John Menadue. Turnbull and Abbott

Sep 15, 2015

Bill Shorten aside, most Australians will welcome our new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. He offers a more rational, humane and consultative style of leadership. His main problem will be how to reconcile his own progressive views on such issues as climate change, a republic and gay marriage, with the hard-heads in the parliamentary Liberal party.

As Laura Tingle in the AFR put it, ‘Tony Abbott has no-one but himself to blame’. He saw politics as war. He never made a sensible transition from a pugnacious and effective opposition leader to a national leader. He broke promise after promise. His first budget was grossly unfair. In his second budget, he abandoned all attempts at budget repair, despite telling us for years that we had a deficit and debt emergency. He kicked one home goal after another. The benefits of the Free Trade Agreements with Japan, Korea and China were grossly and willfully exaggerated.

Malcolm Turnbull had a difficult and very unsuccessful period as leader of the opposition in 2008-09. He was clearly very able, ambitious, but did not suffer fools gladly. On climate change he told the Liberal party ‘I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am’. The Liberal party climate skeptics then told him if that was the case they would find another leader. And they did, by electing Tony Abbott with a margin of one vote.

Malcolm Turnbull is clearly sensible to say that he will focus on the economy. That will help him avoid disagreements with the right wing of the Liberal party who are concerned about his views on climate change, a republic and gay marriage. On each of these issues he will be forced to compromise. How much will that cause damage to his public persona?

Malcolm Turnbull will face something Tony Abbott never encountered,high expectations.

When Julia Gillard overthrew Kevin Rudd he went to the back bench and proceeded to subvert the Gillard government. It is unlikely that Abbott will do the same. Hopefully he will retire gracefully and soon.

One issue which is likely to come back into play much more clearly is the national broadband network. Malcolm Turnbull offered a compromise to Labor’s fibre to the premises approach. He offered mixed technology, lower costs and speedier roll out. The Turnbull NBN is turning out to be a major disappointment. As Professor Rod Tucker put it in his blog ‘The NBN: why it’s slow, expensive and obsolete’ said

‘The Coalition sold the Australian public a product that was supposed to be fast, one-third the cost and arrive sooner than what Labor was offering us. Instead the Coalition’s NBN will be so slow that it is obsolete by the time it is in place. It will cost about the same as Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises NBN and it won’t arrive on our doorsteps much sooner. By my reckoning we didn’t get a good deal.’

Tony Abbott’s demise had very little to do with the performance of Bill Shorten and the ALP.It is nonsense for Bill Shorten to say ‘one down and one to go’

The ALP can no longer rely on the shortcomings of Tony Abbott to get it into government. The election of Malcolm Turnbull was bad news for the ALP. Perhaps at last the ALP will seriously look at policy reform and the reform of its party structure. If Malcolm Turnbull can hold the Coalition together, the ALP faces an uphill task.

Julie Bishop remains as the Deputy to her fourth Leader. She is very versatile. She has supported the largest cut in foreign aid in our history.



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