27 November 2009

Playing Hockey

Joe Hockey should not become leader of the Liberal Party now. What should happen next week is either (a) Turnbull beats Abbott or (b) Abbott beats Turnbull for the time being, and comes back once Abbott is shown to be gutless, strategically inept, and right about nothing other than Turnbull being the most substantial Liberal in Parliament at the moment.

Hockey's instincts that he could become the Steven Bradbury of the Liberal Party (i.e, waiting until everyone else crashes and gliding away with the gold) are right. To go against those instincts is to do Hockey, and ultimately the Liberal Party, a disservice. Shakespeare is full of people who go too far too soon, let Abbott do the Icarus routine by himself.

The very idea of floating Peter Dutton as deputy leader is a joke. It's a basic fact of party politics that you have to win preselection. After the low-level threat posed by Peter Costello as deputy, with status independent of the leader, it seems the Deputy Leadership of the Liberal Party is reserved for the sort of cream puff who poses no threat to anyone, least of all Labor. If Dutton has any backbone at all he'll take on Peter Slipper, the last surviving relic of the Joh for PM push, of whom far too much has been seen and heard lately.

If you want to know why the Murdoch press is so down on intellectuals, look no further than their in-house intellectuals: Imre and van Onselen.

One minute the "Liberal base" against the ETS are precious voices to be heard and obeyed, the next minute they're "furniture". There's a contradiction there Peter if only you'd get off the merry-go-round and analyse it for a minute.

So long as Turnbull doesn’t suicide bomb his way out of the Liberal leadership, the following scenario is what is required:

Turnbull’s lieutenants convince their man to go. The lieutenants are Christopher Pyne, Stephen Ciobo, Scott Morrison, George Brandis and Michael Ronaldson. There is a title that wouldn’t carry to much cache in the Liberal Party going forward – a former Turnbull lieutenant!

Heh! Not like being John Hewson's press secretary! Or the State Director of the Liberal Party in SA who sabotaged his party at state and federal level whenever it diverted resources away from his idol!

As a moderate he will need the cover of Minchin to control conservatives during his period as leader.

Cover be damned. If Minchin can knock off Malcolm Turnbull, nobody is safe.

Right now the nation's telecommunications policy is starting to unravel, and the one Liberal who could do something about it is doing the only thing he does well - attack other Liberals.

But Hockey will need to be prepared to accept the party rooms [sic] opposition to the Rudd government ETS. He can then go about planning for an alternative scheme that conservatives can stomach – good luck with that.

If the conservatives want an alternative scheme, let them put one up. Turnbull dusted off the 2007 policy and it wasn't good enough, so God only knows what will please those people.

Peter van Onselen had a duty to not just giddily report the latest scuttlebutt from Canberra, but actually weigh it up, think through the implications and tell us what was really going on.

If Tony Abbott is a weak leader for the conservatives, that should be made crystal clear and he should get hammered next week. I hope the bastard gets fewer votes than Kevin Bloody Andrews ("do I look like I give a fuck about curry-munching doctors?"). If Abbott's commitment to climate change denial is the basis of his run for the leadership, then he'd better be strong and knowledgeable. He'd better not just be Minchin's patsy, which is what he appears to be.

Abbott cannot be deputy because two New South Welshmen leading the Liberal Party will not be acceptable to Liberals from interstate. That said, Julie Bishop is not a viable deputy leader, that fact has been known for some time. Her replacement should be Queenslander Peter Dutton. Having a deputy from Kevin Rudd’s home state would be a useful electoral tool ...

He can't even win preselection Peter, he runs away from tough fights - do you think the state that gave us Mal Meninga and Ted Kenna VC would stand for that?

... and Dutton as a former assistant treasurer to Peter Costello would be well placed to take on the shadow treasurership Hockey will vacate to become leader.

Not really - he was useless in that role, useless as shadow Health. You can't make a case that he'd be better than Julie Bishop so leave her there until you can find someone better.

