There are two types of people in political parties. One type joins a party because he or she thinks that it offers the nation better government.
In the days of Menzies and the Cold War many people, including a large number of Eastern European and Baltic refugees, joined the Liberal party because it seemed to offer the strongest resistance to communism.
Others, of course, joined the DLP for the same reason. No-one, it is safe to say, joined the DLP with a hope of winning a parliamentary seat, let alone government. Its officials were often living not far from real poverty.
When the intensity of the Cold War subsided, it was still very possible to join the Liberal party because it offered better economic management for the whole country. There might be equivalent, basically unselfish and public-spirited reasons for joining Labor or other parties.
The other type, increasingly common, joined the party – any party – largely or entirely in the hope of gaining power and money, whether directly through a parliamentary seat or through building up a web of useful contacts. This type seems to be becoming more common today. So far, Turnbull has been the paradigm example in the modern Liberal party.
Considering his career now, from pre-selection to the Abbott assassination to the final ignominious curtain, one asks: how did it happen?
According to Graham Richardson, Turnbull had made great efforts to get on a Labor Senate ticket. The ‘philosophy’ of the Liberals apparently meant nothing to him. This was seen in both the manner of his gaining power, white-anting and finally back-stabbing the intelligent and capable Abbott (whose public-spiritedness was also shown by his community activities) and his manner of leaving it, betraying the government and bequeathing his successor an almost impossible task. It appeared that the only reason he had not joined Labor was that it would not have him. His self-interest was shown in positively indecent nakedness.
His attitude to the victims of 18C (and his attending Bill Leak’s memorial service when he had spectacularly failed to defend him) showed his indifference to freedom of speech. Indeed he showed absolutely no interest in the questions of thr culture wars which at the moment are coming to dominate politics.
Regarding the other great question of energy policies he seemed paralysed before green mumbo-jumbo.
Most of the blame must attach to the parliamentary Liberal party for electing Turnbull leader in the first place, and indeed to parliament. It is the duty of selection committees – a duty not only to the party but to the country – to weed out the duds who present themselves for parliamentary seats.
Professional politicians should have had enough nous to realise that electing him leader as they did would inflict dire wounds on the party – the lay party as well as the parliamentary. What happened?
If they ever read history, they could with profit have studied the defenestration of Menzies in 1941, not to mention more recently the Rudd-Gillard circus and the fact that in Britain the Tories took years to recover – if in fact they ever did – from the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher.
Turnbull, of course, ensured the wound in the party would turn septic by failing to give Abbott a senior job such as his talents deserved. People with Abbott’s intellect do not come two-a-penny.
Or did Turnbull think his Liberal party had such a surplus of talent that Abbott’s contribution was not needed? Through ideological vindictiveness or political myopia, he did nothing to repair the rip he had made in the broad tent. Or to put it another way, he evidently expected the Liberal bird to fly with its conservative wing amputated.
Where does this leave his successor? I believe that to have had any chance of saving the furniture and perhaps even saving the next election, he should have adopted a Churchillian policy of ‘Action this day!’: pull out of the useless and profoundly harmful Paris talks, give an iron-clad commitment to shift the Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem, thus demonstrating solidarity with the only real democracy in the Middle East, walk away from the obsolete French submarines and unreliable and misnamed renewable energy sources, etc. All this could, and should, have been done in the first 48 hours. The electorate might have been stunned, but they would have known they had a fireball.
Even if he did not have the numbers in the Senate to abolish 18C, a few sufficiently forceful Prime Ministerial statements about it would have effectively robbed it of any moral force. There would be no more QUT prosecutions or Bill Leak persecutions if those responsible knew the Prime Minister would back the victims up.
There would be no more intimidation and silencing of Aayan Hirsi Ali by female would-be jihadists if the Prime Minister had let it be known that he was prepared to call out the troops. Quadrant might even have got its grant back.
As President Trump has shown, you can take on the left media without any suggestion of resorting to censorship and win.
Churchill in 1940 appointed himself Minister for Defence as well as PM; Morrison could have appointed himself Minister for the ABC and let it be known that it would obey its charter or heads would roll. Australians would then have known that they had a government that again meant business and a man who matched the hour.
As it is, the iconic moment for the Morrison regime to date has been the utterly wretched moment when the leader forced the senators to reverse their support of Pauline Hanson’s resolution against anti-white race prejudice. Did he, or they, think for one moment that this demonstration of spinelessness and lack of principle would gain them a single vote? More than one person told me of this volte-face, ‘It made me ashamed to have been a Liberal.’
In choosing Turnbull as leader (twice), indeed in giving him a good federal seat at all, the Liberal party showed an alarming inability to perceive the obvious: that here was a superficial, hollow man whose principles were of the left.
The Parliamentary party has dug its own grave. There is no doubt about that. But what are the foot-soldiers, the rank and file of the lay party, supposed to think? It seems as if the parliamentary party did not even consider that. What happened? And will it happen again?
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10