My Commentary yesterday suggesting “Turnbull Must Go” has produced some critical responses and has also revealed media bias in favour of Turnbull. This comes from the comments made last night and in today’s media. But before turning to those I should note that George Christensen has resigned as chief whip in the National Party so that, he says, he will be freer to comment on Turnbull government policies. While this follows the resignation of Senator Bernardi as a member of the Liberal party, Christensen indicated that he would stay as a member of the National Party in the lower house. A loss of his vote there in a motion of no confidence would now mean however that there would be equal numbers for each side, a potentially ungovernable situation.
Today’s media includes a surprising article by the chief political correspondent, Phillip Coorey, of the Financial Review headed “Better off losing than changing leaders: Libs”. It is difficult to believe that Coorey is being told by “conservative” Liberals that they would be “better off going down fighting at the next election rather than change leaders again”. He does not name any conservatives who told him this and neither he nor other conservative offered any comment on the likely disruption to the consequent formation and implementation of policies in the period ahead. Nor does he say that after the election loss there would almost certainly be a change of leaders.
The reality is that, like all parties, the Liberal party has divisive views and the set of views used since Malcolm Turnbull became leader has failed dismally. Now Turnbull has attempted to make the unbelievable defence that the latest fall in polling is due to changes in policies suggested by Tony Abbott. But does anyone seriously believe that Tony Abbott’s comments about Coalition policies on Thursday night caused the large drop (from 33/54 to 29/59) in Malcolm Turnbull’s personal satisfaction recorded by Newspoll by Sunday night? If so, they should hurry to re-elect Abbott so that his influencing capacity can be put to better use!
The reality is that Turnbull’s failure to present coherent policies consistent with the small government philosophy of the Coalition has lost him the support of a large group of potential voters and he is showing no sign of being able to bring such policies to the fore. Moreover, he has shown an inability to respond with authority to the union-driven policies enunciated by Bill Shorten. He has given no indication that Brexit and the election of Trump in the US suggest there has been a major change in what voters are seeking from their elected governments.
This conclusion is reflected in this article by Terry McCrann headed “The Liberal Shambles is not about Tony Abbott, it’s actually about Malcolm Turnbull”. McCrann reminds us of the failed judgements made in the recent past about the prospects of election by various candidates and points out that, even if Abbot were to depart, Turnbull would have the same difficulty as now in implementing current policies.
McCrann argues that “It is Turnbull who is the dud. The utter dud and from the moment he walked into the PM’s office in 2015. It was Turnbull who ran arguably the most inept election campaign we’ve ever seen — or at least since John Hewson lost the “unlosable election” in 1993 — to end up in the totally precarious position he (and the government) did. That was after “cleverly” changing the Senate voting rules to produce the rabble of crossbenchers we’ve now got. That in particular, Turnbull elevated Pauline Hanson from a likely one seat to four — dramatically increasing her political persona and clout, dramatically increasing the threat she poses to both the Liberal and National parties. Turnbull certainly can’t blame Abbott for the shambles of both the campaign and the outcome”.
He also makes the point that the policy changes suggested by Abbott –power bills, immigration, housing prices – are still there and still need to be tackled. “You still need a PM prepared to tackle them”.
The best solution for the Coalition may be to arrange for Turnbull to succeed Downer as High Commissioner in the UK in mid year. At the least, that might help restore their polling. But the main object must surely be to avoid the election of a union-driven Labor party. That will not be achieved by Turnbull.