This column would take on an air of unreality if it did not say something sooner or later about the momentous coup d’état that occurred on 14 September. After all, my readers have journeyed with me through the halcyon days of John Howard, marvelled at the Shakespearian eloquence of Kevin Rudd (‘fair shake of the sauce bottle cobber, give me some programmatic specificity’), noted Julia Gillard’s curious transactions in the counting house at Slater and Gordon (‘I was young and naïve at the time’) and grappled with her strange view of the world (‘we are us’). On the way, we sampled the first offerings of that new Churchillian, Bill Shorten (‘I don’t know what the PM said, but I’ll agree with it if you throw a few lazy large ones into me slush fund, mate’).Then we passed through the groundhog days of the second and more confounding brush with Rudd and the ALP intifada that followed. Finally, we got onto firmer ground with Tony Abbott, but more of him later. Having come that far, it would seem odd if we said nothing about the new regime, just as the rest of the country was turning over the first tantalising pages of the book of New Camelot. Why, then, the delay in commenting on this new era, you ask? Well, because, to be honest, I was saddened by the coup and remain so. I find it hard to forgive and harder to forget. Abbott was and is a good and decent person with the highest principles and he deserved better than to be cut down by his own side. He particularly deserved better from his loyal Deputy, the ministers he promoted, the backbenchers he tirelessly worked for and the party he lifted from despair, gave it some backbone and led it into government. But then, some of the conspirators had such low opinions of themselves that their votes could be bought for the most humble of offices; talk of selling yourself short.
But the lowest point in the manoeuvring to unseat Abbott came with the attacks on Peta Credlin, anonymous of course, and all the more discreditable because she is a woman, a staff member who by convention was prevented from replying in kind, and someone who apparently was not prepared to undermine the conspirators as they were happy to undermine her.
So what was the reason for dumping a prime minister in such a common and vulgar way, before the electorate had a chance to make its own judgment? Certainly not because of his policies. Abbott’s emphasis on the economy, protecting our borders with uncompromising rigour, warning against the real threat of Islamic terrorism, reducing the tax burden, encouraging national pride and preserving traditional values, were all, as you would expect, good and decent policies. Moreover, I have no doubt that at the next election, by which time the battlelines would have been starkly drawn, people would have voted for the reliability, security and certainty that Abbott’s government personified, rather than the amorphous waffle that the ALP was bound to offer. In any event, if Abbott’s policies were all so bad, why are they allegedly being continued by his successor? So, let me put it on the record and say that the overthrow of Abbott was wrong, unprincipled and unnecessary.
What then do we do about the new regime we have had foisted on us? A lot of people clearly applaud it. Some just accept it. Others do not like it, but say that you have to go along with it. Some point to the better atmosphere and the lift in the polls and how this augurs well for the next election. Certainly, it is a change to find a leader so popular with the media – at least so far. Who could not be impressed, even if it was cringe-making in the extreme, watching Leigh Sales’ deferential interview of Turnbull, as she giggled and gushed like a schoolgirl in line for a selfie with Justin Bieber. And Turnbull’s entry into Melbourne was truly magnificent, as the people reached out to touch the hem of his garment and strew palm fronds in his way.
But that is only temporary; we are in a Facebook era of politics, as in so many other fields, where short lived likes and dislikes, instant gratification and defriending on a whim are the rules of the game. Politics and government are now part of the entertainment industry, and the media demands a steady change of cast, scenery and plot or it will discard you for something else – in fact, for anything. So I find I cannot automatically support a Turnbull government simply because it is popular today.
But persistent criticism will not do, either. It will achieve nothing that is good and will only put the country at risk. Fortunately, there is another and better course. I will support the Turnbull government when it works for and earns that support. It will get it, cheerfully and in large doses, when it promotes free enterprise, defends established institutions, takes a consistent stand on home- grown terrorism, avoids pandering to the Left at any opportunity that might come along and takes the tough decisions on lower taxes and government spending that are so clearly needed. I have to say that the early flirtation with summits and talk fests, where a self appointed few determine national policy, is not a good start. Nor is the apparent reluctance to call domestic Islamic terrorism for what it is. Nor is the apparent elevation of Shorten where he apparently has a veto over the China free trade agreement. And, most importantly, when the palm fronds are swept up and the tinsel put away, I hope that Mr Turnbull and his new team and supporters are shown more decency and higher principle than have been on display in the Liberal Party in recent times.
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