The trouble brewing round General Morrison, the Australian of the Year, parallels the trouble brewing round Turnbull.
Both have moved beyond their normal remit – looking after veterans, balancing the Budget, killing the terrorists – and taken up themes more suited to the Greens and Left Labor – advancing cross-dressers, speeding the Republic – and both have dismayed their natural constituency. Are these things their normal business? Don’t think so.
Many thousands of his constituents want Morrison to resign as Australian of the Year. This is a bit like resigning as Poet Laureate or Archbishop of Canterbury and hard to do. Historians will find MacGregor’s influence on him a crucial factor in our history. MacGregor has been influential before and changed history before. He persuaded the Liberals to return John Howard to the leadership. He helped persuade General Morrison to go after the sexual bullying and sexual betrayal, of female recruits. He/she now condemns Morrison as a coward.
Turnbull’s "hand-me-downs" (those he dare not sack) have been bad for him so far. Dutton seems complicit in child abuse and piracy and harrying the saintly Triggs, a Turnbull friend. Brandis encouraged Monis (or his office did) to contact and join Daesh. Scott Morrison cannot add. Brough and Roy seem guilty of framing the second highest official in the land with sexual harassment. Rudd, a detested man, is now on his short list as secretary-general of the United Nations. Julie Bishop continues her insane vendetta to gaol Putin, the world’s most powerful man, for shooting down airline passengers, while assisting him and Assad in killing Kurds.
Has Turnbull any power over events? He seems unable to save sacred Anzac trees in his own electorate. He cannot bring on a conscience vote on gay marriage, although two thirds of his electorate – and the Australian people – want him to. He cannot increase an emissions target, one he lost his job once for, but wallows in shallows and miseries round 25 per cent.
What is the good of Turnbull? It does seem, face on, he is more popular than Shorten. But a close reading of the polls shows him losing the women, the votes that most matter, every day.
He has a boyish act – trust me, I’m joking – that worked for a while. But it seems, now, lately, that he can’t be trusted. Everything he wants (and he does sincerely want some things) he is willing to put on hold, until his gay constituents die waiting and we can "afford" the Gonski reforms O’Farrell and Napthine yearned for and applauded two years ago. And accepted when Shorten offered them.
He believes neither in the "debt and deficit disaster" nor in Australia undergoing its most "exciting, creative time". He has no one clear story to tell. He has, no more, alas, a narrative.
The truth of it is he is losing it and his electorate for mild, modest change and sexual gallantry is being captured by Di Natale and Xenophon, and going in preferences back to Shorten.
And we will see what we shall see.
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