Challenge Turnbull Now

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Editor’s note: This article by BJ appears even more precient, given reports that Cory Bernardi is preparing to make his move.

Malcolm Trojan.

Any doubt that Malcolm Turnbull is grossly and dangerously inept, and politically and ideologically unsuited to be the Prime Minister of Australia in a conservative coalition government, was finally, and for all purposes, put to rest in the fallout from his recent phone call to President Trump that floundered over the refugee resettlement deal. The events themselves, and the ramifications of Turnbull’s ham-fisted approach to President Trump, demonstrate the essence of Turnbull’s unsuitability, showcasing a startling lack of political acumen, a tin-ear for domestic politics and foreign relations, a frightening inability to read and respond to changed circumstances in a way that serves Australia’s interests and, most importantly that Turnbull is not and never has been a true conservative.

As bad as all of that is, one admittedly less-than-benign interpretation of Turnbull’s conduct is that he was party to arrangements left in place by the departing Obama, to politically wedge and embarrass President Trump as he entered the White House, by foisting upon him a deal that is contrary to his clearly stated commitments to the electorate on refugees and immigration. We will never know whether Turnbull saw the potential for that arrangement to sour relations with the new President, or would have held back if he did; and frankly, it hardly matters now. If you think that is an absurd interpretation, then consider this one solitary fact: the deal for the US to resettle 1250 detainees on Manus Island was struck between Turnbull and Obama and announced on 16 November 2016, AFTER the presidential election on 8 November 2016 and Trump was therefore the president-elect, and in the full knowledge of everything that Trump had said during the campaign about his approach to refugees and immigration from certain countries.

There is no interpretation of these events that is favourable for Turnbull; he is either a fool used by Obama, or worse, a knowing participant, in a deal that he must have understood would place the incoming President Trump in an impossible situation, where to honour the deal he would among his first acts have to break his commitment to the electorate on refugees and immigration. How did Turnbull think the new President Trump would react to be placed in that position? And irrespective of whether Trump ultimately decided to honour the arrangement, he was clearly going to be angry and resentful about the situation, and Turnbull’s role in bringing it about. Nobody who has observed Trump during the election could sensibly conclude that President Trump wouldn’t hit back, or fail to understand that there might well be consequences for the future relationship between Australia and the Trump administration. In those circumstances a more rational decision might have been to abandon the deal in recognition of the potential for disruption; but Turnbull is on the ropes politically, and once again he seems to have placed his personal need for any kind of political outcome before Australia’s national interest in developing a strong relationship with the new President.

The MSM has gleefully leapt on the debacle, screeching that Trump doesn’t care about Australia and dragging out the usual anti-American suspects who forcefully opine that Australia should forget the historical, political, defence and cultural ties with the US and instead move closer to the bastion of freedom that is modern-day China. And there is scant recognition in the MSM reports that Trump has rightfully said the deal is a bad one for the US, because on any view that is exactly what it is, or that Trump might have just cause to feel that Turnbull and therefore Australia have been party to a calculated attempt to damage him politically.

As tempers cooled, and the more soothing language of international diplomacy returned, Trump has now apparently agreed to honour the arrangement, but the real issue is at what cost? Turnbull is now desperate to claim that he stood up to the bullying President Trump, and promised nothing in return, but the reality is that Trump the businessman did not operate that way, and there is no reason to believe Trump as President would act any differently. Turnbull may not have immediately agreed to anything, but Trump knows he has Turnbull swinging by a thread, and he will not hesitate to use the leverage over Turnbull when it suits his agenda. Whether now, or in the future, Australia will pay a quid pro quo to Trump for accepting the political cost of honouring the deal, and it might well include a premium for trouble that Turnbull, and unfortunately Australia, caused him so early in his Presidency.

The simple fact is that Malcolm Turnbull has been and will continue to be an electoral disaster for the Liberal Party, and nothing in the latest events suggests he can or will improve. The latest Newspoll shows the Coalition trailing Labor by 46 – 54, with a primary vote of 35%, which is well below the 39% at the time Turnbull assassinated Abbott. Although the most startling finding is that the drift of voters away from the major parties is turning into a surge, rising from 15% to 19%. Turnbull tore down Tony Abbott to become Prime Minister after an insidious campaign of leaking and destabilization, and egged on by the siren songs emanating from the ABC and Fairfax, that fooled him, and the 54 Liberal bed-wetters who voted for him, into believing that moving the government and the Liberal party to the left would improve their prospects of re-election. It was all fools’ gold and, as obvious and predictable as it was, the minute Abbott was gone they promptly jettisoned Turnbull, and returned to the task of getting Labor back onto the Treasury benches at the next election.

