I was both physically and mentally impaired and was labouring to satisfy a large number of very high-profile and demanding stakeholders with inadequate support.

G Grech to the Auditor-General Report

In all the medico/psycho-babble in the media yesterday to explain Grech’s poor physical and mental health, few seemed to want to blame the onerous demands of satisfying not only his employers in the government but his political friends in the opposition as well.

The media kept on having it both ways over Grech yesterday. Most notably The Australian, who repeated Grech’s claim that Turnbull had pressured him over the e-mail, presumably because they thought Grech did have credibility, but not his more explosive claim that Rudd did send the e-mail, presumably because they thought Grech did not. Maybe Rudd’s campaign against The Australian might be having some effect.

For whatever reason the media played it both ways over Grech, why did the Liberals as well? There was only one tactic that the Liberals should have been deploying against someone who was claiming their leader was a liar, they should have been going all out to destroy and undermine his credibility. It shouldn’t have been too hard. The guy had broken public service codes of conduct, helped used car dealers donors for his political purposes while he was accusing the government of doing the same, and shopped his work colleagues to his employers. Sure there would have been some complications, namely that he was doing all of this for the Liberals that now needed to dump him, but as we saw with the way Howard dumped on his own staff while in government, charges of hypocrisy never seemed to worry them before.

But there wasn’t much sign of that. Christian Kerr thought senior Liberals on Monday were ‘rallying’ to Turnbull. Lord knows what he thinks ‘left swinging in the breeze’ looks like. He cites Costello’s valiant efforts, but his appearance on Lateline that night was classic Costello; self-indulgent and self-pitying, and effectively undermining whoever was the leader of the party he loves so much. After comparing the Ozcar e-mail to the election-losing ‘disaster’ of the Lindsay leaflet, and repeating Howard’s testimony to the strength of Grech’s character, he then adds this helpful little zinger:

TONY JONES: Does the affair, the Godwin Grech affair, still have the capacity to damage further [Turnbull’s] leadership?

PETER COSTELLO: Look, I think, really, most of what can be known will be known… Unless there’s some knockout new development. Suppose the author of the email suddenly appears from somewhere – that would be a knockout new development.

Said, by an enormous coincidence, just as Grech’s confession was running off The Australian’s presses that night!

When Grech’s statement came out the next day saying Turnbull was lying about not pressuring him, again there seemed to be more Liberals defending Grech than their leader. Poor old Turnbull was left to defend himself by attacking Grech in his own cack-handed way. Far more masterful was Abbott’s performance on The 7.30 Report that evening. Despite Abbott’s ‘apparent’ challenge to Turnbull with the release of Battle Lines, he has shown his loyalty to Turnbull by being very close to him since then.

That loyalty was fully on display last night, the only problem was that Abbott still had trouble joining Turnbull’s attack on Grech. Kerry O’Brien said that Abbott was prepared to accept Grech’s veracity on some accounts but not in others, but in fact not once did Abbott criticise Grech but instead continually praised him as an ‘able, diligent, conscientious, public-spirited servant of Australia’. The closest he got was “I suspect that the Godwin Grech of today is a different person in fundamental areas” but not enough to say how.

It’s no wonder after such support that Kerry O’Brien was driven to ask “you’re gonna allow him to lead you, potentially, into electoral oblivion?” To which Abbott replied, “As long as Malcolm is willing to lead the party, he will lead the party.” You could almost see the thought bubble emerge from Abbott’s head “and how long do you think that might be now, Malcolm?”

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 5 August 2009.

Filed under Tactics

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8 responses to “The slow toppling of Turnbull – Resumption”

  1. janice on 5th August 2009 8:34 am

    It seems to me that the almighty stuff-up Truffles caused by trying to bring about the resignations of the PM and Treasurer, using their long-term PS mole who has served them well in the past, has left the opposition party’s heirarchy in deep doo-doo. How do they keep their own skins clean when there is the threat that Grech might sing louder if investigations go deeper?

