Turnbull wades around deep water.

turnbull happy in tassie


Wading around deep water in Launceston last Thursday, were Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman and federal Liberal MPs Andrew Nikolic, Brett Whiteley and Eric Hutchinson, who turned up to ensure that the PM did not spoil his visit to the Onion Isle by getting out his depth on climate change and rashly linking global warming with the devastating floods.

Turnbull rebuffed Bill Shorten’s shrewd offer of a bipartisan visit. Launceston was thus blessed with two successive media circuses, although they visited different flood-struck areas. Yet, despite the mud and the wheel-churning, it was spared the impression that Shorten was Turnbull’s equal. Or an alternative Prime Minister.

The PM was resolute. Bugger the pre-election caretaker convention of equal access to information and consultation on important decisions. It was only day 34. There was an election dance marathon to be won. Policy to be got out.

As both major parties waltzed around the elephant in the room of the coalition’s bogus climate policy, the PM spoke up to stop anyone joining any dots between the disaster and climate change, before anyone brought up the clear global trend of increased Intensity of rainfall with climate change.

They were too late. In response to one journalist’s question that we would see more storms of this nature with climate change, Turnbull generalised and obscured the link. “Larger and more frequent storms are one of the consequences that the climate models and climate scientists predict from global warming.”

If only we could get rid of those models and those scientists, we’d be OK. (The Coalition’s working on it.)

“…you cannot attribute any particular storm to global warming,” the PM continued arrestingly, obscuring the point the reporter was making, “so let’s be quite clear about that. And the same scientists would agree with that.”

Encouraged by his PM’s form of words, but picking up on only some of them, embattled member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, a highly vocal climate sceptic in parliament who enjoyed a key role in the slashing of our Renewable Energy Target (RET) went further. No-one would be “silly enough to try and link a single event to climate change.”

No-one is arguing for simple causation

Of course they are linked. No-one is arguing for simple causation. Climate Change Council scientists warn that global warming and rising sea levels are major contributing factors to the kinds of storms that recently caused so much damage to the East coast of Australia.

All extreme weather events have a climate component. A warming atmosphere has a greater capacity for carrying more moisture resulting in more intense rainfall and floods. Accelerating sea level rise also increases the impact of storms in coastal areas as witnessed recently at Collaroy.

Professor Lesley Hughes explains the heavier rainfall. “These east coast lows, while they’ve also been around for some time and often deliver intense rainfall, are occurring in an atmosphere that has about 7% more water vapour than it did fifty years ago. This increases the risk of more intense rainfall.”

What should be bipartisan is an understanding that our only choice is to stop burning coal and embrace renewable energy. This election is the last chance we have to get serious about our climate change policy. Yet there is nothing to see here from either major party in this Clayton’s election campaign, despite some urging from the sidelines.

Some ratbags will got to any lengths to spoil a disaster zone media opportunity even with our beefed up national security and metadata retention laws, including the Border Protection Act 2015 which makes it illegal for professionals to speak out about conditions in detention centres, a law which some doctors have chosen to defy.

And so it proved in Sydney later that day. A British television crew ambushed the PM as he left the American and Australian US Studies Centre tenth annual benefit dinner, a black-tie function in Sydney where Turnbull had been insulting the intelligence of his audience by repeating the lie that he had to call the election because of vital ABCC legislation blocked by the senate which his government needs to restore the rule of law.

“Australia’s actions were illegal..”

Jonathan Miller, Channel Four Foreign Correspondent, wanted to know if the PM was alarmed by the recent spate of self-immolations by asylum-seekers on Nauru and whether he agreed with observers that Australia’s actions were illegal under international law. The PM is reported to have stone-walled the BBC reporter.

He would have been just as forthcoming had he been asked about the government’s position on PNG, a failed state whose PM enjoys our loyal support despite evidence of considerable popular unrest and unconfirmed reports of police shooting protestors. The ugly spectacle of our support for a corrupt regime because our government needs desperately for Manus Island detention centre to at least remain open is one which with bipartisan agreement seems to be swept to one side. Just as with the gulag on Nauru.

Nothing to see here. As in the days of the Tampa crisis, when John Howard refused point blank at a press conference to reveal the source of his categorical assurances to the Australian people that SIEV-X sank in Indonesian waters and that the drowning of 353 people was somehow someone else’s responsibility.

Turnbull had just come from praising John Howard as the gold standard in his own cabinet government and singled out Arthur (Amnesiac) Sinodinos for his architectural virtues in two governments. A pillar of the Howard government, Sinodinos, he said is “a flying buttress in mine.”

Perhaps this curiously phrased praise will cause a restorative flow of blood to Arthur’s head and enable him to recall the answers he was unable to provide the ICAC concerning his role in setting up The Free Enterprise Foundation which was established to permit property developers to make illegal donations to NSW Liberal Party funds.

The NSW Electoral Commission continues to withhold $4.4 million in public funding from the NSW Liberals until it formally discloses who donated $693,000 to the party via the Free Enterprise Foundation before the 2011 election. If Sinodinis is Turnbull’s flying buttress, however, in foreign policy the US is Australia’s anchor, the caretaker PM declared dipping into maritime analogies on Thursday, despite Malcolm Fraser’s view that it was a ball and chain.

