The Turnbull Tragedy

I feel very sorry for Malcolm Turnbull.

The man born to be Prime Minister.

So much manifest destiny – no-one since Hawke/Keating promised so much in terms of a genuinely brighter future for all Australians.

And not just Australians.

The truly transformative epoch Malcolm should have achieved could also have included our region – and anyone else who came within (or even near) our magical circle.

Alas.

Instead of a Golden Age we have one of the tawdriest shit fights in the history of Australian politics.

* * *

I am one of the 20% of Australians who can legitimately be described as a swinging voter – in that I have voted both Labor and Liberal in my time, but also Green and Australian Democrats (remember them?).

I would describe my politics as marginally left of centre but I am driven more by competence and particular issues than parties. As issues go, most important to me are the rule of law, responsible environmental management and sound financial management. In that order, but they are all so closely related it makes little sense to prioritise.

The Labor and Liberal parties have both, in the last 30 years, given regular lip service to the issues that matter to me, but both – in government – have behaved more or less the same. Mostly.

The Liberal party’s record on refugee policy – to my mind – is utterly shameful. But have the Labor Party done any different?

They’ve occasionally made noises about how bad the Liberals are but they draw the line at advocating a different policy and their behaviour in government is arguably worse than the Liberals because they knew they were doing the wrong thing.

Expecting the likes of Ruddock, Howard, Abbott and Dutton to abide by the humanitarian principles of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees is like expecting a starving Labrador to guard a Big Mac. It goes entirely against their instinct, so fair enough, but the Labor Party knew what they did re offshore solutions was evil.

That’s why I was delighted to see Malcolm Turnbull challenge and defeat Tony “Turn Back the Boats” Abbott.

So many Australian politicians remind me of B grade high school debaters. They’ve (too often) gone straight from university into branch politics – backroom staffers – policy officers – apparatchiks – candidates, without ever having done anything meaningful or real.

The real talent in the country is running companies, universities, law firms, accounting firms, hospitals, media organisations, farms, doing science, creating art or any number of other useful occupations and doing pretty well at it. They don’t have time for politics and they aint gonna take a pay cut either.

That’s what made Malcolm different.

At last we had a man of intelligence and principle at the helm. A statesman, no less, with the competence and vision to forge the kind of future we needed and deserved. As a voter who tends to err on the Labor / Green side of politics I was perfectly happy to throw my lot in with Malcolm and I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am in his time in office.

Yes, he was undermined – torn apart in fact – by the rabid revenge merchants of the right. But the Malcolm Turnbull I thought I knew would have risen above all those B-graders and beaten them anyway.

If he’d appealed to the nation – so many of whom genuinely believed in him – then he might have had the confidence to take on the radical right and insist on the kind of policy program this country desperately needs. Instead, we look like returning to the short-sighted nastiness of the redneck (minority) rabble who want to isolate Australia geopolitically, give tax cuts to companies who don’t need them, prefer coal to the detriment of renewables and destroy the Barrier Reef.

You could have stopped that Malcolm.

You could have beaten the B-grade mediocrities, but instead you let them win by getting dragged into their bloody minded game.

As I said, I feel sorry for you, but I feel sorrier for Australia.

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