I just wanted to offer a few observations on the events of the past 24 hours. It has been a very interesting time for politics tragics like myself and will only become more intriguing as events continue to unfold...
It Begins and Ends With A Spill
September 17, 2008. The heady days of the Rudd government before future events would irrevocably designate them the "Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years". News was still consumed in printed paper form and available at retail outlets called "newsagents", along with an assortment of magazines, stationary, lottery tickets and remainder paperbacks.
I was sitting in the Knox City Shopping Centre food court before my shift at Ted's Camera Stores reading about the life and times of the newly-elected leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull. Even as a Labor supporter with our very own Teflon®-coated Labor PM in office, I had a certain amount of respect for Turnbull and thought: "damn, he's going to be the next PM."
Hindsight demonstrates this was not to be. Being more young and naive then than now, I assumed political parties to be more monolithic than not, that the Liberal Party would fall in behind Turnbull and that would be that. This is the mistake most people make to this day when discussing politicians and parties: parties are not monolithic entities, they are swirling, amorphous entities led by strong personalities and driven by conflicting ideas.
While complaints were made about Turnbull's non-consultative leadership style, it was primarily his non-flat earther policies on issues such as climate change that proved fatal to his leadership. The "big C" conservatives within the Liberal Party mounted a failed challenge to Turnbull in the party room, before many resigned en-masse from the shadow cabinet forcing a spill that cost Turnbull the leadership.
Labor MPs I've chatted to about the aforementioned Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years talk about the two Rudd prime ministerships as if they were led by different people. Rudd 1.0 didn't want to know you as a petty backbencher. He was rude, abrasive, egotistical and a manic micromanager. Rudd 2.0, on the other hand, could not have been more helpful, eager to appear in electorates and support local campaigns, always available for a chat and generally not a dick. How much of Rudd 2.0 would have survived had Labor won in 2013 is impossible to tell, but there was a very real change in the man who would be PM.
The question Liberal MPs would have grappled with over the past 24 hours is whether Turnbull, like Rudd 2.0, has learned from his previous experience as leader. I suspect Turnbull would have made this pitch to the party, promising to be more consultative and more sensitive to the party. Like with Rudd 2.0, only time will tell whether this promise
Labor's Next Federal Election Just Got a LOT Harder...but there are implications for the Liberals too...
Let's face it: Tony Abbott was the Labor Party's greatest electoral asset. Compared to Abbott, Bill Shorten looked like a leader, a Prime Minister-in-waiting. Turnbull's elevation has changed everything. It's a bit like when you go hiking in the Australian "Alps" and then visit Austria. Sure, Mt. Kosciuszko is nice and all, but until a few decades ago, you could virtually drive to the top of it. The Austrian Alps, on the other hand, offer a plethora of very large peaks, ample ski fields, wonderful scenery and Bergbahnen (mountain trains).
What am I trying to say? I don't know. I like mountains and while Mt. Kosciuszko is big compared to, I dunno, Mt. Dandenong (or Mt. Lofty, or Mt. Coot-tha, or insert localised mountain here), it's nothing compared to the Austrian Alps. Is Turnbull the Austrian Alps of this awkward and poorly thought-out attempt at an analogy, and Shorten Mt. Kosciuszko, lacking in Bergbahnen, wonderful scenery, but otherwise serviceable as a mountain peak? Perhaps. Time will tell, but the hatred for Abbott in the electorate that has so far sustained Labor's two-party lead is likely to evaporate, at least in the short term. Labor will now try and link Turnbull, as senior cabinet minister, to the poisonous legacy of the Abbott prime ministership. This has begun already. None of this, however, should come as a shock to Labor strategists. There was always a chance this would occur and I imagine (and hope) Labor campaign plans have factored in the possibility of a leadership change.
But it's not all smooth sailing for the Liberals. Turnbull is undeniably popular in the electorate, but unfortunately for him, a sizeable portion of his popularity lies with people who vote Labor or Green anyway. The close outcome of the leadership vote reveals a divided party, largely (but not exclusively) between the "big C" conservatives who killed the first Turnbull Experiment and small-l liberals. How Turnbull manages the divide and whether the vanquished behave themselves will determine the success or otherwise of the Turnbull Experiment 2.0. What has been notable is those spruiking for Turnbull have been at pains to point out that he will be a "more collegiate" leader, keen to broadcast a positive message to the party faithful and to place Turnbull on notice that his leadership will be closely monitored.
