One of the more infuriating moments in sport is when your opponent invites you to “look at the scoreboard’‘.

Twelve months is an eternity when you're Malcolm Turnbull

This smarmy gesture suggests a quick punch to the midriff might be called for but you know how that would end up. In politics, this “look at the scoreboard’’ taunt is delivered daily.

And it too produces some fairly self-destructive responses including infighting, silly public comments, and acts of straight-out treachery.

Of course, the real scoreboard is the one on polling day. But given the length of this particular game, interim scores, such as opinion polls, and perhaps the odd by-election, are keenly watched. So it has not escaped anyone’s attention on the Coalition side that, as Malcolm Turnbull clicked over a full year in the job, their score has not gone up at all.

That’s right. After going to all the trouble and trauma of replacing the under-performing Brendan Nelson one year ago, Malcolm Turnbull, the man Prime Minister Kevin Rudd regards as a “professionally diagnosed’’ sufferer of narcissistic personality disorder, has achieved, well, basically nothing.

Being ten points down in the two party preferred vote with a leader in negative territory is an uncomfortable if, a not uncommon opposition experience during the first year after an election. But it was sufficiently worrying to push desperate Liberals to move on their leader just nine months in.

The catalyst then, somewhat ironically, was the mess Dr Nelson had made of their position on emissions trading. Yet even here on this specific policy matter not much has changed. They are still in a big pickle over emissions trading and are now proposing to do pretty much the same thing - that is, nothing in isolation of global action and certainly nothing this year - unless forced that is.

Confusion still reigns. Little wonder then that Liberals are tearing their hair out. The frustration is showing up everywhere - not least in question time where the tactics have bordered on the bizarre.

Dr Nelson, of course left this week delivering the third and final act of his triple-treat gift to his successor. In so doing, he has once again proved that revenge is indeed, a dish best served cold. The first part of course, was the decision to bail out before the election thus causing a by-election - something he would not have welcomed as leader.

Yes, the Liberals will retain his Sydney seat of Bradfield-it is one of their very safest-but there is always a risk for Malcolm Turnbull that the Liberal vote could drop which would be damaging.

With his imminent departure came the second part of the gift: a license to speak his mind as he heads out the door. This has proved excruciating for Mr Turnbull. First there was an astoundingly frank newspaper interview in August wherein the good doctor described his successor as exhibiting a “narcissistic personality disorder” - to the PM’s obvious delight.

Then it got worse. This week, he sparked a mini-revolt in the Coalition party-room with an impassioned plea for them not to buckle to the threat of a double dissolution by negotiating on the emissions trading scheme. That saw more than a dozen MPs emboldened to speak frankly along the same lines.

Any progress Mr Turnbull may have thought he’d made towards nuancing their position to avoid handing Labor that trigger, went up in a puff of greenhouse gases.

For good measure, Dr Nelson (who by this stage remember, already knew he was taking the diplomatic posting) again reinforced that message on Wednesday evening in his final parliamentary speech observing forcefully that pushing ahead of the rest of the world on emission trading defied both common sense and the national interest.

It was the perfect set up for the final leg of the triple-treat just 18 hours later when he and Kevin Rudd announced he was now going to work for Labor. Talk about slick. The message to the anti-Turnbull forces had been hold your ground fellas even as he was packing his bags and preparing to jump ship to become an advocate for Rudd Government policy - including on emissions trading - in Europe.

Amid the upturned furniture and spilt drinks, bemused Liberals are left staring into the middle-distance: languishing in the polls with a severely weakened leadership, and a climate change policy that not only lacks majority support, but could yet lead to political ruin.

Those, including Mr Turnbull himself, who are hoping a path through this mess will somehow reveal itself, are deluding themselves. Despite the pretence, Kevin Rudd has no intention of bending on emission trading or in any way making this easy for the Opposition leader.

Indeed, his antipathy for Mr Turnbull has grown as his promotion of Dr Nelson and even potentially of Peter Costello has demonstrated. Both are in part motivated by the immediate contra-distinction they create with Mr Turnbull.

If anything, the threat of double-dissolution election re-emerged this week just as Mr Turnbull’s internal opponents became more entrenched.

A year after being rolled for not making enough progress, it might now be Dr Nelson who is suggesting a quick glance at the scoreboard.

You can only guess what Mr Turnbull would like to do in response. Word is, he’s not the only one.

