Prime Minister Turnbull and the end of Abbottland

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(Art by John Graham / @JohnGrahamArt)

Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence hopes that the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull to the prime ministership will usher in a better and less brutal form of politics.

ON TUESDAY IN PARLIAMENT, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came to praise Caesar and not to bury him.

On Monday, though, in front of Canberra's Parliament House, Malcolm Turnbull, sans the portfolio of communications minister that moments earlier he voluntarily relinquished, came to bury Caesar and certainly not to praise him.

He ruthlessly politically disemboweled his longstanding nemesis, the now former Prime Minister of Nowhere Tony Abbott.

Abbott was well hung, drawn and quartered. Buried alive. The budgies in his smugglers surely shrivelled.

But even as the first knife turned in Abbott's back, embedded in Turnbull's words were those sly siblings — spin and strategy.

It was imperative to portray the coup against Abbott's leadership as more than both an expedient expression of personal ambition, and the desperate move of a Party and Coalition Government dying in the polls.

An increasingly autocratic prime minister was indisputably intent on further imprisoning the Australian people in an hostile environment that was making aliens of us in our own country, suffocating the human and legal rights of the individual, suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of the press, especially the media's role as inquisitor.

In his fine and encouraging challenge speech, Mr Turnbull simply replaced the spectre of one bogeyman with another; Tony Abbott with Bill Shorten, leader of the Opposition:

If we continue with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister, it is clear enough what will happen. He will cease to be Prime Minister and he'll be succeeded by Mr Shorten.

You only have to see the catastrophically reckless approach of Mr Shorten to the China-Australia free trade agreement — surely one of the most important foundations of our prosperity — to know he is utterly unfit to be prime minister of this country, and so he will be, if we do not make a change.

Already, Coalition politicians obediently echo their new master's voice. It's the new three word slogan: "Kill Bill Shorten.” Blame the coup on Shorten. It worked. And Shorten's notorious lacklustre leadership and persona deficit facilitated it.

In Australia, we have almost become used to the contempt in which we, the people, are held by successive state and Federal Governments that feverishly and indecently vie to continue governing for the sakes of their respective parties, but at our expense.

Democracy has morphed into demockracy.

For the sake of "party unity" politicians are clearly prepared to lie, remain silent and be mere bystanders to a history they once wanted to enoble. Rorts and corruption abound.

We hardly exist, save for false and broken promises made at election times and during the political violence of mutual knifings and political cage fighting that is now habitual in the Lucky Country and for which we have become internationally notorious.

We hunger for politicians that are assertive and strong without being bullies.

We hunger for politicians with a conscience, who are unafraid to champion humanity and show compassion and love, that most precious and singular gift that manifests in differing dialects of the heart and our very souls, such as they may be.

There is a place in the business of governing and governance for such emotions and empathy with one another. It is tedious and dangerous when acknowledging our shared humanity is derided as a weakness. It is not. Such things should be important, aspirational and inspirational in our political culture and, hopefully in some measure, to us all.

Malcolm Turnbull has spoken and written of such things. 

His supporters have given him an early birthday present and Prime Minister Turnbull is the temporary custodian of the well being of Australia, its people and our place in this paradoxical world.

As our 29th Prime Minister, he now has the exciting chance to make those words flesh.

The John Graham artwork featured in the piece may be ordered from the IA store.

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