    Truffles is left to defend himself as best he can while his team scramble to ensure no dirt lands on their hides and at the same time mouth words that hopefully will tell him he is not really being abandoned. However, no doubt they’re all hoping that Turnbull will do their job for them and resign the leadership, his parliamentary seat and disappear to Tuscany.

    The media, most notably News Ltd papers, find themselves in a bind because of the recent criticism of their blatant anti-labor stance. On this issue, they cannot twist the facts to blame Rudd and Swan, and they have the irrefutable evidence that Grech, a senior respected Public Servant is a coalition mole. On the other hand, they have Truffles who, despite his supposed intelligence, did the unthinkable and tried to force the resignation of the Prime Minister using ‘spy’ material that turned out to be false.

    So, it is no wonder the media are having a bet each way. They’d be very brave indeed if they tried to justify the actions of either Grech or Turnbull, as one is just as culpable as the other.

  2. Simon on 5th August 2009 9:49 am

    As I wrote in a comment on the previous article, I think the Liberals have written off the next election, Turnbull is a dead man walking. He has no chance of winning the next election, and neither do the Libs no matter who is the leader. And Abbott or Hockey both know that if they take over before the next election they will be the leader that takes the Libs to a massive defeat. They will wait until after the election and contest the leadership and take the party to the following election.

    Abbott answered this question yesterday on The 7:30 Report, and I think the last line And Malcolm is not a quitter is revealing. In other words, ‘you got us into this Malcolm you will need to ride it out until the next election’.

    KERRY O’BRIEN: So if it emerges over the next few weeks and months that Malcolm Turnbull is not recovering from this, you’re gonna allow him to lead you, potentially, into electoral oblivion?

    TONY ABBOTT: As long as Malcolm is willing to lead the party, he will lead the party. And Malcolm is not a quitter.

  3. Bilko on 5th August 2009 10:36 am

    They said the same thing about Howard leading and look where they are now. The Libs while denying the GFC, hope to use it to get back into power the easy way instead they forgot the Howard way ie at least provide some alternatives low profile something, anything etc but then PJK was not popular. They will run with Turnbull because any Lib with half a brain would stay in the background until after the next election long since lost. The one after that depending on how many more seats go does not look any better, the essential poll this week has labor 116 to 31 using AG’s reps calc the next declared poll should be interesting. Having said that if they dump him who is the next sacrificial lamb.

  4. James on 5th August 2009 11:31 am

    Grech is clearly a Lib. Hockey admitted on Lateline that he considered Grech for his Chief-of-Staff when Grech was seconded to his ministerial office. I imagine Grech’s health issues and the fact that he would have had to take a significant pay cut were the reasons why that “didn’t work out”. Besides, Grech was clearly more useful as a departmental mole for the Libs. Speaking of Hockey, he’s gone very quiet. One has to wonder if he was a recipient of Grech’s past leaks. I would not be surprised if the Fuel Watch leaks are linked to Grech.

  5. Ad astra on 5th August 2009 11:39 am

    I agree that Costello on Lateline undermined Turnbull from beginning to end. The interview is reviewed on The Political Sword in a piece ‘Killing him softly with his words’ http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/post/2009/08/04/Killing-him-softly-with-his-words.aspx

  6. The Piping Shrike on 5th August 2009 9:01 pm

    I think the above leadership scenarios are rational, the only problem is that the Liberals’ need to find ‘values’ may produce an irrational result. Look for example, at the way Abbott, the only Liberal figure who polls worse than Turnbull, is being considered as a prospect.

    I think I read somewhere that Grech was responsible for the Fuelwatch leak.

    I do think Costello’s eerie premonition that the author of the e-mail would be revealed is extraordinary.

  7. Riccardo on 6th August 2009 11:06 am

    Now running Robb as the saviour. Wearing the cardigan, Unsworth style.

    The Libs in opposition – the gift that keeps on giving.

  8. ben on 19th August 2009 9:49 am

    Re my comment on the previous article and the Shrike’s comment too. I think perhaps we are looking at Costello as being the instigator in setting up Grech to set up Turnbull. Or is that too Machiavellian for Costello?

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