It’s been a little over 6 months since Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister, at which time it seemed inevitable that he would lead the Liberal party to victory at the next election and entrench himself as the long term prime minister of this country. Six months later that’s very much a line-ball proposition.
Six months ago we rid ourselves of a noxious and incompetent prime minister, replaced by an urbane and sophisticated modern man. There was good reason to expect more moderate and intelligent leadership, and a way forward that the reasonable majority could believe in.
At the same time the ALP opposition was wallowing. They had become lazy with Abbott to contend with, relying on his consistent gaffes and his unpopularity with the Australian people. There was no go forward with them, and in Bill Shorten they had an uninspiring mediocrity leading them – almost certainly it seemed, to electoral defeat and another leadership change.
A lot has happened in those 6 months. Or rather, a lot has’t happened.
Turnbull has failed to live up to the hype and expectation. He presents well, looks the part, speaks intelligently, and represents us much better than Abbott ever could. But he has done little but waffle and make spurious gestures. The things he has tried for the most part have been put forward without conviction, and therefore quickly shelved. By and large the things that have proceeded have been negative – such as this week the weak as piss watering down of the Safe Schools program.
Now there’s every reason to suggest that Turnbull is hostage to the right wing of the party. They reluctantly gave him the keys to the prime minister’s office, on condition he played nice with them. The cost of doing that is credibility and respect. Those of us who expected more have disappointed to find that playing nice to the dinosaurs means that he plays false to his ideals, and our hopes.
The result is that there has been no advance on many of the critical issues we hold dear. Our policies dealing with climate change are unchanged. The same-sex discussion remains postponed to a costly and unnecessary plebiscite some undetermined time in the future. We continue to demonise asylum seekers and refugees, to a degree worse even than with Abbott in the job. And, it’s clear, Liberal policy continues to be to look after the top end of town at the expense of the average fella – witness discussion on raising GST, the ongoing threat to abolish penalty rates, and the rorting of company tax that continues to go unpunished.
I dare say Turnbull is well aware of the conundrum he’s in. He does as he is bid, presumably against his natural instincts, and his popularity plummets. As an old fashioned liberal it’s hard not to look upon the right wing of the Liberal party as a lunatic fringe. The likes of Christensen and Bernardi certainly fit that bill, as do creepy types like Abetz and Andrews. Behind them are serried ranks of conservatives. Some are pragmatic, backbenchers looking out for their own electoral prospects, but many more are driven by a pure conservative ideology – the tea party meets the IPA. You suspect that these fanatics would rather lose office than taint themselves with compromise – and so the party, and Malcolm, declines. There’s nothing he can do about it short of defying them – which he must, but won’t.
While this has been happening the ALP has finally found at least one testicle. The Liberal floundering has created an unexpected opportunity. Turnbull should have been steaming full speed towards another term, instead he’s sprung a leak and the clever types in the ALP (Bowen, Albanese, Plibersek), have thought hello, we can catch him after all.
Into the void they have rushed, and actually brought with them some considered policies. They continue to be well ahead of the Libs in education and environmental policy, but they are putting it out there. They have opposed any discussion on raising the GST or abolishing penalty rates, as they should, and as is their imperative purpose (not something they consistently attend to). They’re still shockers when it comes to dealing with refugees, seeking the safety of bi-partisan agreement with the government – but they have taken up the reins of same-sex marriage rights, and recently championed a republic. In many ways they have become progressive again.
Recently they very boldly proposed a policy dealing with negative gearing. By and large it’s good policy dealing with a thorny issue. Negative gearing of property has long since served its original purpose. As it is today society derives no benefits from it, while individuals get rich off it. An allowance such as this can only be supported if it is in the better interests of the nation – which this, in its present form, is no longer. The Labor policy deals with that. It rewards investment that creates housing capacity, rather than recycling it. It targets the purpose of it, and brings millions back into government coffers for every Australian to benefit from.
It’s a policy you suspect that Turnbull and Morrison might have considered themselves. Once it was proposed by the opposition it became toxic – not that the right wing of the party would ever allow it. In its place the government has proposed a range of confusing and contradictory taxation proposals that add up to fuck all. The discussion has become circular, with each passing week the government digging itself into a deeper hole.
The electorate see that. They lose confidence in the government, and in their great white hope, Turnbull. As it stands the two parties are neck and neck in the polls. If the election was today you’d guess the Libs would get up, but the trend is bad for them. Their message is confused because the voices inside the party are in conflict. Those in the shadows have conviction, while those in the light lack it – and so the government comes across as inert, disorganised and indecisive. It’s a combination that erodes support.
In the meantime Labor have gained confidence and become bolder. It’s clear even in Shorten, generally uninspiring and unimpressive, who has in recent times become more stridently confident. They have learned, perhaps to their surprise, that to actually stand for something creates its own energy. And it feels good, and that translates to the opinion polls. Who’d a thunk.
Will I vote for them? Not in clear conscience, no – not unless they get rid of Marles and his awful connivance with the Libs. Can I vote still for Malcolm? No, he’s done his dash with me (and thousands of others I reckon). In hindsight the NBN should have guided me. Who does that leave? The Greens? Not on your life. They’re perhaps the most poisonous of all now, and I reckon they might come to regret their costing up to the Libs. There’ll be a lot of devastated Greens voters out there today.
I guess I’m back on the Sex Party bandwagon (but I hope Labor get up).