30 November 2009

Malcolm Turnbull is not the wrecker

It is a startling revelation of how out of touch with mainstream community thinking the party of Menzies has become that Malcolm Turnbull is seen as the wrecker of the Liberal Party of Australian because he has sought to associate the Party with action on climate change.

Malcolm Turnbull is not the wrecker. The wrecker is Nick Minchin, the man who was a senior member of the Howard Government that went to the electorate in 2007 promising to introduce an emissions trading scheme, who as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate participated in Party Room deliberations that led to Ian Macfarlane being commissioned to negotiate a deal with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, and then, as cool as you like, went on prime time television to assert that the majority of Liberal Party members did not believe in man-made climate change.

We all knew there were denialists in the Liberal Party, but here was one of its most senior members putting on the public record the assertion that the majority of the Party is in that camp. Truly frightening.

Turnbull will fight them all the way, but at the time of writing it looks as though he will go down with the ship, and the amiable Joe Hockey will be drafted to “unite the Party”. He will be “supported” in that role by Peter Dutton or perhaps the current deputy, Julie Bishop. Either way, it will be a seriously lightweight team, which seems to be what the hard right of the party wants.

And what do they do next? What do they unite the Party around? Acceptance of the mainstream peer reviewed science (which is where Hockey stands and everyone knows it), or the position of the wreckers who cling to the notion that “the jury is still out on the science”, or even, “the planet is cooling”, but either way, have no intention of ever agreeing to action on greenhouse gas emissions? Palming the issue off to a Senate Committee is alright as a means of buying time (and entirely justified by the flaws in the Government’s ETS which I hope never sees the light of day), but a substantial slab of the Party has no intention of agreeing to any action ever, so what does the new leadership team take to the next election?

Turnbull is right in saying that the Liberal Party is headed for catastrophe, but his antagonists have seized the wheel of the ship on a dark night in a storm, without a thought about what happens next, and there seems no way back. They will be first into the lifeboats, he will go down with the ship.

If there is a change of leadership, there is a wonderful opportunity to outflank the Government if only the Coalition had the wit to take it. They could go to the next election promising to implement the recommendations of the Garnaut Report, rather than the dog’s breakfast and rentseeker’s picnic that is currently before the Parliament.

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