By Andrew Bolt ~
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shuns most conservative media outlets, but gives an interview to Fairfax Leftist Peter Hartcher to reassure him he really is still a man of the Left – but Hartcher misses some of the clues:
After resisting all efforts for months to get him to address the people’s disappointment, Malcolm Turnbull has confronted Australia’s letdown with his prime ministership. But the problem, he implies in an interview, is not him. It’s us.
The dominant change in Australia’s politics in the past half-year has been the collapse in his standing with the people. He has lost the approval of some 3.25 million voters in that time, based on the fall in his approval rating in the Fairfax Ipsos poll.
Many had expected a new activism on the issues Turnbull had long been associated with, but it grew increasingly clear that he represented status quo instead…
Just pause there. By “many” Hartcher actually means many on the Left, and many of Turnbull’s media cheer squad in particular.
(P)rovided with three particulars in the interview – climate change, same sex marriage and the republic – Turnbull concurs that “those are the three issues that are often raised” with him by voters.
And? “If those are the three issues, my position has not changed” on any of them since taking the prime ministership…
“I remain committed to Australia becoming a republic,”…
“Everyone, I think, understands that I inherited a government position that there would be a plebiscite [on same-sex marriage]… I didn’t want it – it’s not part of our traditional parliamentary process.”…
And the … target of 26 to 28 per cent [emissions] reduction by 2030? “At the present time I’m satisfied that we can meet it with current suite of policies, recognising that we always have the option of buying international permits. But we are going to review [our policies] next year.”…
So if Turnbull’s position on these three key, progressive issues hasn’t changed since taking the leadership, why have millions of Australian voters slumped into a slough of disappointment?…
Are progressives too impatient for change? Do voters fail to grasp the difference between what he can do as an MP and as party leader?
That – by the way – is exactly the argument I have repeatedly put. The Left expected Turnbull to turn the Liberals into Labor-lite. He did try, but could never go the whole way – or not yet. And that’s when Hartcher misses the hint:
Do voters fail to grasp the difference between what he can do as an MP and as party leader?
“Those are conclusions for you to draw,” Turnbull responds. “I’m not arguing with you.”
In other words, Australians misunderstood Turnbull. It was a case of mistaken political identity.
False. They read Turnbull correctly, as Turnbull himself does not dispute.
What a Hartcher overestimated is how much Turnbull could force his party to the Left before the election.
After the election, though, I’d bet Turnbull will try even harder against weaker opposition. Nothing in his interview suggests he will not.
“Turnbull confidants” were weeks ago already reassuring another Fairfax writer, Tony Walker, that “once re-elected in his own right, an agile and innovative prime minister will face down his internal party critics and redefine his leadership in a single bound”.
As reader Peter of Bellevue Hill notes, Turnbull is just telling Hartcher and the Left to be patient.
Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.