As the double dissolution election looms, assistant editor Michelle Pini discusses the lacklustre performance of the Turnbull Government.
AUSTRALIA IS HEADING for an early election – engineered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – probably on 2 July.
The news comes as opinion polls show the Coalition trailing Labor — possibly because of all the talk about an election and maybe because people doubt that the Government not getting its way on union “reform”, as it continues to ignore corporate corruption, is enough cause for a double dissolution triggered election.
For quite some time, Australian elections have featured only white noise for many Australians. It goes something like this: boats, boats, death cult, Labor is bad, vote for us. Wait, we think boats are bad too, Liberal is bad, we agree on metadata too, vote for us.
There was a brief shining moment when Kevin (’07) Rudd stood up and talked the talk. There were ideas, there was passion and then, bam! They were gone — both the ideas and the government espousing them.
What followed was, for many of us, a dismal period of public discourse characterised by gloom and doom, where the PM and (arguably the worst ever) Minister for Women Tony Abbott, became an international embarrassment rarely rivaled until the emergence of Donald Trump.
And then there was Malcolm.
Malcolm, who crossed the floor for an emissions trading scheme (then known as the evil carbon tax). Malcolm, who headed up the push for a republic. Malcolm, who dared to voice what most people think about marriage equality. Cool Malcolm, with the leather jacket.
No politician in recent history has disappointed voters more than Malcolm Turnbull because he represented a shred of optimism in a hopelessly depressing political landscape devoid of vision and ideas. He even talked about ideas and innovation. Here, finally, there was a leader to get excited about!
Was that really only six months ago? What happened? Well, nothing. It turns out Malcolm and the party he leads actually has no ideas except the ones they hope will get them re-elected. No emissions trading scheme, non-existent environmental policy, not a murmur about a republic and a pathetic plebiscite to decide marriage equality. It’s a bit like watching a little boy dressed up as PM.
I want to shout: Do something! But Malcolm has shown no conviction, no leadership and no ideas.
We have witnessed a revolving door of ministers resigning or being asked to step down on corruption allegations. Even Turnbull’s handpicked senior ministers Mal Brough and Arthur Sinodinos have emerged so drenched in the stench of corruption, we can smell it in the air.
We have seen Australia struggling to maintain its AAA credit rating while under a conservative government that sells itself on economic reform and that had, only months earlier, made more noise about a “budget emergency” than Michaelia Cash yelling at the opposition.
We have cringed as Australia slipped to an embarrassing 56th in world climate change performance.
We have watched the appalling, mean-spirited human rights agenda continue. Australian women now ‘have to work an extra 66 days a year to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work’. The life expectancy and living conditions of our Indigenous Australians is comparable to that of poverty stricken, developing nations. And we have stood by, seemingly without shame, as desperate asylum seekers are labeled and gaoled as criminals — separated from their children and forced to live in concentration camps. By the way, allowing children to roam unsupervised on a prison island does not constitute freedom.
On the subject of human rights, we even saw Malcolm Turnbull capitulate on the Safe Schools Coalition, which was implemented with bipartisan support and exists to protect children – all of them – from bullying. These are our children! If it is necessary for the PM to get involved in a policy that is proven to be effective in order to appease the right-wing crazies within his own party, what can the Turnbull Government be relied upon to implement?
Well, there’s the ongoing war with the unions, suddenly catapulted above the previous “budget emergency” (which disappeared along with the last election) and elevated above systemic bank corruption — which (according to Scott Morrison) is apparently, “well regulated”.
We have seen a commitment of $195 billion over five years for submarines — despite the fact that there has been no imminent threat of conflict and that we have to cut back on education and health (see previous budget emergency).
There was the light bulb moment of palming off fiscal responsibility to the States, which kind of backfired.
And, there’s the impending plebiscite on marriage equality — oh wait, that hasn’t been confirmed.
Much has been said about the undermining of Turnbull within his own party, about his lack of favour with the traditionally supportive conservative press and about his hands being tied but I say,
“Man up Malcolm! You're the PM for God’s sake.”
Leadership is about compromise and negotiation, not scapegoats and uncontested surrender.
And while we’re on the subject of manning up, take note Bill Shorten.
When Australians vote Labor, they generally do so to effect change — not to be subjected to regurgitated Coalition policies such as immigration policy which contravenes international human rights law, or Orwellian metadata collection schemes.
Australians want to see a leader and a government that demonstrates vision beyond its five minutes of fame. The Lucky Country, famous for its nonchalance, even in the political sphere, is tired of being an international mockery. We want to vote for a leader. Someone who will improve upon, not target, education, health, the environment or our basic human rights.
We have had five PMs in five years and 2016 is looking like following the sequence with six for six.
“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing …”, is that they will probably keep doing it under this Abbott/Turnbull Government and with no sign of energy prices coming down, with or without a carbon tax.
Cartoon of Malcolm Turnbull courtesy of John Graham. You can order other cartoons of John's from the IA store here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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