The Australian public had great expectations for Malcolm Turnbull after he ended the disastrous Abbott experiment, but now the new PM is floundering. Abdullah Ahmed explains why.
IN ORDER TO SUCCEED in politics, one must have conviction. Five months ago, when Malcolm Turnbull ascended to the office of prime minister, he promised to be a leader with conviction. A leader who would explain complex issues and outline the solutions to them; a leader who would be able to invigorate our nation out of its policy torpor; a leader who would have a big and bold vision for the future for our nation.
Initially, there was a sugar hit in the polls and Liberal Party MP’s holding marginal seats breathed a sigh of relief. They had done the right thing. No longer would they be subjected to suffer under the leadership of the inarticulate, out of touch and severely conservative Tony Abbott. But Turnbull is floundering. He has abandoned his convictions. Australians have wised up to the silver tongued barrister and pulled the wool from their eyes.
Turnbull previously stated that climate change is an enormous challenge for all of us, that an emissions trading scheme is the best way to deal with it and that "direct action" is a recipe for fiscal recklessness. He now says that emissions trading schemes have worked better in theory than in practice, accuses environmentalists of being ideological and praises "direct action" as efficacious and economically competitive. Australia is among the highest polluters of carbon emissions per capita in the world. Rather than taxing pollution, the Federal Government now buys pollution abatement with funds from the taxpayer’s purse. All economists worthy of the title agree that the "direct action" boondoggle is both ineffective and inefficient. Rather than being a world leader with respect to the issue of climate change, Australia is now a pariah.
Turnbull previously stated that he supports gay marriage and a free vote on the issue in parliament. He now says that a post-election plebiscite allows everyone’s voice in the community to be heard. But he has developed a tin ear with respect to the gay couples in our nation who have been crying out for equality for far too long. We are further subjecting them to majoritarian regulation over their private lives.
Turnbull previously stated that he was for the republic and that Australia’s head of state should be one of our own. He was, after all, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement for eight years as a private citizen. He now says that there are more immediate issues to deal with and that the republic referendum should next come up at the end of the Queen’s reign. Can we not walk and chew gum at the same time? Are we so invertebrate that we cannot claim our republic, but rather must have it handed to us when the seemingly immortal 89 year old dies?
Turnbull previously stated that what we need in Australian politics is advocacy. But in order to advocate one must take a position. His Government has demonstrated a lack of conviction with respect to the taxation debate being conducted in this country. Every news cycle Turnbull and Morrison are out of sync. Are they for a 15 per cent GST or not? Are they for closing the negative gearing loophole or not? Are they for closing the superannuation tax concessions for the rich or not?
Initially, a dialogue was welcomed, but there comes a time when the Turnbull government must take a position — not only on tax, but also on a whole range of issues. In politics you must stake out positions and advocate for them. You cannot be all things to all people.
Turnbull is becoming a prime minister lacking in conviction. He has traded his away in order to get the top job. But in order to keep it he’ll need to get it back.
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