September 8th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Caution with gender transitioning: children's futures at risk

EDITORIAL Turnbull the architect of his own demise

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coal-Hand ScoMo pulls off an accidental coup

ENERGY Daniel Andrews' sun worship turns delusional

MEDICINE AND POLITICS Sacrificial Virgins: Is Gardasil even necessary?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Turkey-U.S. dispute further destabilises Middle East

GLOBAL BAILOUT Follow those zeroes! U.S. Federal Reserve doled out $US29 trillion to save the world

POLITICS AND SOCIETY Business next to fall to 'progress'

OPINION The Victorian ALP observed from up close

SPECIAL BOOK REVIEW Assault on Kokoda Track heroes fails evidence test

BOOK LAUNCH Live not by lies. An appraisal of Patrick J. Byrne's new book, Transgender: One Shade of Grey

CINEMA In praise of horror: That most visceral of genres

MUSIC Aretha Franklin: A singer of spiritual intensity

BOOK REVIEW A self-defeating experiment?

BOOK REVIEW The four firms that rule the world


EDITORIAL Power companies in clover after closures

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Turnbull the architect of his own demise

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, September 8, 2018

Across the community, there is a deep sense of unhappiness over the internal conflict that saw the replacement of another Prime Minister by his own colleagues, the fourth time it has happened in Australia over the past nine years.

Australia now has its sixth Prime Minister in 11 years, an extraordinary churn rate which will cause many to lose faith in the present government – unless it can redeem itself.

No doubt Bill Shorten will capitalise on the replacement of Malcolm Turnbull, without once referring to his role in the overthrow of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in 2010, and the overthrow of Rudd’s replacement, Julia Glllard, in 2013.

Scott Morrison’s election is a move in the right direction. Unlike his predecessor, he can appeal to all sides, has political judgement and conservative principles. His challenge will be to move quickly to gain the faith of the Australian people, with an election to be held sometime over the next 9 months.

A key to this will be whether he is able to unite the party, something Malcolm Turnbull did not try to achieve after excluding his predecessor Tony Abbott, and other senior ministers Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz from any positions in his government.

The hard fact is that Malcolm Turnbull succumbed to self-inflicted injuries, beginning with his ongoing war against Tony Abbott and others, creating a permanent sense of crisis within the Liberal Party that turned any comment from the backbench into a challenge to the then Prime Minister’s leadership.

Climate change

This was compounded by Turnbull’s prioritisation of the Paris Climate Agreement over the need for cheap power in Australia. This was seen in his abject failure to do anything to avert the consequences of the closure of large coal-fired power stations in South Australia and Victoria, which closures contributed to a massive surge in electricity prices for both business and households.

It also created windfall profits for companies like AGL, which is set to close the giant Liddell Power Station in New South Wales in 2022, compounding the shortages of base-load power.

Turnbull also showed he was out of touch with mainstream Australia by offering tax cuts to large corporations.

There is general agreement that large multinational corporations, including Google and Apple, have been heavily involved in tax avoidance, while the scandalous behaviour of some of Australia’s largest banks and financial institutions – unveiled at the banking royal commission – made tax cuts for large corporations politically poisonous.

Yet Malcolm Turnbull persisted with them almost to the bitter end.

Turnbull’s support was also damaged by his vigorous support for multiculturalism, at a time when the large cities, where most migrants settle, are bursting at the seams and suffering from acute infrastructure problems, particularly in outer areas.

Gang violence associated with ethnic minorities in Sydney and Melbourne, particularly, reinforced these concerns.

The Turnbull government was also too slow to support struggling Australian farmers, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, after the failure of this year’s autumn rains.

The disaffection with the Turnbull government was reflected in the outcome of the Super Saturday by-elections held on July 28.

Of the five by-elections, the Liberals were expected to win one or two from Labor, and perhaps a third from an independent in a safe Liberal seat in Adelaide. In the event, the Liberals lost all of them.

In hindsight, the by-election defeats probably sealed Malcolm Turnbull’s fate.

It was clear to Liberal MPs that, if Turnbull could not win by-elections where his party was well ahead in the weeks beforehand, he would never win a federal election where it was starting behind.

Leadership speculation intensified in the weeks after the by-elections, apparently spooking Malcolm Turnbull unexpectedly to announce that he was calling a leadership “spill” at the normal party meeting on Tuesday August 21.

Although his closest allies were clearly aware of his intention, even fellow Cabinet members were taken by complete surprise when Turnbull announced this move, which, he clearly anticipated, would see him returned unopposed or with an overwhelming majority of the party room.

In the event, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton challenged Mr Turnbull, and to the surprise of almost everyone, secured 35 votes in the party room to Turnbull’s 48. From that moment, Malcolm Turnbull’s fate was sealed.

Dutton rightly said that he was not given a fair chance to canvass support, and asked for another meeting specifically to discuss the leadership. Turnbull refused, and made the utterly unprecedented demand that Dutton collect signatures from a majority of Liberal MPs and Senators, before he would call another meeting.

Turnbull’s action provoked further resignations from his ministry, and eventually, Peter Dutton submitted a petition signed by 43 parliamentarians to Turnbull, who thereupon called a new meeting and fell on his sword.

In the event, Scott Morrison, a social conservative who had supported Tony Abbott as Prime Minister and held the post of Treasurer in Turnbull’s Cabinet, nominated for the leadership, along with then Deputy leader Julie Bishop from Western Australia, and Peter Dutton.

After Julie Bishop was eliminated, Scott Morrison was elected Prime Minister by 45 votes to Peter Dutton’s 40.

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.

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