It’s time for Turnbull

The current pressure on Tony Abbott is merely the playing out of the inevitable. This was always going to happen. Everyone knew it. Liberal voters knew it, and their political opponents knew it.

When I sat with a glass of port in hand on the election night of 2013, celebrating the end of six years of Labor instability, I knew then that the man giving the victory speech would not enjoy a long stay at the Lodge. He would be no John Howard. There would be no long reign for Tony Abbott. Sooner or later, he will come undone.

Unsurprisingly, as events play out over the coming days and weeks, this will prove to be right.

As I have written previously, reservations about Abbott’s ability as leader were brushed aside by members of the party while he wrought devastating damage on the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government. As long as power was in the Liberals’ grasp, recalcitrance in the ranks remained at bay.

After a series of policy mishaps and own goals (come on, Tony, Prince Phillip?! What were you thinking?), power is slipping. The Queensland election, while not solely Abbott’s fault, brought home the reality that the Liberal-National brand has a problem.

Opponents of the Liberal Party are currently having a field day. The instability that plagued Labor, and the subsequent electoral demise, is now being felt on the conservative side of politics. How quickly politics changes. It was only 15 months ago that Labor’s electoral fortunes were abysmal, and the Queensland LNP were enjoying an unprecedented majority in parliament, having reduced Labor to seven seats, where they could have their meetings in the back of a Tarago.

Yet gloaters and smirkers should take caution. If the past two years has taught us anything, it is that voter sentiment changes quickly. So any high-fiving in coffee shops on the banks of the Yarra should be done with reservation.

My prediction is that they will see their political rival, Tony Abbott, relegated to the backbench by the party within weeks. It should happen, and it must happen.

Such a declaration is not some panicked move in the face of pending defeat. Rather, it is the acceptance that Abbott was never the desired leader in the first place. His leadership is the product of circumstance, not of design. The Liberal Party traditionally rallies around the leader that will bring power and guide the party’s values. Abbott brought power, but his values were always a cause for reservation in the party. Those reservations are now presenting themselves.

Julie Bishop is being touted as an ideal successor. Undoubtedly, she has performed brilliantly in her role as Minister for Foreign Affairs. She presents well, she is assured, and she has authority. Yet two things need to be pointed out here.

Firstly, her ability to handle a domestic portfolio is yet to be proven. Remember, she only had four months in her role as Shadow Treasurer before getting removed. Secondly, Foreign Affairs lends itself well to good publicity, since there’s little the minister can say that the public will disagree with. She’s batting for Australia, which is far different to implementing complex policy solutions at home.

This brings me to the other name in the ranks, Malcolm Turnbull. He wasn’t a good opposition leader, unlike Abbott, but he is the perfect fit for Prime Minister in the current climate.

Turnbull is highly intelligent, moderate, and well spoken. He could not prosecute a case against the sitting government in opposition because he is not naturally negative, unlike Abbott. Yet as a government minister, he is highly capable of explaining complex policies and neutralising political issues. His role as Communications Minister has been handled with aplomb.

Turnbull is also accepted by political opponents. Sure, they might not vote for him, but at least voters traditionally against the party can see reason when he speaks. After more than five years of visceral, nasty party politics, it would be refreshing to have a centrist leader that can, as best as possible, bring forward some sort of constructive policy agenda that encourages bipartisanship.

Turnbull is also a man of conviction, a rare commodity in politics these days. Whereas Abbott has previously described himself as a weathervane on complex policy matters, Turnbull was prepared to fall on his sword in 2009 when he refused to back away from his principled stance on climate change.

As a Liberal member frustrated with the conservatism and populism of the current government, it would be great to see a leader that ushers a new path forward that embraces the party’s original purpose of small-l liberalism.

A leader that has faith in the free market and private enterprise, but also acknowledges the need for action on climate change. A liberal on social issues such as same-sex marriage, acknowledging that in the 21st century, people are autonomous beings that should be able to make important life decisions without restrictions from government.

It is my sincere hope that the party places its faith in Malcolm Turnbull. Do it not in the best interests of the party, but of the country.

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17 Comments on It’s time for Turnbull

  1. Whether it’s Abbott or Turnbull, the problem is their ideology. Changing leaders doesn’t work, just look at the mess Labor created.

  2. I’m a Labor voter and I would consider voting Liberal if Turnbull was leader. He’s probably more left than Bill Shorten. The problem is that the conservatives in his own party will never support him. They’ll end up going for another right-winger like Morrison.

  3. The problem with Turnbull is that he lacks judgment. Look at the Utegate affair. He was duped by a treasury official. He might be intelligent, but so was Gillard. She performed well as deputy but she was a poor PM. Putting your faith in Turnbull might be short sighted. He’s never won a campaign – look at the referendum in 1999.

