Malcolm Turnbull has always been a glass-half-full kind of guy, so he probably woke up on Sunday morning thinking that the result in Western Australia was not all bad.
A corner has been turned, a bridge has been crossed, a line has been drawn. Australian politics has changed: the idea that Malcolm Turnbull could be replaced as Liberal leader is no longer unthinkable.
For most of the time, it hadn’t been a bad week for Malcolm Turnbull. For starters, it was a non-sitting week, which meant that he didn’t have to spend much public time with the bumblers, urgers and saboteurs sitting around him on the government benches.
It was announced this week that the Australian model of representative democratic government was officially dead. The news of its demise was provided by the (hopefully soon to be ex-) premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett.
In less exciting times, many in the Liberal Party – probably most – would have viewed the defection of Cory Bernardi with more relief than dismay. Understandably, they regard the South Australian senator as a royal (or at least monarchist) pain in the arse.
Malcolm Turnbull declares determinedly that he is not a political animal. Well, perhaps not: maybe he is a political vegetable, silent and immobile, fed on copious amount of bullshit. It is hard to imagine a week that went so far off the rails, or one in which the management of hope and expectation went so awry.
Perhaps emboldened by the Trumpery of alternate facts, Malcolm Turnbull spent most of last week spruiking an alternate Trans Pacific Partnership.
So the New South Wales premier Mike Baird is gone – gone, but not forgotten, at least to his friend and fellow cornstalker Malcolm Turnbull, who has lost a trusted and dependable ally in the moderate faction of his factionalised state, as well as a personal friend.
As even the most avid reformers admit, you can’t legislate for morality. There will still be politicians who endeavour to wriggle through the loopholes. But at least the net will be harder to evade. Perhaps the silly season has not been wasted after all.
The first week of 2017 was dominated by the distraction of Australia’s spat with Indonesia – or more properly Indonesia’s spat with Australia.
When Paul Keating was defeated, he died on his feet. Malcolm Turnbull is struggling to survive on his knees.
Malcolm Turnbull has ended the year in a morass of negatives, and we’re not just talking about economic growth, consumer confidence and employment statistics, dire as they are.
When the September accounts emerged far worse that even the most pessimistic practitioners of the dismal science predicted, the economists hastened to assure us that once the entrails of next quarter’s chooks had been assessed, things would be better.
One of Malcolm Turnbull’s many boasts is his business acumen. Part of his credentials for being palsy-walsy with Donald Trump is that before they became politicians, they were both businessmen.
The Nationals are feeling their oats – also their sugar, their water and their pump-action shot guns. Quite suddenly the traditional party of conservative rural socialists are turning feisty and uppity – partly in self defence, but largely just because they can.
So with a single bound across the Pacific, Trumpery has come to Australia – or at least to our elected leaders, which is the troubling bit.
First the Poms abandoned common sense in backing Brexit and now the Yanks have voted against their own best interests by electing Donald J Trump. This was not a rational decision; it was the ultimate political gesture, a defiant middle finger towards what they imagined was The Establishment.
There must surely be more to the government’s latest assault on the boat people than simply crude wedge politics and gratuitous cruelty; but if there is, the prime minister is not saying – at least not yet.
Turnbull and his ministers are more interested in generating headlines, however ephemeral, than in outcomes: as long as they are busy, as long as they are seen to be doing something, this is sufficient – at least for the moment.
If Nauru and Manus could be finally expunged from our psyche, the long lies that have been perpetrated for more than 15 years would be exposed as the travesty they are.
Our attorney general George Brandis states, as a an inviolable credo, that a barrister must give fearless and impartial advice at all times. This is a legal ideal, and perhaps one that he believes in, but the fact is that he… faces an irreconcilable conflict of interest.
So the great inquisition is over, and the tycoons have laughed all the way back to their respective banks. As the gleeful business spruikers pointed out, the politicians did not lay a glove on them.
So much for Malcolm Turnbull’s great fortnight in parliament, followed by his triumphant march through the marbled halls of New York and Washington. His claque of supporters raved, of course, but the paying customers – the voters – remained resolutely unimpressed.
The actual threat to what has been a largely harmonious multicultural society has not been the fact that a couple of MCGs full of boat people had landed: it was the way they were demonised by the politicians. The campaign for fear and loathing has worked.
A bit over a year ago, Malcolm Turnbull decided that it was all about winning. Not winning for the nation, or winning for the party, and certainly not winning for his long-held policies, but winning for himself – making himself number one.