Thursday, 26 November 2009
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