Last year, I confidently forecast that Malcolm Turnbull would challenge Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party sometime in 2011. This year, the vibes are even stronger and I am now even more certain that he will do just that.
He did not change his mind about retiring because he thought that a longer stay in Parliament would be good for his health. He came back for one reason only — to become Prime Minister.
Now, Tony Abbott has given him an opening to move. Abbott does not have an alternative policy to a carbon tax. He is simply against it. Turnbull has a policy, and he vividly remembers that Tony removed him over that policy. He believes also that he subsequently showed the depth of his commitment to Climate Change by crossing the floor to vote with the ALP when the matter came before the House. He reckons that he can win the next Election, taking votes from both the ALP and the Greens on the issue, by reminding voters of his deep commitment to the cause.
As you will read later in this newsletter, I have considerable doubts about Gillard’s carbon tax. Nor am I enamoured with Turnbull’s emissions trading scheme or the fact that Abbott doesn’t have a policy at all. However, I am always interested in the eternal machinations of politics. As sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, there will be a leadership battle in the Liberal Party and, the sooner it is over, the better it will be process of good government in Australia.. The longer it goes on, the more free kicks the Opposition gives to Julia Gillard.
I reckon that the challenge will happen in August, as all five contenders need time to jockey for position. They will wait until the Budget is over and the Greens take control of the Senate on June 30. This means that the carbon tax and the mining tax will come before the Parliament and Abbott will be blamed for not having an alternative either.
Turnbull will make the challenge. Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb, Christopher Pyne and Scott Morrison will be delighted that he has opened the door for them to throw their hats in the ring. and the winner will be determined by who is eliminated first and where their votes go. In the months before the ballot, they will all do their best to destabilise the others in the hope that some candidates drop out. You can see this happening right now, and it will gather momentum.
Julie Bishop has had a major public spat with Abbott over foreign aid to Indonesia. It could have been sorted out in private. Joe Hockey has fallen out with Scott Morrison over the boat people, simply because it was an opportunity to blunt Morrison’s leadership ambitions. Turnbull leaked a story that Andrew Robb was after the jobs of both Bishop and Hockey, when Robb had said nothing on the matter.
These are just a few examples. I could give you many more, but space won’t allow it. All of this will make the Opposition look like a rabble, and it may become so ridiculous that Tony may bring on the ballot quickly while his opposition is disorganised and there is a chance to restore stability.
I reckon that, if Tony loses, the winner will be Andrew Robb, a very experienced economist who is just the man to handle turbulent financial times.
Over in the ALP camp, the rumblings against Julia have died down a bit, mainly because Abbott is making her look good by comparison. There won’t be a challenge because they can’t stage another coup. But, should Julia resign because she feels she has lost political power and influence, then I reckon that the Party will elect Stephen Smith, a very safe, sensible, mature, experienced pair of hands. They will decide that Bill Shorten and Greg Combet need another term or two before they are ready.