ego is not a dirty word”, Weekend AFR 6-7 Aug 2016)). Applied to Turnbull it suggests a political leader who has a limited interest in other peoples’ views or even that his own decisions turn out to be wrong. Stone concludes that “ sooner or later Turnbull will have to go” (see Spectator Australia article).
Today, the debate amongst the four participants on the ABC TV Insiders program suggested that Turnbull has wrongly claimed that the Senate result will make it easier to get legislation passed in the Senate (although as one member pointed out, Turnbull has so far foreshadowed only a limited number of policies that will require legislation). Of particular interest was the fact that “our” ABC felt obliged to acknowledge the four seats won in the Senate by the Pauline Hanson “group” by interviewing member and climate sceptic Malcolm Roberts, with Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm. Each indicated that their groups (DL only has himself) would be seeking reforms which Turnbull should be promoting, such a reducing the budget deficit and taxation, but would also want reforms not favoured by Turnbull, such as eliminating the de facto carbon tax started by former Environment Minister Hunt and Section 18C restrictions on “free speech” (interestingly, neither referred to the availability of normal legal remedies for slander/defamation).
One question arises from Insiders – are interviews on climate change limited to MPs who are sceptics or might the ABC now extend them to the many sceptics who know the so-called science has no credibility?
A further question arises in regard to the quite extensive comments by Turnbull in the Weekend Australian (see below) on fighting the Islamic State, and our role in attacking it. Do these comments indicate a start at adopting a more serious role as PM?
Note first that I am informed by one of the two journalists (National Security Editor, Paul Maley) that Turnbull’s comments were in response to written questions asked of him by the two journalists and did not therefore originate as an attempt by him to present a more meaningful approach to dealing with extremist Islamists. And second most of what he said was not new. More likely, he may have used the opportunity to get on the bandwagon before Mosul is actually attacked and (presumably) ISIL is forced out. While advancement of such a thesis is risky, it is relevant that Obama seems to be allowing the US to play a slightly more active role in the Middle East, although still no boots on the ground apart from “special forces”. That is reflected in his sudden decision to start air strikes against ISIL in Libya. Obama may also be trying to establish a more positive legacy than he deserves and it is possible that Turnbull has had a direct contact with him on what support the US will give the “Iraqi army” in attacking Mosul (I recall Obama said he thought Turnbull is No 1, which says a lot about Obama!).
But Turnbull should be offering increased Australia involvement in combating ISIL and other Islamic extremist groups. These groups are continuing to attack/kill Christians and force them out of the Middle East and Africa. What sort of society is likely to remain in those areas? What are the implications for Australia? Today we have the report of another attack in Europe (Belgium): is this the norm?