And with a brief flurry and then a deafening silence, Tony Abbott has departed form the position of Prime Minister. At least, we think he has. Technically, I guess he remains PM until Turnbull signs on the dotted line, but that should be a formality. I say should, because nothing this government ever does is simple, easy or transparent. But we’ll see. As I write this, apparently he’s gone AWOL in Manuka. Perhaps he’s having a late breakfast. Who knows.
You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief as Turnbull won the leadership ballot. People across Australia seemed to let out a breath that they’d been holding for more than 2 years, and finally managed to smile again. The lunatic was gone. Hopefully, we could say, ‘The adults are in charge’, and it might actually be true. No more embarrassing onion-eating antics. No more ‘captain’s picks’. No more ‘coal is good for humanity’.
Well, yes and no. We know that Malcolm Turnbull is close to the most beloved politician in the land. (I think Mike Baird might have pipped him, probably because he’s got a nicer smile, or so I’m told). We know that lots of labor people like him. We know that he regularly tops polls of preferred PM, and he’s certainly got the common touch. He tweets like a 15 year old kid on speed. He catches public transport. He wears leather jackets *swoon*. He’s in favour of same sex marriage and action on climate change. He’s just so progressive!
We also know that large sections of his own party and the Nationals can’t stand him. We know that he gutted the NBN and replaced it with a disgraceful third-grade attempt. We know that, despite the rhetoric and the spin, he voted with the Abbot government on border control, on environmental vandalism and on pushing the agenda of SSM back to a plebiscite. We know that almost the first thing he said when he was elected by his colleagues was that there will be no major policy changes. Now that might be a matter of ‘don’t frighten the horses’, but if that’s the case, his colleagues – and the rest of Australia – are entitled to ask, ‘Well, what was the bloody point, then?’
I think that we might be missing the real Malcolm Turnbull. I don’t think he’s for climate change or SSM or any other policy because he thinks its morally right. I think he does it because he sees it as a means to power. He’s the ultimate pragmatist, willing to build a ladder to climb to the top out of any particular issues that resonate with the electorate.
In that, he’s hardly alone. Politicians need public support. But let’s not suggest that it’s the second coming just because he’s got a bit of charisma.