Audacious hope

If there is one thing I value in political leaders above all else is that they stand their ground on fundamental values when it is crunch time. There are very few political leaders who I have seen this quality in. Yesterday, we saw Malcolm Turnbull rise to that status. After months of trying to push the Coalition towards supporting some form of climate change legislation, he called an end to the internal debate and pushed ahead with their negotiated outcome with the Government.

The political conventional wisdom is that he has killed his career over this. I am not so sure but I am sure of one thing: if the legislation passes the Senate today, Turnbull will have ensured his place in history. More so than the Government, he is moved to action when he himself was pivotal. Had he caved or resigned, there would be no ETS anytime soon. This is the very definition of historical significance.

Alongside that, his press conference explaining this was concise and important. First, he believes in taking action and in the policy he is supporting as it is one that he pushed for. Second, for those who are sceptics, the policy is an appropriate form of insurance. Finally, his party made a deal and agree to it and has to stick by those agreements if they are going to have a meaningful role. It seems incredible to me that others in the past faced with so compelling a set of reasons to make a choice have failed to do so. But kudos to Turnbull for taking a stand and not being afraid to air dissent.

Again, the political conventional wisdom is that he will suffer for this. I wonder if that is so and whether the Australian people might actually support the values we have seen expressed here. We will see.

5 thoughts on “Audacious hope”

  1. Perhaps we need two Liberal parties now: Blue liberal, conservatives, climate skeptics, and Green Liberals, progressives, climate actives. Disagree on climate, agree on the rest. But I agree, Malcolm has taken a stand at the right time. But I think the ‘I am leader’ rhetoric, means more consultation during negotiation with the government was needed. That was the tactical error. He needed Minchin in there negotiating too. But too late now. I predict. Turnbull goes. ETS fails in Sentate (on conscience vote). Snap election. Double Dissolution. Labor wins bigger majority. Passes ETS with less compensation for industry. So long as KevinPM can still go to Copenhagen as PM. Preferably all before Dec 12, so Kevin rides in newly elected to Copenhagen with ETS locked down. Otherwise, election after Copenhagen, because Kev won’t want to miss the fun. rf


  2. I agree that this moment could as easily be the making of Malcolm Turnbull as a political leader as it could be his downfall. Good on him for sticking to his guns.
    However, I do wonder what environmental purpose the ETS serves in its proposed form. At the end of the day, are there any climate scientists who think the proposed ETS and small carbon emissions reduction targets will make an ounce of difference to our climate? If it goes through before Copenhagen, will it have any influence at all on what happens at the summit?


  3. Good blog Josh and I agree – there has been very little leadership and a lot of following the polls in recent years in Australian politics. Richard too makes a good point above – I’ve also wondered if the Liberals could/should split. It is interesting that in Germany the conservative party recently formed a new coalition with the greens. All this suggests that our existing party structures might not be the best for the 21st century and maybe we need some interesting new parties/coalitions.


  4. Regarding this idea that there should be two liberal parties (or that Malcolm should consider forming a new political party), the ALP tried that after they split over the communist issue. They collected 23 years in opposition for their effort (though maybe that’s what some people would like to see happen to the liberals?)

    I appreciate the idea of Turnbull sticking up for his principles, and can understand why academic economists, who have the freedom to express their convictions without fear of electorate or party backlash, would support him.

    But politics is a different game. Politics is about confronting a world where everyone has different values, where everyone has their own objectives they’re trying to pursue, and strong leadership is about finding your way through this world of uncertainty, bringing people together, and trying to make as many people realise their values as possible without descending into the kind of mess we’re currently witnessing now.

    By all accounts it seems that Turnbull will lose his leaderhsip. He’s failed on a spectacular scale, splitting the party like no other leader has been able to do since the libs were formed in the 40s. We can go on about how great his convictions were, but when your attitude is to ignore everyone and listen only to yourself, you risk destroying not only your own agenda but everyone elses. Turnbull’s legacy may be for the ETS to be blocked, for the Liberals to move further to the right, for the Higgins by-election to be lost and Clive Hamilton the new member. 

    I know the two things are utterly different, but remember the outcome of the French Revolution. For all the talk and conviction about liberty and equality, the French ended up with neither, and a military dictator. The less of that is that good leadership requires consensus building, it requires listening to others. Some days you’ll win some, and some days you’ll lose some. But putting yourself first will make everyone lose i nteh long run.

    The idea that the electorate will reward the Liberals for self imploding is comical.                                                                                   


  5. “Again, the political conventional wisdom is that he will suffer for this.  I wonder if that is so and whether the Australian people might actually support the values we have seen expressed here.”

    Turnbull’s polling for preferred Prime Minister has fallen to 14%.  This is his lowest ever. Is this the lowest figure for an opposition leader ever?

    Peter Van Onselen had the best analysis of Turnbull in today’s Oz. Can’t find a link sorry.


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