Revenge takes toll of another PM

vijay badhwar - malcolm turnbull



By Vijay Badhwar

Australia has a new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, its 29th and fifth in as many years. It’s, indeed, become extremely difficult for PMs to survive their full terms being under constant media gaze with media cycle running non-stop 24 hours a day, looking for and also creating news.

With the 54-44 party room win, Malcolm Turnbull has settled a score of six years ago when he lost to Tony Abbott by a lone casting vote. The successful conservative spill at the time was a result of his backing the emissions trading scheme that did not toe the party line.

Tony Abbott has been an unpopular leader, majority of his policies not cutting ice with the voters. Opinion poll after poll, some 30 of them, drifted him into the abyss, not made easier by his own gaffes of the ”˜knights and dames’ kind, or a Prince Phillips knighthood which hardly anyone would care about in Australia. His two budgets, especially the first one, were not accepted by people and caused much headache for the Government.

Abbott Government started unnecessary controversies ”“ people’s right to be bigots, proposed amendments to Section 18C of the Constitution, and again on retention of metadata on the grounds of security that played on the theme of creating unwarranted fear among the people. His threats to the independence of ABC and ban on his cabinet from appearing on the Q&A programme was way over the top, as was his undiplomatic language of shirt-fronting the Russian President. That only highlighted his own immaturity and of his Government.

The Government, however, was very proactive on international issues, signing major free-trade agreements. The relations with India especially improved during the Abbott years with several Australian leaders, including Mr Abbott, visiting India and the Indian PM, Mr Narendra Modi, reciprocating the gesture last year. The Australian Government cleared the nagging issue of uranium export to India and welcomed many large industrial houses from India to set shop on Australian soil.

The Abbott Government often trumpeted their success on ”˜stopping the boats’, but was silent on the means that were adopted. The minister at the time, Scott Morrison, created a media blackout on the pretext of it being a ”˜defence matter’ except for appearing on the Government’s favoured media outlet, Radio 2GB. The Government sources also selectively leaked news to Murdoch’s News Limited, a practice that eroded confidence and caused conflicts in the cabinet which did not pay in the long run.

Ultimately, it was Abbott’s confidante, Julie Bishop, a highly popular and well-regarded politician who brought down his downfall. She sounded it to him on the fateful day that he no longer enjoyed her confidence and of many others in the party room who would vote against him later that evening.

Malcolm Turnbull, unlike Mr Abbott, is calm and calculated, suave and articulate, and according to political commentators, also ambitious, arrogant and revengeful. He is principled on issues like climate change and same sex marriage. The Indian community in Australia will particularly like the republican sentiment in Mr Turnbull but without any initiative coming soon in this regard as he has committed no action on his part until Queen Elizabeth’s reign ends.


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