The party or the people: Turnbull’s ABC dilemma

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What was Malcolm Turnbull thinking? (Image via YouTube screenshot)

Terrence Watson delves deeper into the thought process behind the Liberal Party's vote to privatise the ABC.

FEW WOULD'VE been surprised to hear that the ABC was under threat following a vote of the Liberal Party’s federal council on Saturday. Given the Government’s recent history of complaints and funding “adjustments”, it’s fair to say the relationship is less than cordial. But the situation facing Malcolm Turnbull and his government poses a question as old as political parties themselves: The party — or the people.

Mr Turnbull immediately launched the government into damage control and onto the back foot of a potential Mediscare 2.0. The Labor Party was always going to take up arms against such an idea.

But the problem with his brushing off of the sale is that he’s alienating the people he’s claiming to represent. By saying the motion – which, it has to be said, is not binding on the Government – is not Government policy, he’s rejecting the wishes of the organisation for which he’s the parliamentary leader.

It’s true that this position is an attempt to minimise political damage to the Government, but every time a Government minister or backbench member says “let’s discuss the merits”, voters are hearing eagerness.

The obvious path of destruction is in choosing a side, truly condemned one way or the other.

Choosing party over the people in a season of by-elections, with potentially significant implications for both sides of politics, is a dangerous game to play and getting the public offside on what’s been rated as Australia’s most trusted democratic pillar is beyond playing with fire.

On the other hand, choosing people over party risks further antagonising a ever-growing conservative rump, rising out of Victoria and Queensland. This aside from the conservatives in his own party room who’ve been emboldened by the move. The PM keeping his job means keeping his party happy.

You could, therefore, argue that the best strategy to appease both party and people would be to delay, to say nothing and defer the question, and hope that it all goes away.

But with a stalking Opposition looming and trust in politicians at an all-time low, Turnbull may end up angering both.

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The party or the people: Turnbull’s ABC dilemma

Terrence Watson delves deeper into the thought process behind the Liberal Party's ...  
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