Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Sad Case of Brendan Turnbull

I just don't get Malcolm Turnbull!

Here is a guy who took on the might of the Thatcher government in the Spycatcher trial in the 80's and virtually single handedly won a great victory for free speech and liberalism; here was a guy who took on the Howard government in the 90's in his leadership of the Republican movement and uttered those immortal lines about Howard: 'he broke a nation's heart'; here was a guy whose savvy, confidence and intelligence made virtual plodders out of most CBD suits he dealt with in the decade before he entered Parliament.

I was a big fan!

When Brendan Nelson narrowly won the leadership of the Coalition after Howard's defeat in 2007, I saw Malcolm that night in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in Melbourne and rushed up to him to offer support, appreciation and my confidence that it wouldn't be long before he assumed the leadership. He looked shocked (who is this idiot, he probably thought!) and boomed in a loud voice for the whole lobby to hear 'ha, ha, Brendan will be Prime Minister in three year's time!'

I guess it was at that point that I met the capacity for self-delusion and haughtiness that has become apparent since Malcolm seized his prize.

So we've arrived at this point where he has got himself into a godawful place in his leadership of the conservatives as he confronts the Rudd government's response to the financial and economic crisis the world finds itself in. Despite economists the world over urging huge and immediate government spending packages to kick start plummeting consumer confidence and business investment, and appreciating full well in this globally interconnected world the untried and unproven nature of these initiatives, just that they be the 'three T's': Targeted, Temporary and Timely', Malcolm is calling, incessantly and only, for tax cuts, and railing against Rudd for indulging in massive 'Whitlamesque spending' and, the horror, the horror, sending the federal budget into deficit..

Like the defeated rabble of Republicans in the US opposing Obama's massive trillion dollar package in Congress, the Conservatives in Australia, utterly untuned to the zeitgeist, are balefully lamenting the long overdue return of government intervention in the economy when it is needed. Intervention might be OK for a smackdown in the Territory, but not for pumping adrenalin into a moribund body economic.

Malcolm is calling for government abdication not intervention. But no-one is, or should be, listening. The incredible political dumbness of it is hard to comprehend. Listening to Shadow frontbencher Andrew Robb being interviewed by Fran Kelly on Radio National yesterday, I was gobsmacked by his passionate defense of the tax cut line (remember, this is their only strategy), perversely ignorant of the views of the world's economists, of what all other countries are doing, of the pleadings of business and other organisations, and unforgivably, of the measured views and sentiments of the electorate.

As I see it Malcolm, in his unbridled ambition, has got himself into an impossible place. He will lose the next election, no doubt about that, and his party will be looking around for a new leader. And this is why Costello will soon announce his intention to stand again for his seat of Higgins at the next election, rather than retire and move into the private sector. He will be available to assume, at his colleagues' urgings, his rightful place as leader.

Don't imagine for a moment this scenario has not been in Costello's mind all along.

The interesting thing to watch, however, will be this: Malcolm will still be there, smiling and seething and plotting on a Costello shadow front bench. And when Costello loses the election after next, he'll be back.

Then he'll likely win in 2016.

Fascinating isn't it! Anyone for a long term bet?

1 comment:

  1. There's a thin like between courage and stupidity. History will determine on which side Turnbull stood.

    For my money, Turnbull is backwards and I agree, he will suffer politically if this package is blocked.

    But I also agree that he will be back. And if the package passes and is a misfire, then he'll really be back.