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Dog Days for the Liberal Party of Australia

By Norman Abjorensen
Created 29/06/2009 - 17:25

This piece was first published in today's edition of Crikey [1], and is republished with the kind permission of Dr Norman Abjorensen [1].

Dog Days for the Liberal Party of Australia
by Norman Abjorensen

If Malcolm Turnbull survives it will prove one thing: that the Liberal Party has a potent death wish.

The news cycle shows no sign of moving on just yet. Turnbull’s gaffe was the focus last week; this week it has turned to his soaring unpopularity and lack of credibility. What should have been the Coalition’s great asset – and only a complete curmudgeon would deny that Turnbull has that elusive X-factor, alone on his side of politics – is now a cumbersome liability. The messiah on the white charger has suddenly morphed into Richard Nixon and Mark Latham combined; Liberal hopes and dreams have been found to be nothing more than Turnbullshit.

Even if the excitement abated, the lingering residue from this whole affair is highly toxic. For one, it will be revisited with a vengeance should Turnbull still be Liberal leader at the next election campaign; for another, and far more seriously, it calls into question the judgment of a man who puts himself forward as the alternative prime minister.

Just what the Liberals can do about it is far from clear. But hasty decisions must not be made, and before there is any groundswell for Joe Hockey (surely the answer to a very silly question) the party needs to carefully examine the options. Is Wilson Tuckey really too old? Is Philip Ruddock still alive? Can a seat be found for John Howard? Can Sir Robert Menzies be exhumed?

Hockey is a political lightweight, but that has never been a handicap in the Liberal Party. Does he believe in anything? Well, from what he has said he lacked conviction about the IR laws on his watch (but said nothing).

We do know he is a man of strategy. By his own admission to colleagues, he once liked to tell how he got noticed by John Howard. He saw how the then prime minister always took the same route to the chamber for question time and somehow cunningly managed to do the same, no doubt engaging in strategic praise (otherwise known as flattery). It got him into the ministry.

These are dog days for the Liberals. Loss of government in November 2007, one leader down and another one floundering from a self-inflicted wound, and the embarrassment of a demoted deputy leader through ineptitude, just 19 months into the term.

If the party cannot find a replacement within its embarrassingly thin ranks, perhaps it needs to take a look at history. After the advent of the two-party system in 1909, the conservatives simply pinched Labor men: Cook (prime minister 1913-14), Hughes (1915-23) and Lyons (1932-39). The very English Stanley Melbourne Bruce (1923-29) was the sole exception until the arrival of Menzies.

Surely, there must be an ambitious but frustrated Labor man or woman out there who will heed the siren call? Hello? Is Michael Costa listening?

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