Turnbull brought the government to the absolute brink of defeat at the last election, as swathes of conservative voters abandoned a party that not only abandoned them, but also insulted and abused them for presaging the now demonstrated failure of Turnbull as Prime Minister. And worse, is that the electoral damage wrought by Turnbull will in all probability deliver the next government to Labor at a time when much of the Western world is turning sharply to conservative movements to counter the wrecking ball of progressive politics and policies, placing Australia well out of step with political direction of the other Western democracies, and therefore badly-situated to deal with and benefit from them.

The Liberal party should heed the lesson of Turnbull’s latest appalling mess, and immediately move against him. If Turnbull remains, then two things seem inescapable: the next election will be lost, and the conservative voters who abandoned the party at the last election will have to finally accept that the Liberal party is Labor-lite without the union puppet masters, and find a new permanent home in the emerging conservative alternatives.

Photo by Music News Australia

  • OneFatOzGuy

    Funny how the One Nation party is gaining in popularity. Today’s Liberal party are just a centre right party at best.
    Previous decades right parties would run them out of the country.
    I can’t wait for the next election.

  • Dan Flynn

    Who would be your pick BJ?

    • BJ

      Christian Porter.

      There is however very little from which to choose.

  • entropy

    Smart move by Obama. I don’t think Turnbull was complicit beyond wanting to get rid of the queue-jumpers that have plagued us since Rudd Labor re-issued its invitation to people smugglers, but it’s not a good look. He should have packed them all up and given them the option of Cambodia or a UN refugee camp long ago.

    • Turnbuckle is a blithering simpering buffoon.

      This debacle is further evidence he must be and will be removed. Coalition will be trashed at the next Election.

      Bernardi and his new party wont have time to gain traction and he will turn out to be a betafied pussy in the long run.

      • entropy

        Hard to say. People are going to vote for Shorten? That seems like the punchline of a bad joke I’d need someone to explain to me. I’d rather vote for Mark Latham or Julia Gillard.

        • Gravedigger

          It’s almost enough to bring tears of rage. I will vote for anyone who will stand up for what has made this country what it is, yet on one hand I can count the current politicians that may do that. Traitors, liars, bastards almost to a man or woman for that matter, a pox upon the bloody lot.

          • entropy

            Couldn’t agree more, Gravedigger.

          • I’m with you on that one Gravedigger.
            They’re all corrupt and in it for themselves, apart from one or two honest ones, which the Establishment tries to bring down,when they voice the concerns of average Aussies.

          • Karen Dwyer

            Almost … Luckily we’ve had the unfortunate example in the U.S. … Nothing more likely to make me not want to cry than a mental picture of where that can lead to …

            That is the dilemma: not just a leader, but the people they surround themselves with.

        • I daresay less votes will go to Labor, Coalition and Greens and more to Bernardi’s new party and One Nation and Independents.
          Shorten is just an animated meat puppet.

        • Karen Dwyer

          A comment with which I can wholeheartedly agree. How is Mr Shorten repellent? Let me count the ways…

      • Ray Johnston

        What’s the go with Bernardi? Crash through or crash and burn! Hmmm. He forms his party and then at next election he goes for a lower house seat? He goes for his party’s No1 senate spot?( He was Lib2 and elected 4th spot last July with a full term – but if he no longer a Lib does that mean he can’t hold that full term but only a half term that’s up at next election like all the 7’s – 12’s ?) Winning a lower house seat is so much harder (redhead/Blair/1998/36%) than ‘clawing’ out a senate 14.3% quota. SHY (sarah-hanson-young with 5.87% last senate vote) will most probably be knocked off if Cory is Bernardi1 and the other rats – Xeno2,FF1and ON1 all after 5th and 6th spots. You see, so-called right-wing ‘nut-jobs’ Christian (or not) Conservatives preference the ALP 25% – 60% (FamFirst in SA gave up prefs. 25%-50% to Labour against Lib and 41%-48% to Xeno against Lib in lower house seats. OneNation preference flows nearly always 40%-60% to ALP where they ran candidates nationwide. Really!! Check the AEC website please people, no fake news there !! Bernardi ,FF and ON will get so much more support from low-mid income ALP leaning voters than is realised or reported. Also Xeno2 will lose votes back to those 3 and back to the Libs and ALP2 may not reach 29%, (and hopefully neither Lib2 as their leftovers can go as high as 30% pref to the Greens) so SHY (how sad) may not get the big boost of leftover ALP even though ALP2 slithers home. FF will slip a bit to Cory but get back a bit from Xeno. ON will get a bit from ALP,Nats and Lib and so will Cory. FF may be left behind at 3-4% but ON and Bernardi should sail past 7% and with better Xeno and Lib defections (and not Xeno people going back to their usual ALP and Liberal homes) and stronger valid preference flows and from other minor parties ( when people learn more about extinguished votes and how to avoid ) then both have good shot at 5th and 6th spot and we all say good…BYE… to ….SHY !!

