Australian Notes

Australian notes

1 May 2020

11:00 PM

1 May 2020

11:00 PM

It’s almost always a binary political world

Have you ever wondered what Malcolm Turnbull’s version of the Golden Rule might be? Here are some plausible options: ‘Do unto others what you will moan and whinge about if they later do unto you.’ ‘Set up Guardian Australia to do unto others what you’ve really wanted to do unto them yourself.’ ‘Leak about others as regards what you say they’ve done unto you.’ ‘Get the ABC to do unto Abbott what you’re dying to do unto him yourself.’ Fun, isn’t it? And it’s fun because deep down it’s clear to all and sundry that Mr Turnbull lacks the self-awareness gene. Here’s a man who plotted, leaked, collaborated and schemed for years to be in a position to bring down Mr Abbott (with the clear help of many cabinet ministers and others in the Liberal party for whom loyalty is an alien concept) and then, a few years later, when the same thing happened to him he sulked and moaned and complained – he’s still complaining actually – and cast aspersions and basically acted as though he were twelve years old.

There are two ways to play the political game. You can be Machiavellian and play it rough and hard and when the cards turn against you you take it all in good grace and with a wry smile on your face. Or you can shun the Black Hand machinations and scheming and play it straight up. I can accept either, which is why I have more respect for Mr Morrison if he did in fact sneakily knife Malcolm in the back (to go with his knifing of Tony) than if he actually believed Malcolm should stay as leader and take the Libs into the 2019 election. But what no one can bear, at least no one outside the tight little Turnbull circle which includes the ABC (who love nothing more than a lefty conservative) and the Guardian Australia (ditto, plus, well, he did found them, a fact they forgot to ever mention), is someone who is happy to knife others but who is a cry baby when it happens to him. Malcolm, stop being a total loser. As ye sow so shall ye reap.  It’s not rocket science.

Speaking of total losers, wouldn’t it be nice if all of those people who jumped on the Turnbull Express when Mr Abbott was still prime minister – people who actually thought that Malcolm would be a better PM than Tony – would at least come out with a clear, unambiguous mea culpa? Politics is mostly binary my friends (sorry all you identity politics worshippers). You pick between the choices in front of you. I was always a Trump supporter because he was running against Hillary. Pick your poison. Trump was by far the lesser of those two evils and his record since winning the election has made that pick even better in hindsight – since no one could have then expected Mr Trump to have the best record of appointing non-activist judges of any Republican ever; to have cut regulations more than Reagan; to have fought the culture wars vigorously (albeit on insanely too many fronts); to have restored an American foreign policy that is premised on something other than the US being at fault for everything; to have taken on the massively left-leaning media; and to have exposed the extent to which the non-elected elites in Washington DC would go to hinder and cripple an elected president (think massive FISA court abuse, a piss-weak impeachment charade, Mueller, Comey, Democrats who scream ‘believe all women complainants’ when it’s Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh but who flat out don’t believe her when it’s Democrat nominee Joe Biden).

My point is that the 2016 US election was a binary choice. Trump or Hillary. And likewise when Malcolm was agitating, scheming and undermining it was also a binary choice: Tony or Malcolm. I saw Mr Abbott’s faults and wrote about them too. But on what planet could anyone think Turnbull was a better choice than Abbott for anyone on the right side of the political spectrum? Did these multifarious Turnbull supporters in the Australian and in the think tanks and in the Liberal party room forget Malcolm’s old speech and article supporting Lionel Murphy as a judicial archetype? Or his renewables fundamentalism? Or his weakness on borders? Or his attempts to first join Labor? Or his evident narcissism? The list goes on into the horizon. And the list matters because the choice was binary, Tony or Malcolm. Pointing to Tony’s faults (his pusillanimity on free speech, his decision temporarily to raise taxes, his inability to ram laws through the out- of-control Senate) never came close to justifying the coup. You need to decide, head-to-head, who was the better choice, the lesser evil. And my line then, and now, was that you’d have to be flat out bonkers to think Malcolm was better. It was a binary choice my friends and that’s even before you factor in the long-term damage to the party that comes from defenestrating a first-term prime minister who won a huge majority (meaning Tony, as Malcolm lost 14 seats).

Oh, and Mr Abbott’s chances of going on to win the 2016 election had he not been knifed were orders of magnitude higher than Mr Turnbull’s were of going on to win in 2019 had he not been removed, Malcolm’s delusions notwithstanding.

Malcolm’s new book and his behaviour since he himself was knifed has made this case unanswerable. He’s turned himself into a walking shadow; a poor player who longs to once again strut and fret his hour upon the stage, unable to bear being heard no more. Full of sound and fury. It is a tale told by, well, you know the rest! None of my various friends who back at the time supported the Turnbull coup still, today, thinks that the Abbott defenestration was the right call. In fact, they’re embarrassed by their then support for Malcolm.

If you want to judge someone judge them by their acts, not by their words (after all words are cheap and nothing’s cheaper than virtue-signalling). Especially judge people by how they act under adverse circumstances. Game, set and match to Mr Abbott on that score. Even the self-evidently biased ABC can’t hide Mr Turnbull’s character flaws. It’s a shame he managed to hide them from so many Liberal MPs and others for so long.

Shame on them all.

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