The spectre of Howard passes by

Thursday, 26 November 2009 


Vote winner!

I believe this sends a very clear message to the Liberal Party that there has been deep concern about the way things have occurred over the last few weeks.

K Andrews 24 November 2009

To the rest of us, however, it sends a message how close an Australian mainstream party came to political irrelevance. The media has been forced to acknowledge that Turnbull’s political demise did not happen as expected, but there has been little explanation why. The general view seems to be that the opposition did not have time to organise a proper opponent, as though the thought of replacing Turnbull has only just occurred to the Liberal party. The reality was that there was no viable alternative, just as a policy of climate change scepticism is currently not an option for a governing party in Australia (as pretty well anywhere else in the world). If the Liberals had decided to take a sceptic stance, they would have been unelectable, and Andrews would have been just the unelectable leader it needed.

The paradox is that while the ETS decision has brought out party tensions against Turnbull, it has in a strange way made him more secure. Turnbull’s leadership has now been more closely identified with a stance that is the only one a party that hopes to eventually take power can take. That is why he was able to stare his opponents down over the last two days. For once he had his most important opponents in the party, like Minchin and Abbott, boxed into a position that in the long run, they cannot hope to win. This is far preferable to the situation over most of this year where both, especially Abbott, were sidling up to Turnbull and being his ‘friend’, while clearly ready at some point to replace him and restore the party’s values that they lost with Howard.

But of course, the reason why they lost Howard’s values was that he was voted out, as the conditions that allowed Howard to present such ‘values’ as politically viable have now gone. As a result, those like Minchin, Abbott and Andrews in trying to keep the flame of Howard alive, have ended up hiding behind a bogus scientific argument and so marginalised themselves from mainstream Australian and global opinion.

If Turnbull has any political sense, now would be the time to go for the kill. He has an ideal opportunity to settle scores. He can appear ‘tough’ for having taken on his party, but on an issue that is electorally popular, an ideal combination for a politician.

Yet what else he needs to do to consolidate power is more difficult – address the question, which gives the vote-losing sceptics such appeal in the party, about what a right-wing party stands for. There is little sign that Turnbull really has the answer. This means disruption from opponents to climate change action is still likely to continue. Especially if they can still resonate with an anti-establishment sentiment in the electorate against what is essentially now an establishment point of view. Nevertheless, Turnbull’s position is now stronger than it was before and, by talking conciliation while doing the opposite against his enemies, is likely to become more so.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Thursday, 26 November 2009.

Filed under Political figures, Tactics

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4 responses to “The spectre of Howard passes by”

  1. Cavitation on 26th November 2009 7:53 am

    Very astute Shrike, as usual. I saw the interview with Kevin Andrews on the ABC last night. He said that the Liberal opponents to following Turnbull’s global warming strategy were a group of members who wanted to reject any ETS, as well as another group who just wanted to delay consideration of any legislation until after the Copenhagen conference. These two groups actually have different agendas, and should not be lumped together.

    The dissidents seem to have forgotten that they are not in government any more. The conservative parties do not have the numbers in parliament. The Rudd government will not allow any delay, and if an attempt is made to create one, then they will put the legislation to a vote, and force the procrastinators to choose one side or the other. Now, few of the delay oriented rebels would vote against the legislation in this situation, as rejecting it would give the Rudd government the ability to hold a double dissolution election, or an early general election. This is the real reason why Rudd wants the legislation passed now; the Copenhagen deadline is obviously a lesser motivation.

    In such an election, the conservative side of politics would suffer massive losses, based on the government’s current spectacular approval ratings in the polls, and fighting an election on dealing with global warming would only help in reducing the conservative numbers in the house to around 45 members, and in the senate to 25, or so, depending on whether a double dissolution or general election is called. The Green party, who have thenumbers in the Senate, would love a double dissolution and an election based on climate issues. Of course, the rump of conservative members who remain in parliament after such an election would then have plenty of opportunities to remake their parties along the lines they prefer, as over the next couple of decades in opposition they inch back into contention for government.

    Andrews and his ilk seem to have forgotten why Malcolm Turnbull needs a vote for the government’s legislation. There would be an early election if they don’t centred on the one issue that does the most damage to the Liberal and National parties. If the rebels think they can achieve anything useful from such an election, they are crazy, And more importantly for politicians, it means they can’t count the numbers. They say Malcolm Turnbull is inexperienced? Not on the question of putting off an election for as long as possible, he isn’t!

  2. nobby on 26th November 2009 12:22 pm

    cavitation,there is a lot of coalition members who are deluded enough to think that public mood has and continues to move in their direction and so they fancy their chances in an election on this issue.mad i know,but thats what they think

  3. kymbos on 26th November 2009 3:57 pm

    Good piece again. It seems that an opportunity to modernise the Liberal Party has presented itself to Turnbull, however I’m not sure this has come about by his design, nor do I think he has the political smarts to achieve it. However, it will be fun to watch him try.

    I disagree with Cavitation that the dissidents have forgotten that they are no longer in power. Indeed, I think the opposite is true. This kind of behaviour would have been unthinkable while in government. It is only that the lolly of power has been ripped from their grasps that they gnash their terrible teeth and roar their terrible roars…

  4. The Piping Shrike on 26th November 2009 8:01 pm

    Getting interesting! The resignation by the front bench is a smart move since they were screwed anyway, and need to turn it into a point of principle rather than an act of Turnbull.

    What they have on their side is that Turnbull has been slow to act and turn up the heat. Ultimately the sceptics will lose, if Turnbull doesn’t raise the temperature from his side he may not be around long enough to see it.

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