  4. #standbyabbott

  5. Abbott was never groomed for anything other than an “attack dog”.
    They freaked out with Turnbull…and they chose Abbott to bring down Gillard.
    Abbott is a dead man walking. After this election loss he has had it. Turnbull won’t be much better. It’s great to watch.

  6. Just another Liberal sympathiser blind to the reality that it’s their policies, not their leader, that the voters don’t like. Go ahead and change leaders, the people will still boot you out at their next opportunity.

  7. There’s a longstanding view that governments don’t lose office after their first term; especially when they’ve won by a hansom majority. The Queensland election has shown that times have indeed changed and the electorate will not tolerate leaders who appear arrogant and who they don’t/can’t trust.
    Tony won the leadership because he demonstrated the brutal characteristics that was needed to unhinge Labor. Now that he is PM, all those characteristics are a liability. They know this is a problem but before yesterday they thought they had time – “let Tony have his way, we lose a few seats at the next election and that can trigger a controlled change.”
    But things are very different now.
    When the back Liberal executive dissect the Queensland disaster, they will have no option but to fix the situation and deal with Mr. 29% popularity. They won’t do it now, but they won’t leave too long or they risk not recovering enough for the 2016 election.

  8. Turnbull should be PM. It’s a shame the party doesn’t think so, but he’s one of the few politicians in Canberra with a worthwhile vision for the country. I respected him for standing by his principles in the face of the nasty right wingers in the party room. The Liberal Party could survive the next election if he’s at the helm. Under Abbott they’ll be destined for oblivion.

  9. Gotta love it when Liberal voters start turning on their own…
    They were happy to attack Labor for changing leaders and now they’re pushing for exactly the same thing. Great to watch.

  10. Turnbull? Arrogant and out of touch. That’s why the Liberals dumped him in the first place. Apparently he gave some frank character assessments of his colleagues while there too.

  11. If a change of Leadership occurs, Labor will have a field day,as they should. Abbott needs to go. He is a national disgrace. He can not communicate anything and I have never seen such a terrible public speaker as a national leader. The sooner he goes the better for everyone. However, no Liberal party member is going to want to take the leadership. None will want to end up like Gillard. So, the only way I sees change of leadership is if Abbott resigns. So the question is, Is Abbott going to walk away from a mess he has created?? We will soon find out. But in my opinion, he is so arrogant that I don’t see that happening.

  12. Yes. If Rudd and Abbott have one thing in common, its their huge egos. Abbott won’t go without a fight – even from the backbenches. Whoever the future leader is, they will need to watch their back.

  13. I would like to know the authors opinion on the following question;

    Given the increasingly changing political landscape we are facing, how much of this can be explained by a changing generational shift of voters have increasingly less attachment to parties and thus simply voting “how they feel?”

    What percentage of voters actually understand and analyise the key differences in policy as opposed to which party leader figurehead they dislike less. Are we not moving closer towards a Washington model of voting individual candidates?

    • Hi Tim.
      Much of what you write is correct. Voters are less loyal and identify less with political parties today than in the past. Many of the older ideological battles are dated, and given that we are living in a faster world marked by instant satisfaction, most voters rarely stay to listen and consider long term policy challenges. This is the issue leaders on both sides of politics are yet to come to terms with.
      We have shorter collective attention spans. We tire of the same arguments quickly. Back in Menzies’ day, the same message could be delivered over several years and people would accept it. These days, given our constant access to information and our cynical eye for spin, a message or narrative becomes stale very quickly and the public are looking to move on. I doubt that we will get another decade long government. Until politicians learn to deal with this new landscape, we will be seeing more of the same.

  14. Antonio Familari // February 2, 2015 at 8:56 pm // Reply

    Me thinks there is far to much over thinking. The matter is plain. Abbott has committed two sins – the first is people laugh at him, sadly that demeans the High Office he holds. The second he is seen as un- Australian. While the first is the start of a downward path the second is far more fatal to him and the current govt. Australians love their military and he and his government are seen as walking away from properly paying them – the contradictions in About stating the first duty of govt is to ensure the nation’s security – you can not do that while you do not support our military – the bravest, strongest and noblest of the nation’s young. Further to place the security of the nation outside the nation by the over reliance on Uncle Sam – demeans us all – to not be self-reliant in defence – to show no faith in fellow Australians to build and get it right with what we needs is indeed negligence. A nation of so few, against all the odds, does not need About and his mob to increase the odds against us. We are all building Australia against all the odds, despite all the very serious problems in front of us, its not a heavy job when we are all in it together – not divided by people who place their party above the nation. Abbott and his mob are trying to build a different country, a different place – one full of very un-Australian features. Maybe we can give them an isolated island way down the south pole to play with and leave Australian to Australians who believe in each other and our nation.

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  16. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your trip. Tonight my husband and I chose a little girl from El Salvador to sponsor. We look forward to sharing this ministry through the years with our 15-month-old daughter. God bless you as you minister to these precious little ones!

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