01 May 2010

Down but not out

I'm pleased that Malcolm Turnbull is staying in politics. Not giddy, but pleased (is that the reverse of "alert but not alarmed"?). Nobody else has the ability to eclipse Howard's legacy in the Liberal Party as completely as he did to Malcolm Fraser's.

I had to laugh at the idea of Abbott holding out on Turnbull's return to the frontbench while he supports an ETS. Firstly, Joyce crossed the floor 29 times and got Finance handed to him. Secondly, where does a bear sleep? Anywhere it wants to, anywhere it wants. Abbott is the Ghost of Liberal Governments Past and will be cut down once the Liberal Party finally moves on from Howard.

What would a Turnbull Second Coming look like? Christopher Joye has some thoughts and he's known Turnbull all his life. Let's look at Joye's opinions from a position of sheer ignorance and see if they stand up:

  • Decision-making - Joye's right, and j'accuse Minchin and Abetz in particular. He can only build that reputation for effective decision-making after a long march through the branches, getting the parliamentary party he needs rather than the fag end of Howard's lot. If people owe their position to Turnbull they are more likely to trust his judgment. Whether or not he can remake the Liberal Party in his image is the operative question.

  • Assimilation - Turnbull lost votes by the truckload when he came over all smarmy. The reason why he could not position the Liberals as an alternative government is that he had a policy-lazy frontbench, which put too much responsibility on the rapid-fire pronouncements coming out of his own office.

  • Risk-taking - Here Joye is spot on. "The visionary Malcolm Turnbull as policy-making maven is by far your best lever. You are never going to progress on the basis of a jocular, man-in-the-street appeal like Joe Hockey. When all is said and done, your interneuronal connections still remain your most effective calling card. The risk, of course, is that you once again fail. So be it. That is life. Risk-taking is the single most important explanation for success."

Before he can go on his long march though, Turnbull needs to keep breathing and registering a pulse. Today, he's lifted himself off the slab. You can be "thrilled" or not, but Turnbull's back - let's just hope Minchin doesn't reverse his decision.

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