Most commented


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    • John says:

      06:53am | 19/09/09

      I don’t think Turnbull cares less about what Nelson does or thinks, and why should he. Nelson just looks like a jilted lover and Rudd looks like a spoilt little brat who’s trying to be a smarty pants. People who play games and think they’re better than everyone else will get their karma, and it’s not a good look. It reminds of school days. Who’s running the country?

    • Mark says:

      07:15am | 19/09/09

      The score: Brendan Nelson, 1, Malcolm Turnbull, 0
      How do you work that out?? Nelson thought he could be leader of the opposition and got chucked out. They chose Turnbull instead, doesn’t that make it Turnbull 1 and Nelson 0.

    • Kimberley says:

      07:26am | 19/09/09

      The Prime Minister seems to be more interested in playing games with the opposition than doing his job. One day he is going to get that pathetic chessy grin wiped right off his face and I personally can’t wait.

    • Keith M says:

      07:34am | 19/09/09

      Rudds and Nelsons attitude of “HA HA COP THAT!” is childish in the extreme, especially coming from a Prime Minister.

    • Neil says:

      10:09am | 19/09/09

      I thought Malcolm Turnbull already had 1 up on Nelson, didn’t Turnbull get his job after Nelson proved hopeless? Good Luck Nelson selling Australias ETS to the EU that you don’t even agree with.

    • Luke says:

      11:38am | 19/09/09

      Mark - your mate Kevin will be so pleased with another anti Turnbull story dished up….well done again

    • Jane says:

      01:41pm | 19/09/09

      Now looks like we all love Nelson on the Labor side. How fickle. It looks like political games rule over substance from Rudd.

    • Michael says:

      02:08pm | 19/09/09

      When Turnbull got Nelson dumped, his winning margin over the good doctor was not much more than Nelson’s over him at the previous leadership spill. Turnbull moved too quickly, just as he did with the Grech email. Impulsive, not inclined to truly listen to others outside the family’s advice, Turnbull’s actions inside Parliament and out continue to reiterate his essential ‘problem’. He believed he was the great swayer, the man of such manifest genius for standing out from the crowd that the crowd would spontaneously fall in behind him. But crowd’s love winners, and it was a mere splinter group within his own crowd that edged him in front of Brendan Nelson. Now, standing behind him, all his crowd sees is a man whose manifest genius appears more for grabbing the spoils of others’ hard work, for getting out early before business deals turned to muck. Any bets he won’t do the same when he twigs that the Coalition is only behind him because he put himself out front? His problem is, however, that you can presciently jump a sinking commercial ship, and walk away with a stuffed bank account. But when a political party fails, its leader is offered no credit at all. He led to a loss, he’s a liability, he’s out. Turnbull cannot conceive of himself failing. It can’t happen to him. But this makes him inflexible, doesn’t allow him to consider alternate strategies to the self-positioning to preeminence stance he’s always taken. With this sort of thinking, Waterloo is a village in Belgium, and he’s never going there. Unlike his predecessor, who will have the luxury of visiting the site if he so chooses, just for the fun of it.

    • Merilyn says:

      02:21pm | 19/09/09

      I’d be quite happy to see the Liberals getting such a bashing normally, but with Kevin (i’m the Best) Rudd at the helm of Labor I’m starting to wish it was the other way around. oh well…....

    • Kingston L says:

      03:29pm | 19/09/09

      Keep crushing Turnbull, it won’t be long and they will have to get rid of him at last!

    • Marcus says:

      06:28pm | 19/09/09

      I can’t wait to see the last of Turnbull, but Rudd will need to be careful and slow down a bit on him or the public are going to get sick of Rudd and his bullying attitude towards him. Turnbull will be thrown out by his own party anyway, I’d say sometime early next year.

    • lobi says:

      05:35pm | 20/09/09

      I see the liberals get up early for first post. Looks like they are taking their lead from the GOP and FOX and are straight in with the insults and disrespect for the elected leader of the country.

    • Dan says:

      07:00pm | 20/09/09

      I love that the liberals are so defunctional. May they be out of government for at least the next decade and a half!

    • Chris says:

      09:19pm | 20/09/09

      Oh, lobi (5.35pm), that can’t pass without comment. I’m sure you know this, but the people of Australia vote for their local members. Rudd is elected only by the voters in his seat of Griffith. It’s the party that elects the leader who becomes PM or Leader of the Opposition.

    • Daniel says:

      09:04am | 21/09/09

      I’m sure Turnbull is getting a very healthy tax payer funded salary and other income from other places. I think he will survive. he is not short of a dollar I’m sure.


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