Features Australia

It’s (party) time

7 April 2018

9:00 AM

7 April 2018

9:00 AM

Was there anyone who was not moved when they saw former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith’s public act of contrition concerning ball tampering? When Prime Minister Turnbull preceded this with a rush to judgment, condemning ‘sledging’ and talking about ‘fair play’ and ‘role models’, Australians everywhere, religious and irreligious, recalled those words of Jesus when the Pharisees dragged an adulteress before him: ‘He that is without sin… let him cast the first stone.’

Rather than denouncing Smith, Turnbull should learn from his noble example. When the mechanism he so carefully constructed to justify backstabbing his prime minister — the loss of thirty Newspolls— strikes him like a boomerang, he must address the nation. Confessing his treachery and conceding the failure of his administration, he should resign and advise the Governor-General to call on Tony Abbott to form a government. The parliamentary party would no doubt endorse this, if only to retain their seats. In the words of Labor hero Jack Lang, ‘In the race of life, always back self-interest — at least you know it’s trying.’

Were Turnbull to refuse, the parliamentary party, and especially the conservative ministers, will be forgiven neither by the party nor by history, if they do not act to save the nation from a Shorten government which could well be even worse than Rudd’s. They know full well that Abbott, unleashed from the constraints of over-cautious advisers and of accommodating the Left, performs better than anyone else in three crucial ways.

First, he speaks the language of the people, including that of traditional blue-collar Labor voters. Second, with his extraordinary track record, there is no better campaigner. Third, his Trump-like agenda reflects exactly what ordinary Australians want, but which both sides ignore. This includes an energy policy which neither destroys jobs nor makes it too expensive for the poor to turn on their lights; stopping all jihadists from returning; harvesting water; determining a rate of immigration consistent with our infrastructure and maintaining educational standards rather than exposing children to propaganda and abuse.

At the time of the coup, I wrote in these pages that if Turnbull were to be remembered for anything, it would be for his supreme act of treachery in bringing down a successful prime minister merely to achieve, illegitimately, the office he had lusted after for so long.

It must not be forgotten that the coup had been planned to follow and to be justified by the anticipated loss of the Canning by-election. But when, to the plotters’ intense disappointment, polling indicated the seat would be held, the coup was rushed forward with callous and treacherous disregard for any collateral damage to the campaign by the superb Liberal candidate, former SAS captain, Andrew Hastie.

Abbott decided to put Turnbull’s challenge to an immediate vote. He feared that if the leadership issue were not settled, Hastie would inevitably lose votes and possibly the seat. A fair assessment— if only one in twenty had changed their vote, Canning would have been lost. But had Abbott delayed the vote for a week, the rank-and-file would have mobilised and made their strong preference for Abbott very clear, forcing the back bench to keep him. That Abbott would sacrifice this enormous tactical advantage demonstrates his virtue, just as Turnbull’s action demonstrates nothing other than opportunistic treachery.

The coup was successful only because of the long and constant undermining by the treacherous in alliance with a commentariat programmed to loathe and bring down conservatives.

Even then, the politicians knew that Turnbull was a risky appointment, soft on border control and a born-again believer in the increasingly questionable theory of man-made global warming. And as I wrote then, Turnbull had little to offer, with almost everything he had touched in his political career resulting in failure.

Notwithstanding the euphoria in the commentariat, none of whom would ever vote Liberal, real Liberal voters were not enthused. This was demonstrated soon after when Turnbull was presented as the effective candidate in the North Sydney by-election, resulting in a massive 13 per cent swing against the Liberals. Then Turnbull almost lost the 2016 election, saved only by the Nationals and the unpopularity of the Victorian socialist government.

That there are today not one but two Liberal parties was brought home to me recently when I was invited to move the vote of thanks at an ‘Evening with Alan Jones and Peta Credlin’ in the very heart of Turnbull’s electorate, attended by close to 200 mainly party members. As such, they are members for no other reason than that they believe that for the good of Australia, a Coalition government must always follow and apply the fundamental principles of the party, expounded by its great founder, Sir Robert Menzies. These are the members who diligently go to meetings, raise funds, campaign in the electorate and who perform that crucial function in a country where voting is compulsory and the voting period inexplicably extended, handing out how-to-vote-cards.  They overwhelmingly demand the immediate return of Abbott.

The other Liberal Party is the political establishment led by Turnbull, those who in terms of riches and power reap vast personal benefits from their membership but who hardly pay even lip service to the principles expounded by Menzies.

My call for Abbott’s return will be ridiculed. This is because it is precisely the event which Labor fears most. Ridicule, rather than considered response, is the favourite weapon of the commentariat. Just compare this column with their ridicule of the defenders of constitutional monarchy, of Brexit, of Trump, of Trump being wiretapped, of Trump’s promise to make America great again, and indeed, of Abbott’s declaration that he would turn back the boats. Who has been right?

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