Politics

Turnbull, dwindling

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Malcolm Turnbull is conducting the media with ease at the moment — but cracks are starting to show, says Bob Ellis (Image via Sara-Jade / @_sara_jade_)

PM Malcolm Turnbull is is looking like a goose overseas and a weakling back at home, writes Bob Ellis.

Turnbull’s bad luck continues.

The Japanese have just said they’ll be hunting whales again soon and, although there’s nothing he can do about it, his apparent cowardice on this issue will cost him one or two per cent in Greens' preferences his party won back on Abbott’s fall.

This is on top of the one or two per cent in Greens' preferences that Shorten won back last week with his greenhouse reduction target of 45 per cent — near double Turnbull’s.

Slowly – or not so slowly – the nation’s new leader is being shown to be a wuss; a smooth-talking wuss. On coal; on gay marriage; on nuclear waste; on the superannuation rorts of the rich; on raising or widening the GST, on rape, impregnation, suicide and murder on Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island, he’s been following in lockstep where Abbott once led and refusing to "have a conversation" with the Australian people about what he should do.

Once again, the times do not suit him. A republican beset by the golden glimmer of Wills and Kate; a wealthy tax avoider beseeching the middle class to pay more tax; a smiling optimist in a time of global terror and widening war; he seems shallow and careless and rich, smirking at the crimes on the high seas of Dutton, who this week put fleeing Bangladeshis in danger of their lives and smuggled them into Indonesia which did not want them, illegally.

More and more he seems to lack substance and want resolve; to be a Peacock-like trimmer, an unrisen souffle, a lazy beaming socialite living off his family trust and banging on at dinner parties; a glittering anti-climax, a waste of space.

Will the truth of this show up in the polls soon? It’s hard to to say. The big lie that 4.5 million want Turnbull as prime minister and are nonetheless voting for Shorten seems to have been accepted by the pundits despite its utter implausibility. The Abbott-Andrews-Abetz insurgency seems to have been ignored. Most polling seems, for the moment, unlikely or insane.

But ... a certain disquiet, like that which attended Rudd’s year-long vacillation, indecision and postponement of everything he needed to act on is becoming daily more palpable. He is looking more like a goose overseas than he would like and more like a weakling at home.

And we will see what we shall see.

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