That would leave Abbott needing to be given a senior position for having been prepared to withdraw his leadership intentions declared today. As a former manager of government business in the House of Representatives [Abbott] could take over from Pyne in the equivalent role in opposition.

Whose needs are we talking about here? Gillard and Roxon and other members of Labor's frontbench climbed all over Abbott - indeed, they lost government with Abbott in this vital role.

That would free Pyne (responsible for Turnbull’s elevation to the leadership remember) for the fight of his political life in his marginal Adelaide seat of Sturt. And there is no love loss between Pyne and the newly formed leadership team I am describing anyway.

Really? There was Malcolm Turnbull, alone and palely loitering, and if it wasn't for a force of nature known as Christopher Pyne then nobody would have heard of Malcolm Turnbull today. That's some analysis, Peter.

Why doesn't Minchin run for Sturt? Obviously he'd be too scared to take on Andrew Southcott in Boothby. If you're going to lose any semblance of perspective as a big Capitol Hill playa, you may as well go right off.

New talent could be promoted into cabinet such as Tony Smith and the likes of Jamie Briggs and Mathias Cormann could make their way into the outer ministry. Most if not all of the fronbenchers who resigned yesterday could be retained going forward.

No, they can't. Tony Smith has blown his chance at being his own man when the going got tough. Matthias Cormann and the rest can piss off too.

Ian Macfarlane would have to be dumped from the frontbench altogether as the person who has spent the past few days emboldening Turnbull when he really should have been told to walk off into the sunset. Andrew Robb should be brought into tactics committee – as a former federal director of the party is has been bizarre that he hasn’t been in there up until now.

Macfarlane has done a difficult job well, it is the act of a dingo to hang him out to dry. Robb needs to cool his heels and take his medication for a bit.

Van Onselen's biography of John Howard shows him at his best when removed from the daily grind. When he's in the thick of it he's hopeless, gullible and self-contradictory. Next they'll be telling him he should be in Parliament and that he can win a seat without preselection - worse, he'll believe them. You can run for Warringah, Peter, unless Imre wants it.

Malcolm Turnbull should fight Tony Abbott and beat him soundly. If Turnbull stands firm the Liberals won't blast him out: this is not a party that does regicide well, much to the chagrin of Slipper, Tuckey and other old stagers. Turnbull should then put $10m of his own money on the table to fight the next election. Over the summer Turnbull will have fresh standing to hold Rudd to account, including amending the ETS. The quitters can shape up or ship out.


  1. God, Van Onselen was rubbish on Lateline - Tingle and Sales got more analysis out between them than he's done all year.

    You must find it weird being one of the few sane ones, Andrew.

  2. He's in a bind for two reasons. First, he feels he has to be loyal to his sources, and second he clearly wants to be a media star but is better on the quiet reflection. Don't be a star Peter, write another book and don't rely on Julie Bishop for input.

  3. Apart from my growing respect for Turnbull, I have been very impressed with Macfarlane. For a man who sounds like the Minister for Racing in a Bjelke Petersen Government, he's been an oasis of rationality whilst his colleagues repeatedly punch themselves in the face like Monty Python simpletons.

    But do you really think Turnbull can win on Tuesday? Surely his approval ratings will go through the roof (or up a bit) if he does.

    Keep up the fascinating analysis.


  4. Me too, Kymbos.

    I doubt whether Turnbull's ratings will skyrocket, at least not straight away. What's more likely is that they'll build slowly over time, especially if Rudd starts dithering and/or continues to make grand pronouncements on which he can't/won't follow through. If that happens, the perception that "he's a bit of a bastard but he gets things done" may enable Turnbull to turn the tables on Labor.

  5. Mal Meninga ran away from his own election in spectacular fashion. Look for the footage of the interview if you haven't seen it.
    "Nup I'm done".
    (Just saying).

  6. I'd be sad if people thought that episode was all there is to Meninga, Liam.