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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Hockey's moment in the sun? « Previous | |Next »
November 29, 2009

Some in the Canberra Press Gallery say that Turnbull's woes and trouble have been mostly been his own doing. His leadership style is too imperious, his crash-through style is not consultative, he doesn't listen etc etc. Either the crash or crash through wrecks the party. So Turnbull has to go, if the disarray is to be overcome.

My judgement is that though Turnbull's crash-through style has contributed to his predicament, this predicament is caused by the irreconcilable divisions within the Liberal Party. So I am more sympathetic to Tony Wright's interpretation, as it is built around the split or schism within the Liberal Party.

He argues that Senator' Minchin's short term strategy is to ensure the Senate debate on the endless emissions trading scheme amendments — about 200 of them — is strung out in until he and his lieutenants had put in place the means to lever Malcolm Turnbull out of his job.


The mechanism was the conservatives mass resignation from the shadow cabinet and thenplacing pressure on Hockey to stand for leadership as a unity candidate against Turnbull and then to become the mouthpiece of Minchin's conservatives. That involves switching the party room’s support for the emissions deal and sending it to the freezer.

So Hockey, a climate change progressive, would owe his leadership, and be beholden, to Minchin's climate change sceptics and denialists. Hockey's moment as consensus builder has come: to unite the party and attempt to minimise a further loss of seats in the 2010 election.

What "consensus builder" covers up is that the the party of Menzies has turned destructively on itself in an implosion of rage and resentment on the issue of climate change. Behind using Hockey to lightly paper over the cracks (the "cuddly face" of the Liberal Party spouting Minchin's hardline views on climate change) lies the strategy of the Minchin conservatives (the religious right, the climate sceptics, the big-C social conservatives).

This strategy is about policy differentiation with the Rudd Government, standing on their core principles and staying true to their base. Come 2010 and we will have a pared-down Liberal Party that will emerge from the ashes that Turnbull leaves behind.

The consensus commentary of the Canberra Press Gallery says that the ground has shifted in the Liberal Party against Turnbull and an ETS. Surprisingly, the Nielsen Poll indicates that Turnbull is getting increasing approval from the people the Liberal Party needs to win the votes of in order to perform well at an election (ALP voters), yet he is bleeding approval from the Coalition base. Turnbull has become isolated from his own party.

The Hockey and Dutton team will replace Turnbull, the ETS will be sent off to a Senate committee, the Liberal Party has turned against climate change and becomes the party of climate change deniers and coal interests, and Hockey appears to dump his own beliefs on the emissions trading scheme. Hockey now becomes the cuddly mouthpiece for Minchin and Abbott's economic liberalism + social conservatism.

Since there will be no support for the emissions trading scheme from the Liberal Party Hockey's suffering has just begun. An election loss looms in 2010 for the Liberals, as they turn away from the middle ground and retreat to the safety and security of their base leaving the ALP standing firm in the middle ground.

The Minchin strategy of Liberal senators stretching out debate on the emissions legislation in the Senate while they wait for a new leader to withdraw Turnbull's order to support the bills has come unstuck. Two Liberals (Humphries + Troeth) would not support it, nor would Fielding. Hockey, instead of opposing the legislation is in favour a free conscience vote in the Senate. There are enough Liberal Senate votes (10-12, including Gary Humphries, Marise Payne of NSW, Queenslanders Sue Boyce and George Brandis, South Australian Simon Birmingham and Victorians Michael Ronaldson and Judith Troeth ) to ensure the passage of the legislation.

Minchin's conservative refused to accept Hockey's position for deferral of a vote on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to February plus of a free conscience vote on the legislation. Abbott is standing for the denialists anti-ETS camp in a three way contest. The consensus is that Turnbull has lost majority support in the partyroom and will be removed if the leadership spill succeeds. His body language shows he knows this and he comes across as bravado without hope. Hockey is still expected to win.

What does Turnbull do?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:43 AM | | Comments (15)


Peter van Onselen in Pros and cons of product differentiation in The Australian says:

the decline of socialism at the end of the Cold War left the main parties in this country scratching over what exactly it is that defines their differences. Too little difference can lead an opposition to be cast as a pale imitation of the government; for years that was the criticism of Kim Beazley's leadership of the Labor Party. But too much differentiation can cause a party in opposition to be seen as out of touch with the attitudes of mainstream voters. That is the risk for the Liberals: being seen as a do-nothing party on climate change, as Turnbull likes to describe it.

Fair point. The ETS can be seen as a battle within the Liberal Party over the pros and cons of product/policy differentiation from the ALP

It shows to me that the Libs have adopted a Bic lighter strategy towards winning the next election. eg; Get yourself a leader that looks good and will burn bright for a short period of time. If the people buy it Good! But if they don't just chuck it in the bin and get another.
(If Turnbull doesn't look good enough now he wont look any better in 3 1/2 years)
This is the strategy that a party that thought they were only an outside chance of winning on merit would adopt and are busy hatching a cunning advertising champaign along the lines of "NOT AGAIN IN 010" (oh ten)

So an election around March?

If Hockey seeks his day in the sun, he'd better bring some sun-block, or he'll be scorched by the intensity of public approbrium directed his way with his following of the Judas example implemented by his strange new friends on the far right, of the Andrews and Abbott ilk.

"...his crash-through style is not consultative..."

