September 15, 2015.
MALCOLM Turnbull has replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister because the Liberals let his bull weaken their nerve and bury their judgment.
Here’s Turnbull’s challenge in a nutshell: he stole the prime ministership he could not have won in an election.
He stole it by boasting of superior communication skills he does not have.
He will now campaign on successes by Abbott he could not have achieved himself.
And he will now be the leader of a party he cannot unite.
What have the Liberals done? Many of their members will be distraught and disgusted.
Whether Turnbull wins the next election or loses, conservative Liberals will feel they have lost already, now that a man of such “progressive” views has snatched the leadership of their party.
Eleven things you should know about Malcolm Turnbull
Sure, Turnbull has one big advantage over Abbott.
The media and the Twittersphere have been absolutely feral in savaging Abbott, a man awkward in his own defence, but have been kind to Turnbull.
But the media always favours Labor in any contest, and what the media gives Turnbull today it could withdraw tomorrow.
True, Turnbull also has a gravitas that Abbott does not, and is undeniably clever.
Yet everything about his challenge rang false, including the timing — just four days before a by-election in the Perth seat of Canning.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MALCOLM TURNBULL
And that timing says it all about Turnbull. He put his own interests above his party’s, sabotaging not just the Government with his leaks and digs, but now also sabotaging a by-election campaign by a great Liberal candidate, former SAS captain Andrew Hastie.
The latest two polls show Canning would have been won comfortably by the Liberals, despite weeks of destabilising leaks by supporters of Turnbull and his partner in assassination, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.
I suspect that is why Turnbull called the challenge, in case the Canning result was good and his case for immediate change wrecked.
So let’s analyse Turnbull’s laughable claims on Monday to be the man to take over the Government.
At his press conference, he claimed Abbott had “not been successful in providing the economic leadership our nation needs”.
Really? Under Abbott there was no mad Labor-style Budget blowout or pink batts disaster. His failings have not been in administering but in selling; not in doing, but in seeming.
True, the Senate, thanks to Labor and the Greens, has blocked the deeper Budget cuts we need, but would Turnbull have any more success in cutting handouts?
No, Abbott’s economic record is as good as could be hoped, given the Senate and a media determined to see every cut as cruel.
The truth is that Turnbull singled out only one Abbott economic measure: Abbott’s free trade deal with China — but not to condemn it.
It was the opposite: Turnbull signalled it would be his main weapon against Labor, just as Abbott himself had intended.
Turnbull claimed that if Abbott had stayed, Bill Shorten would have won the next election, and he was “utterly unfit to be prime minister” because of his “catastrophically reckless” opposition to Abbott’s China deal.
Pardon? That was Abbott’s deal and Abbott’s plan of attack, yet Turnbull now announces it’s his big weapon for showing the economic leadership Abbott never did?
Give me a break.
No, Turnbull’s pitch lay in one thing only — his claim to be a better communicator than Abbott.
Turnbull repeated all the Labor lines against Abbott.
“We need a different style of leadership,” he said, one which “explains those (economic) changes ... and the course of action we should take” and “respects the people’s intelligence”.
In short, “we need advocacy, not slogans”.
And Turnbull, we’re invited to believe, is just the man to give us an impressive lecture about the economy, not a slogan.
But wait. Wasn’t this exactly what crippled Turnbull when he was Opposition Leader? Remember him then, wanting to explain in 15 minutes what the TV news needed condensed into 15 seconds?
So where is the evidence that Turnbull really is a better communicator? That wasn’t his record as Opposition Leader and it hasn’t been his record as Communications Minister.
What has he said that makes you understand what he’s doing with the National Broadband Network? What glove has he landed on anyone, other than Abbott?
But if Turnbull is no great communicator, is he a cannier political strategist? The answer again is no.
Check his record. Turnbull as Opposition Leader backed Labor’s emissions trading scheme, the issue that split his party and cost him his job.
Abbott took over and turned Labor’s carbon tax into a deadly political weapon, first against Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard..
Labor is still promising a form of carbon tax — the one Turnbull once supported in principle and has never disavowed.
For Abbott this would have been a great weapon again in the next election. Under Turnbull it will become an embarrassment at best and potentially another party-splitter.
Abbott had also neatly defused the same-sex marriage debate that could also have split his party, letting the people decide the issue in a vote after the election — a compromise backed by the public but which Turnbull, a gay marriage crusader, again opposed.
And would Turnbull, a darling of the Left, ever have the uncompromising determination that saw Abbott deliver on his “stop the boats” slogan — another election winner? Would he have given lectures instead?
So count them. Turnbull called it wrong on global warming. He called it wrong on a public vote on same-sex marriage. He lacks the clarity of Abbott’s “stop the boats” message.
So what else has he got? Oh, yes, he promised he would be more consultative than Abbott, but that, too, was not his record as leader, and it is still curiously difficult to tell him a fact that does not fit his theories.
That leaves Turnbull boasting of just one thing: his smooth tongue, and (unsaid) a friendlier media.
He’d better start talking fast.