Give credit where it is due, my mother used to say. So I must congratulate the Prime Minister on his latest initiatives, reforming 457 visas, strengthening the citizenship test and the new education package. At the same time, you cannot help but feel some sympathy for him in the light of the abuse hurled at him over these measures. What is left of Fairfax Media is salivating at the prospect of denigrating him for holding to the notion that a country should have some standards and control over whom it allows to take on the proud mantle of citizenship. And it has produced a remarkable political result already: the new ALP ad with the all-white cast has shown up the authors of the White Australia Policy in their true light and Bill Shorten as a hypocrite. Surely, there cannot be anything basically wrong with trying to ensure that Australians should have first dibs at filling job vacancies and that employers should engage foreigners only when qualified locals are not available. Surely any country is entitled to expect that newcomers aspiring to be citizens should subscribe to the basic principles on which the country is built. As Groucho Marx could have said: ‘These are my principles and if you don’t like them, go and find some different principles somewhere else.’ If Turnbull’s reforms had been proposed by the Labor party or the Greens, they would have been greeted by the media and the Left as statesmanlike and eminently sensible. Even if Tony Abbott had suggested them, no-one would have been surprised, as they are in the mainstream of his philosophy and there would have been little more than the usual ritualistic protests. But with Turnbull, it is different and always will be, when he wants to bring in a government measure that really is in the national interest. Everything he does is seen through the prism of leadership and will be dismissed as just another kneejerk response designed to meet the demands of the evil right wing of the Liberal Party who allegedly hold him in a hypnotic trance. This is a nonsense argument, but it is potentially calamitous for Turnbull and his government, whose days must be numbered already, if things continue on the downward slope. So, you can’t help but feel sympathy for Turnbull and the predicament he finds himself in; everything he does seems to turn to stone, no matter how objectively good it is on its merits. We can already see the gathering storm clouds of protest at the new – and sensible – education arrangements. Probably the Budget will fare no better.
Turnbull, of course, got himself into this pickle of public disenchantment when he fell in with the pygmies to overthrow Tony Abbott. It must have been plain that this would lead to instability, even if it was not known when or in what form the instability would take place. But as he had always presented himself as some sort of left wing Messiah, he must or at least should have known that the media and the Left would be after him if he did not deliver on their favourite causes and quickly. After all, Turnbull was one of their own. He was expected to be putty in their hands and it was a given that he would implement all their current fads: same-sex marriage, the republic, heavy duty action on climate change and so on, and that such would be the popular fervour when he set up the new Jerusalem and rode into town, that he would have these so-called reforms on the statute books sooner than you could say ‘continuity and change’. Or ‘continuity with change’. Or ‘continuity and change with jobs and growth’ or whatever it was.
The overthrow of Abbott was a grave mistake and Australia is much the poorer for losing him. As people are increasingly saying to me, like him or loathe him, at least you knew what he stood for, you could understand him and it was at least possible that when faced with a choice between him and the Shorten rabble, the Australian people would not have risked it with Labor and would have kept with the decent principles that Abbott was espousing. But Turnbull has not turned into the left-wing compromiser that I thought he would become. He has not given the luvvies a single one of their pet projects. I don’t know if his heart is in it or not, but his main decisions have been sensible. He has actively pursued big cuts in government spending, achieved some real improvements in industrial law, stood up to the unions, been realistic on foreign affairs and defence, committed to spending a lot of money on military hardware, rejected the temptation of the mushy solutions to climate change voodoo, spoken up for coal, tried to amend Section 18C, steered clear of the republic, launched a good education policy and shown he can really take it up to Shorten and expose his hypocrisy and extreme left- wing tomfoolery. And that is the real point. If Shorten is the alternative, I can live with the moderate Turnbull we have seen over the last few months. So, what should he do, to prevent Australia heading off to certain ruin under the socialists and the dreamy left. My advice: ‘Keep at Shorten, especially on the all-white ad. Don’t try any more hanky-panky with super or cute taxes. Don’t antagonise the base by talk about invasion, radical change to the constitution on Aboriginals, a republic or anything else. Stop popping up like Rudd at every sandwich bar and being over-exposed. Do fewer interviews on the ABC where they just want to abuse you. Above all, stop the churlishness and put Tony Abbott in your cabinet, in a new portfolio of emergency services, a natural fit for him; the conservatives might even forgive you for healing the wounds.’
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