…a strategic captive of the US…

John Howard, set up the US Studies Centre, according to Turnbull on Thursday because he ‘…understood that the United States is the irreplaceable anchor to the global rules-based order, an order built upon shared political values and common economic and security interests.’ Yet for Malcolm Fraser in his book Dangerous Allies, ours is more of Stockholm syndrome relationship. Australia is “a compliant partner, a strategic captive of the US,” in Fraser’s view.

To those perverse few who still see Malcolm Turnbull as a type of enlightened and progressive rationalist, a “small l” Liberal, his sycophantic embrace of Howard and the US Alliance in Sydney this week may be a rude shock. On the other hand, the latest Reach-Tel suggests a 2 point increase in Turnbull’s popularity which will, no doubt, be taken as a vindication for his release last Sunday of a brief Facebook video which asks us to accept him, perhaps even to let him lead us, because of his poor, deprived childhood.

“How poor was my childhood” could be the start of some competitive bidding from other political hopefuls and millionaires although it could be argued that Gina Rinehart, a major backer of the IPA which is enjoys an extraordinary influence over Liberal politicians both in and out of parliament, has already set the gold standard.

Her ABC Australian Story documentary appearance in 2015 reinvents her father, Lang Hancock, as a noble and heroic Aussie battler and devoted father. His stoic and selfless determination to fly out on endless self-punishing mineral prospecting odysseys over the Pilbara enabled him to reap obscenely large profits from the sale of minerals extracted from lands far below which did not belong to him, as if this were somehow his just reward. It was an astonishing piece of hagiography even from a loving daughter.

Similarly, the Turnbull video is ostensibly a tribute to Bruce, a father to whom he owes everything. Yet below and even on top (- a part of the surface gloss) is a calculated bid for our sympathy from a politician whose ruthless ambition is well documented.

… see the mythic reinvention as a quest…

The spin is defended by Karen Middleton and others who see the mythic reinvention as a quest to present a more authentic Malcolm to his adoring fans. Besides, her argument goes, Bill is doing the same type of thing.

True, there are images of Shorten’s mother, a former teacher, in some publicity material canvassing us to vote Labor because education matters but it is a long way from the PM’s recent desperate pitch in which he reinvents himself as some sort of ordinary battler. It’s an ill-judged bid for sympathy and the women’s vote which Turnbull’s been advised he will need.

Some offer a blunter appraisal; if you have to make a video like that, you are admitting you are in serious trouble. The feminist bid just smacks of desperation and will backfire when it is measured against the poverty of the PM’s achievement on behalf of women.

Coming out as a feminist is not a new thing in recent Liberal prime ministers, but it still has some novelty value. Turnbull the feminist was unleased on an unwary electorate this week, raising some very awkward questions about a Liberal Party leadership which as Annabel Crabb notes, only the men are feminists, because the women don’t want any label which might get some of the unreconstructed males still left on front and back bench offside.

…where there is a war on women…

The nation now awaits Turnbull to respond to the promptings of his feminist sensibility and release all those women imprisoned on Nauru where there is a war on women. If he really wants to be a leader, he will bring home all the asylum seekers and refugees immediately. At home, he will pushing for equality in workplaces. The gender pay gap of $277 per week between women and men’s average weekly earnings will vanish at one stroke.

What is increasingly apparent, however, at least to some in the Labor camp, is that the caretaker PM is content to “run down the clock” to the election. He is just playing a dead bat, happy to sacrifice ten marginal seats if it brings him the office of elected Prime Minister that he covets. Or that Bruce would have wanted for him. Certainly his failure to turn up at a Sky News Peoples’ Forum debate on Wednesday, a “long-standing invitation” made him look flaky. Or scared. Or both. Or perhaps, he just couldn’t be bothered.

Sky News showed its displeasure sending presenters Paul Murray and Andrew Bolt out to condemn Turnbull for his snub. Sky is, however, getting great value out of the Liberals and ought not to be so churlish, especially when recent recruit, Tony Abbott’s former boss Peta Credlin’s stellar performance is taken into account.

Voters don’t like Bill Shorten and don’t trust Malcolm Turnbull according to Credlin’s piece in The Herald Sun on Saturday. Abbott’s former chief of staff has let the nation know that Turnbull is not doing enough to win over uncommitted voters and that the result could be chaos in the senate.

Credlin has a way with words and her freely dispensed advice is doubtless as powerfully motivating to the PM as any desire to prove worthy of the memory of his father’s sacrifice. She has homed in on an arrogance which is perhaps a key part of the caretaker PM’s campaign strategy so far. In her view, Turnbull’s “superannuation changes still tell the Liberal base you don’t really matter because you have nowhere else to go.”

In the campaign so far, the PM has avoided anything of substance while challenges that clamour for real leadership, such as climate change, closing the gulags that are our offshore detention centres, or providing a fair and just society for all Australians, issues which might truly define a worthy political leader lie well beyond his grasp.

His opponent, for all his affinity with the workers and all his rhetoric appears just as imprisoned by the corporate state a compliant partner as Fraser would have it in an abusive and mutually demeaning relationship.

8 thoughts on “Turnbull wades around deep water.

      1. Many thanks. I will probably be silent for the next week or so – exam marking starts Wednesday, then there will be all the usual loose ends to tidy up.


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