There is a great deal of risk here to Turnbull. Those in #QANDALand have built up an image of Turnbull as a saviour; a progressive, intelligent and articulate intellectual who will return Australia to some imagined glorious past where leaders loftily debated policies and ideas. Turnbull, even without having to contend with the social conservatives in his party, is unlikely to meet this progressive ideal. By trying to please both the party and the electorate, he runs the double risk of disappointing #QANDALand by not being progressive enough and the conservatives within the Liberal Party by being too moderate.
For every happy burgher of Wentworth interviewed on ABC News 24, there are multiple electors elsewhere, probably unhappy with this leadership "change". I can't see this leadership "coup" being anywhere as damaging to the Liberal Party as Rudd's toppling was to Labor in 2010, which means there should be some "clear air" for the government, so long as everyone behaves themselves.
Self-Interest Rules All
Anti-Turnbull Liberal MPs were faced with two choices last night: continue on with an ideologically-aligned, ultimately hapless leader who would likely lead them to electoral oblivion, or stomach a Turnbull leadership that offered the possibility of electoral success. They chose the latter, with self-interest ruling all.
People Still Don't Understand Our Political System
Cue leadership change; cue the inevitable "person-on-the-street" vox pop and the incessant "I voted for Tony and now he's been torn down by the party". You'd think after three leadership coups, people would have learned how our system works. Come election time, we vote for our local member and not the party leader. The party that wins a majority of seats forms government, and that party's leader becomes Prime Minister. The party leadership is then a plaything of the party, whether we like it or not.
Public understanding of the system is not helped when hot-air populists lecture politicians on, well, politics without actually understanding the fundamentals of the system.
"Not sure about you sitting at home, but we're fed up with this. Have we, the people, become irrelevant? This country has become an embarrassment when it comes to leadership" - Karl#Libspill #Today9
Posted by TODAY on Monday, 14 September 2015
Liberal Conservatives Invoke the "Broad Church" Myth When it's Convenient For Them
I've written previously about the myth of the "broad church", that the Liberal Party accommodates two competing ideological strands, social conservatism and liberalism, in the one party. The social conservative strand has been in the ascendency ever since Howard took the Liberal leadership in 1995. As a result, moderates increasingly found themselves on the outer. Turnbull's loss of the leadership in 2009 on reinforced the power of the "big C" Conservatives within the party.
Now potentially on the outer under a Turnbull prime ministership, noted social conservative and all-round weird churchy guy Kevin Andrews went on breakfast TV today to "remind" certain elements of the Liberal Party that it is, indeed, a "broad church". This time, the "broad church" appeal was directed at moderates to remind them that weird churchy guys like him, who have held sway for two decades, are still there and need a say...even though their leadership over the past two years has been ruinous for the Liberal Party and the country. Watch this space.
Jeff Kennett Has Curiously Non-Existent Sense of Irony
The former Victorian premier whored himself out to virtually every media outlet yesterday to let his feelings known that Turnbull was a wrecker, an egotist and the "Rudd" of the Liberal Party. He did this with a straight face. Anyone who was alive in Victoria in the 1990s knows Kennett is probably the most arrogant, egotistical figure the Liberal Party has ever produced, with only Howard in his last 12 months as PM coming close to Kennett levels of popular disconnect and hubris. This arrogance saw both Kennett and Howard meet their political end at the hands of the electorate.
The NBN Still Sucks
Australia ranks 44th in global internet speeds according to Akamai. For a man who "practically" invented the internet in Australia, Turnbull has done little to improve the situation. Only 2 years ago, Australia was on track to have a truly world-class broadband network. This achievable dream is now in tatters, torn up by the now Prime Minister of Australia, in pursuit of affordable mediocrity that has now suffered a $15bn blowout. This is Turnbull's most visible legacy as Minister for Communications and his biggest failure. This is important because for all Turnbull's popularity and charisma, his policy work in communications was dreadful. One journalist in the know, Renai LeMay of Delimiter calls Turnbull "Australia's worst ever Communications Minister" – quite a claim when the competition includes luddite Richard Alston.
All this is vital, because as Turnbull talks up the "future", using buzzwords like "innovation" and "technology", his ministerial record shows he has done all in his power to ensure Australia remains a technological backwater.
Watch this space...but not in 4K because internet speeds.