Dutton Exposes Turnbull

Dutton Exposes Turnbull Problem

While in August Dutton challenged Turnbull for the leadership, he did not really spell out the reasons for doing so and, when Morrison succeeded in his challenge for leadership, Dutton did not continue as minister for immigration but stayed as Minister for Home Affairs alone. But in today’s Herald Sun (and other News Ltd papers) he has now publicly exposed more of the reasons for his challenge (see Dutton on Turnbull 30/12).

This is clearly in response to the attempts by Turnbull to undermine the Morrison government by inter alia claiming through the media that as leader he would have succeeded in obtaining the Coalition’s return at the next election. Turnbull also continued to let people know that  he strongly supported action on climate change.

In today’s article written by a journalist Dutton covered much more ground than any former Cabinet minister has done since Turnbull’s departure.  In particular that the Coalition would have lost 25 seats under Turnbull and that he was all talk and little action. Further, that “the Liberal Party had become unrecognisable to our supporters. People who had voted for us for years had switched off. “Energy policy had effectively become the “greatest moral challenge of our time” and version after version just didn’t work. “Marginal seat members across the country believed we would lose the election and in the end MP’s couldn’t walk down the street without people saying you have to get rid of him.  “People thought they had a good local member but wouldn’t vote for us whilst Malcolm was leader” ( I am reminded that in May last year I sat next to Dutton at a dinner in Parliament House and conveyed to him these same thoughts).

The surprise is that it took so long for Liberal members to take action to get rid of Turnbull. Dutton says that Turnbull effectively brought on his own fate after the Coalition lost the 38th Newspoll. “I have no doubt Malcolm will rue the day he stormed in to the party room and declared the leadership open expecting to get a resounding vote. His low vote destroyed him without any challenge necessary. It was then only a matter of when, and he used every trick to delay the vote but it would have been untenable to leave Canberra that week without the leadership question being settled”.

Another surprise is that such revelations on Turnbull had not been made by Morrison. I have previously argued that Morrison needed to clear the decks from Turnbull’s imposed policies and, thereby, have created an opportunity to pronounce some genuinely liberal policies. Now that Dutton has done this to a significant extent  Morrison should be able to enunciate policies which more widely distinguish today’s Coalition from Turnbull’s. Morrison has already modified energy policy but, as indicated in my 24 December Commentary, more could be done along the lines suggested in Andrew Bolt’s  piece of the same date. My abbreviation of that follows:

  • Global warming is not happening as predicted. In fact, warming has slowed dramatically since last century, giving us lower temperatures than predicted by the vast majority of warming models.
  • Global warming is not causing more and worse cyclones. In fact, Australia has had fewer cyclones, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year admitted “numerous studies … have reported a decreasing trend in the global number of tropical cyclones and/or the globally accumulated cyclonic energy”.
  • Global warming is not causing more drought. In fact, rainfall in Australia has increased over the past century. The IPCC now admits it has “low confidence in the sign of drought trends since 1950 at global scale”.
  • Polar bears are not becoming extinct. In fact, adjunct professor Susan Crockford estimates numbers jumped from 22,500 to 28,500 over a decade.
  • Global warming does not mean less food. In fact, grain crops in Australia and the world have set several records over the past decade.

Of course, there are risks in effecting such a change from Turnbullesque. This can be seen from the decision by Julia Banks to resign from the party because it had made that change (see Julia Banks Thinks Coalition Too Far Right). But that is the risk Morrison and his colleagues need to take if the Coalition is to have a chance at the election.

In addition to developing more coherent policies, as Chris Kenny points out the Coalition should use Shorten’s presentation at the National Labor Party Conference to portray the dangers  from a Labor victory (see Kenny on Shorten). Kenny refers to “the core concern with Shorten — and it provides a complete contrast to the flaws we saw from his recent Labor and Liberal predecessors. Rudd, Gillard and Tony Abbott undercut their standing by breaking promises: Rudd promised to be an economic conservative but was the opposite; Gillard specifically ruled out a carbon tax, then snuck one in; Abbott promised to keep his promises, then broke his word, including by increasing personal income tax.  By contrast, Shorten could wreak the most havoc by keeping his promises. He deserves credit for being upfront and honest about his intentions to increase taxes, ­increase spending and enact ­energy policies that will put ­upward pressure on energy prices (even if he does not concede this point), but the prescription could be highly damaging”.

Will it be a Happy New Year politically? Here’s hoping

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