The Prime Minister must accept full responsibility for the political predicament facing the government and his leadership.
Writing for the Daily Telegraph and appearing on the ABC’s the DRUM on 10 June 2016, three weeks before the last election, I was the first in the media to forecast that Turnbull’s ‘small target’ election campaign approach was unprecedented and would end in disaster.
I predicted that Turnbull would lack a meaningful agenda and mandate to solve Australia’s pressing public policy problems and would, if elected, lead a do-nothing government resulting in the collapse of the Government’s opinion poll numbers.
I suggested that under this scenario Turnbull would not serve as Prime Minister for the entire parliamentary term and would be dispatched in either late 2017 or the first half of 2018.
Eight months into the new parliamentary term and my pre-election thesis, so far, has been proven correct.
The Coalition has a vacuous agenda to deal with pressing public policy problems such as the cost of living, employment security, record household and foreign debt, declining school academic results, chronic illicit drug use or the fracturing of social cohesion.
The Coalition now struggles with a substantially lower primary vote than when Tony Abbott was removed and the Prime Minister faces open hostility from regional Australia.
The Government’s political misfortunes were entirely avoidable and Turnbull has no one to blame other than himself.
Turnbull must accept that the die is now cast on his leadership.
His unwillingness and inability to lead on pressing public policy issues, has left him with little room to manoeuvre. Any significant political or policy adjustments at this stage could be seen as unauthentic, motivated by political desperation and haphazard.
Turnbull, in accepting responsibility, should minimise any further damage to the Australian political system by sparing his colleagues the anguish of sacking him.
He should resign his office for the good of Australia.
Turnbull’s removal from office whether by resignation or dismissal should not be seen as a constitutional or structural political crisis.
Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull over the last three electoral cycles have sought high political office by treating the Australian people with contempt by doing public policy on the cheap.
All three leaders, supported by the two-party establishment, have refused to confront the nation’s problems, but instead have delivered carefully crafted and appealing talking points in order to win their respective elections.
In Australia’s democratic system, the only viable, honourable and sustainable course of political leadership is to identify genuine public policy problems, develop real and robust policy solutions and seek a political mandate to implement these solutions by convincing a majority of Australians of their merits.
The political class must accept that in many cases, developing real policy solutions is both intellectually, time and resource intensive and will involve technically complex and unpopular policy prescriptions.
Selling such prescriptions will sometimes be successful, other times it will not.
However, robust and sound policy proposals that address underlying public policy problems will continue to endure even if they are not accepted at a particular election.
For example, while John Hewson lost his fight to implement tax reform via his Fightback package, John Howard’s 1998 election victory and the subsequent implementation of the GST would not have been possible without the public debate regarding the merits of tax reform in 1993.
The Australian political establishment must cease the politics of slogans, catchy sound bites, divide and conquer parliamentary tactics and petty political point scoring games.
Australians deserves better and will continue to reject Prime Ministers who lack the capacity for real leadership.
John Adams is a former Coalition Advisor
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