        • Ray Johnston

          He answered my question. He’s hanging on to his seat for the full 6yr term and for now only concerned with Aust.Conserv’s running at next Senate election. Unless he gets lots of funding/donations and positive widespread support from conservatives (Labour leaning ones as well) across Australia , he may end up being stuck in SA. Can Cory break out ? I’ll wait for a future xyz article to find out “It all ends in tears for Cory” or “Bernardi shock result – 4 senators”.

    • Addelad

      “Smart” in a sewer rat way maybe – did 2/3rds of SFA for 8 years of any substance (bar undermining the western world) but threw out some nasty leftist hand grenades from the bunker in his final weeks. The Oz refugee deal is small beer compared with his disgusting treatment of Israel courtesy of the UN.

      • entropy

        You mean not using the US veto to silence the voice of an overwhelming majority of the international community? Totes disgusting.

        Yeah, it might be small fries but it was an obvious backhand to Trump from a guy who cares far more about his questionable ‘legacy’ than about the future of America.

  • aussiegooner

    Replacing turnbull is not the whole answer to the problems of the Liberal Party. Yes he should be dumped, and I have advocated that since his illegitimate ascendancy. But half the parliamentary party backed him, and they are as much of a problem.

    Conservatives like myself have simply abandoned the Liberal Party as it is little more than Labor lite, with a green tinge. Conservative voters haven’t gone away. 1.7 million of us found other right of centre parties to vote for at the last election. That was after the Libs arrogantly told us that we had no choice but the Libs so lay back and think of Australia.

    I’m afraid the Libs are no longer for for purpose, and out of the One Nation and Bernardi groups a new conservative representation will emerge. At a cost, because at this moment we’re going to get Bill Shorten as PM next time around, and he will be a complete disaster. But that’s the price we must pay to regain conservative representation, due to the Liberal Party chasing polls and abandoning principles.

    • BJ

      I agree.

      Although ending Turnbull’s leadership is a necessary first step; if only because he is using his influence to affect pre-selections and bring more people like him into the parliamentary party. You only need to look at the manoeuvring following Mike Baird’s resignation and the way that is being used as a trojan horse for a challenge to Abbott’s pre-selection for the next election. If Turnbull continues there won’t be any true conservatives left in the Liberal party.

      • Ray Johnston

        Lots of ‘true’ conservatives I believe will remain as the Liberal Party is their base for over 60yrs now. They’re the ones that don’t change easily (as Bernardi will find out) unlike Malcolm’s ‘crew’ with their Heraclitean fancy footwork, this mob, when crossing the Condamine or the Cooper (even when dry ) always know that it’s the same bloody river, OK !!

        • BJ

          Not sure I agree Ray. Experience in this electorate at the last election, and in the by-election when Hockey resigned, was that the base simply refused to donate or turn out to help. At the election last year there were polling places with nobody handing out Lib how to vote cards; not a single solitary person. And this is premium blue ribbon Liberal territory.

          They rang me in desperation the day before the election and I told them I would not help elect Turnbull; the guy said they had heard that from almost everyone they had rung.

          • Ray Johnston

            Yes BJ, i’m sure that happened a lot in blue ribbon seats but not in my lib held electorate. OK, it was a bit different here (battle of the 2 queens) but our chap Trevor had heaps of volunteers on the streets for weeks (I swear I never saw any over 27y.o.) and heaps at booths. I’ve been reading the AEC website for every divisional result but more interesting is checking down the bottom of each electorate’s result page for the pref.distribution and last of all the full 2 candidate preferred pref. flow. Evans lost 1-3% from his usual strong lib areas (anti-turnbull ?) but in almost all the white-collar and hipster-ish (sad imitations of real ones – like in Melbourne 🙂 Labour/Green areas he gained 2-4%. Was it the local issues or I think the Turnbull effect , if so, a trend would appear in other results. Turnbull gains (maybe strayed libs from he past returning) from ALP/Greens but loses conservative Libs. In Reps. seats 90% of them come back in pref.flow (unless they voted straight ALP) but in Senate votes do count a lot more because minor parties can win seats. It’s in the outer-suburban and beyond areas the swings are higher but are these ‘swingers’ real libs ? Are they voting for or are they voting against? Who knows? Or is my greek mate right “Everyfinks in a state of flux, bro”

  • Karen Dwyer

    Brilliant writing, BJ.

    The Liberal party were treacherous to Mr Abbott, and yet oddly fawning over Mr Turnbull. Probably because if he goes, no one else will want them. And he isn’t the sort to fall on his own sword, despite his lifetime support for a Republic.