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Malcolm's latter day Godwin Grech moment

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Godwin Grech (Image via @ozkatz)

Our new Prime Minister's limp-wristed response to four events this week has disappointed with his authority once more called into question, writes Bob Ellis.

FOUR EVENTS this week have done damage to Malcolm Turnbull, undermined his authority and made him look, at the very least, unleaderly.

One was Abbott advocating terrorism in London’s Guildhall, for which Malcolm did not reprove him.

Abbott said refugees should be forced back at gunpoint into countries where they might be executed. Though this can be seen to be a breach of Australian law and to attract a sentence of twenty-five years, the Prime Minister, himself a trained lawyer, merely gave a rueful smile and said, sadly, that Abbott, a mere backbencher, could now say what he liked.

He seemed weak in this, his response to the man he overthrew, now a terrorism advocate, unrepentant, unpunished and gone rogue.

Another event was the Amnesty International finding that a boat on the way to New Zealand was not in distress when Australian military personnel boarded it, kidnapped the people on it, treated them badly in airless cabins, denying one woman her asthma puffer, and paid people smugglers to dump them on a reef off Indonesia, which did not want to take them in.

This means the responsible minister, Peter Dutton, was, himself, a people smuggler and in breach of international law, and liable under current Australian law to eight or fifteen years in gaol.

A third event also involved Peter Dutton. It turned out he had refused an abortion to a raped woman and sent her back to a very small country where her rapist, unpunished, could get at her again, and was now, on second thoughts, letting her back into Australia for a termination in her sixteenth or seventeenth week, a sizeable trauma that might endanger her mental health, before sending her back into her rapist's vicinity again.

Another was a minister, Fiona Nash, saying on Q&A that farmers should be able to refuse coal seam gas mining companies access to their land. This was after a farmer, George Bender, had suicided after fighting, vainly, the mining moguls for seven years. Malcolm did not fire her, nor make any comment on what she said.

On top of this, he will soon be facing allegations that his Treasurer, Scott Morrison, when Minister for Immigration, assisted the escape of one at least of the murderers of Reza Barati and, furthermore, failed to seek punishment for the deeds of twenty other violent men who with bullets, knives, pipes and rocks injured sixty other young men on Manus Island, after having himself provoked them face to face with the cruel, implacable news that they would “never, never” live in Australia, even those who had relatives here.

This will be on top of his neglect of children, raped on his watch which makes him, as their sometime legal guardian, guilty of child abuse himself.

Will Malcolm sack him, or stand him down, when these investigations begin? Of course he won't.

Has he shown himself in these matters to be a weakling? Or, worse, a collaborator in major crime? It certainly looks like both possibilities are currently in play.

It is likely, though not certain, that our new Prime Minister's popularity has peaked and one or other of the above events will become his latterday “Godwin Grech Moment” and his inevitable plummeting begin.

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