TONY KEVIN. Australian politics: There has not been nearly enough change.

Aug 30, 2018

Reflections on last week’s political bloodbath and on what needs to happen now.

I still feel a sharp almost physical pain at the appalling treatment by their party of Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop in recent days. Both had class, though their political views were antithetical to mine in most respects. Their successors,  and those who have benefited politically from supporting the spill, are to be condemned as at worst conspirators, and at best opportunists who seized the day for imagined personal advantage. People like Abbott, McGrath, Hunt, Fifield, Sukkar, Ciobo, Cash, Fierravanti-Wells, deserve contempt for their disloyalty. People like Cormann – well, the jury is out. Those who stayed loyal to Turnbull and Bishop to the end – you can still sleep straight in your beds.

The bullying of Liberal women MPs and senators to get on board behind Dutton will not be soon forgotten. Most of them nobly resisted the pressure.

The tactic in the ballot of knocking out Bishop to give Morrison a clear run was another huge error. It should have been the other way around. What the party did here confirms their essential misogyny. She would or should have won the leadership,  if she had been the sole candidate against Dutton. And she could have led the fight in the May election more creditably than Morrison. Now, she has been sacrificed – thrown away after 12 years of service to the party, and absolute loyalty to whoever has been its  leader at the time.

She might still, conceivably, be the new leader asked to pick up the wreckage after the Coalition inevitably loses power very badly in April or May. What a comeback this would be. Or she might have had enough.

Malcolm Turnbull’s exit was both warm and dignified, highlighted by his grandson’s well-timed and clearly unscripted final raspberry at the media. A future in politics for that boy – good political instincts, and loyalty.

Which brings me to Malcolm’s son Alex, currently working as a hedge funds trader in Singapore. Alex should seize the moment and stand for Wentworth. He would shoo it in – in this broad-minded small – l liberal seat, everything about him would resonate splendidly. It would be a way for Wentworth voters to still vote liberal while showing clearly what they thought of how the Prime Minister was betrayed by so many of his colleagues. Alex Turnbull has good environmental credentials and would have time as a backbencher on the way up to begin to help reshape the Liberal Party ’s damaged soul. The party desperately needs to begin to retire or purge its coal dinosaurs. They are all still there, this unrepresentative swill.

And Alex Turnbull in Parliament would be the perfect answer to Morrison ’s and Dutton ’s overt or hidden racism.

As for the baleful incubus still there in federal politics, clinging to his position like an oyster on a rock – ‘a young 60’,  as he delusionally terms himself – how to remove him from our Parliament? He has nothing more to contribute, he has done so much damage already. Time to go.

The Warringah  Branch has apparently already re-endorsed him. Their mistake. However, the fact is that this seat voted 75% for marriage equality. This vote shows how ready the Warringah voters are for change. If the local branch do not resile from their choice of Abbott – surely his manifest hypocrisy and disloyalty would count against him now –  an attractive young independent-minded and well-known candidate could prise the seat away from Abbott in the April-May election. Think of someone like former Senator Scott Ludlum, a person of undoubted liberal mind and untapped charisma with younger voters. He would take Warringah from Abbott.

Australia at the next election will vote in Labor – they are in fact ready to govern now. And the Coalition needs a period in opposition to purge themselves of their coal troglodytes and enter the 21st Century.

Tony Kevin is a former Australian ambassador and independent commentator. 

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