I was under the impression that JWH ran things the same way. Can someone please enlighten me on this matter.

Or is the "imperious" thing only a problem if your party is NOT in power at the time?

Mars 08,
imperious only applies in the Liberal Party if the Minchin conservatives are not in control. When they call the shots --as under Howard---then imperious becomes strong leader.

Does anyone seriously think that Dutton is electable after his sook about safe seats. This Bloke doesn't even look like being in parliament after the next election.

Minchin+Abbott will probably find Dutton a safe seat--parachute him into one. Tony Wright explored this option late last week. He said:

But the whole Hockey-for-leader thing relies on deals within deals. Let's see now. Alex Somlyay, the Liberal's chief party whip, has roped himself to Malcolm Turnbull. That's not a happy place to be in the Liberal Party right at the moment, and he holds the juicy seat of Fairfax, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Somlyay is said not to be well. The Goanna suspects he will receive an offer he can't refuse. Retire from Fairfax, lovely things said about him, and...err...Peter Dutton could find himself in a vastly more comfortable position than at present.

So it is smiles all round. Except for Malcolm Turnbull and his dwindling number of supporters, of course.

Hockey would know that the Libs will lose the next election in 2010. His strategy till now had been to wait until that happens and then take over.

I don't why the Liberal hard heads don't push for Abbott to be elected. He will be thrashed at the next election in 2010, but this can seen as Abbott sacrificing himself for the good of the party) Then Joe Hockey will then take over as saviour before the following election in 2013. That would give them a fighting chance.

Instead the smiling Hockey and Dutton step forward to take the poisoned chalice with Abbot as Treasurer. Why does Hockey put his head on the block? Got talked into it--"the times select the man" etc etc

A realistic unfolding scenario is this. The next 10 months are not going to be pleasant times for the new Liberal leader facing a dominant ALP throwing Turnbull's bon mots at them. When the Liberal go backwards in the next election, Hockey will be dumped---isn't that standard practice in the Liberal Party?

Who steps forward then? Abbott? All the Liberal moderates able to be leaders will have been destroyed during this term in opposition.

One option arising from the recent convulsions and Minchin calling the shots in a party that made a dramatic turn to the Right.

The Liberal Party becomes a conservative party and the moderates split and form their own party---a genuine liberal party; one that is economically and socially liberal.

If the moderates don't fight back, then Minchin and Co will proceed to destroy them (clean them out) over the next five years A moderate in a Liberal Party that has swung away from being a broad church will be in a very uncomfortable position. They will be blamed for all the convulsions and for trying to wreck the Liberal Party.

I'm not saying this kind of splinter will happen. It's just just a possibility.

it is now becoming obvious that the Coalition would almost certainly vote against this ETS deal when it comes back to the Senate in February.

The Rudd government's powerful election slogan--- delaying the government's ETS is tantamount to climate change denial--is already in play.

This will be very hard for the LIberal party to counter, given the many Coalition members who have expressed doubt about human-induced climate change, and the Coalition dumping of Malcolm Turnbull.

They are in a tough place no matter how brightly Hockey shines at sunrise. I doubt that the Coalition will go to the next election on a platform of open climate scepticism. They will fog it somehow---eg.,Abbott is now talking about a carbon tax!


I don't feel that the E.T.S is or will be one of the top 5 election issues.

It is a bit of a saga as was that fuel fiasco. What was that called again?
Eventually the pendulum will swing and it will all come back to whether the Rudd government have been good money managers and whether the leader of either party looks good on tele or not.

Les says the ETS won't be a top 5 election issue.

At this point, I agree. Despite all the hoo haa about a possible double dissolution or early election, Rudd has shown no sign of wanting to go early. The longer he leaves calling it the longer the coalition has to make a public disgrace of itself.

A double dissolution would risk continuing problems with minority whackos like Fielding. An early election of the ordinary kind would just annoy the electorate.

Rudd wanted the ETS passed to take to Copenhagen - if he doesn't get that it will be a lower priority.

Even if the ETS doesn't get through before the next election, public support for it is wobbly. Action on climate change, yes, the ETS, not so yes. And the longer the brawl goes on, the wobblier people will get on the ETS.

I don't think it would be in either the Libs or Labor's interests to go to an election over it.

Re your comment:

I don't feel that the E.T.S is or will be one of the top 5 election issues.It is a bit of a saga as was that fuel fiasco.

The Liberal Party, has elected Tony Abbott and he has chosen to fight on climate change and to risk all on an unpopular cause.He has clearly drawn the battlelines.

re your comment:

Even if the ETS doesn't get through before the next election, public support for it is wobbly. Action on climate change, yes, the ETS, not so yes. And the longer the brawl goes on, the wobblier people will get on the ETS.

We will see how this plays out since the Liberal Party fights on ETS and the ALP fights on climate change.

According to the Herald's Nielsen poll on Monday, only 25 per cent of Australians oppose the emissions trading scheme, while 66 per cent support the scheme.

Hockey's moment was only a moment.

The Liberals can't afford climate change to be the defining issue at the next election, any more than they can afford to be defined as the party of climate change sceptics. Yet the events of the past week have all but ensured both will be the case.

The Rudd government is rehearsing its lines. Abbott's response is bring it on. I don't fear an election. I will go on the attack and run the mother of all scare campaigns.