Libs in crisis: Sunday talk shows round-up
With the Liberal Party’s rolling leadership crisis set to be resolved one way or another on Tuesday, the Sunday talk shows could have been twice their usual length this week but the hours of analysis would never be able to say as much as this photograph in the morning papers.
As The Sunday Telegraph reported, Joe Hockey went to considerable lengths to avoid being placed at John Howard’s Sydney home, circling the suburbs of North Sydney and pausing in his car before going inside. Also in the paper was a Galaxy poll showing Hockey and Turnbull neck-and-neck as preferred Liberal leaders by a considerable margin over Tony Abbott, but it also found widespread public opposition to the immediate passage of the ETS (you can see it here as a PDF).
But from the morning talk shows, two key points. First, the relationship between Hockey and Turnbull is now pivotal. And second, what happens on Tuesday’s remains anyone’s guess.
Lenore Taylor of The Australian on Insiders neatly summed up the impact of the Hockey-Howard photo on ABC’s Insiders:
I think Joe is thinking about making a run on the basis that you can’t choose your timing and you don’t want to die wondering like Peter Costello will. If he runs he will win and he will be presented as the consensus candidate. But the question is, what’s the consensus?
Her co-panellist Phil Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald said the photo was “like Luke Skywalker going to see Yoda”.
Interviews elsewhere demonstrated the protagonists in the Liberal crisis - save for Joe Hockey, who is still nowhere to be seen - are not for budging. The rhetoric from leading figures was as strong as ever. In particular Malcolm Turnbull showed that while he may be on the ropes, he’s still swinging.
Turnbull on Channel Nine
In an interview with Laurie Oakes, Turnbull said Hockey “told me as recently as last night that I have his complete support. Joe is absolutely at one with me on the need to get this legislation passed”. Translation: To become leader, Hockey’s first act will have to be one of betrayal.
You could see the appetite for the fight in Turnbull’s body language: leaning forward in his chair, left hand on hip and his clenched right hand making its customary up-and-down motion as he rammed home the reason he is determined to battle on: the climate sceptics and emissions trading opponents, led by South Australian Senator Nick Minchin, would condemn the Liberals to electoral oblivion.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Joe Hockey or Billy Bloggs as the leader. If we put the party back together in accordance with Nick Minchin’s wishes, then we will end up becoming a fringe party of the far right. That is what he’s doing to what used to be a liberal party. John Howard’s broach church is being shattered by Nick Minchin.
Hockey hasn’t spoken publicly since his much-discussed tweet on Friday morning where he sought the public’s views on the ETS. Turnbull spoke for him:
Joe believes that if this bill is not passed, nobody in our party, including him, would have the capacity to present a credible alternative climate change policy.
In the unlikely event that he retains the leadership on Tuesday, Turnbull said he would not bear grudges. “I’m not a hater,” he said. Perhaps not, but there was palpable fury in his words for his opponents. “There is a recklessness and wilfulness in these men which is going to destroy the Liberal Party,” he said. “The only way the Liberal Party can get over this is to get this issue passed. If this issue is not resolved, the climate change war that Nick Minchin and his wreckers have started will continue to destroy the Liberal Party until such time as we are destroyed by Kevin Rudd in an election.”
Kevin Andrews on Channel Ten
Andrews’ appearance on Meet the Press highlighted the intractability of the Liberal divisions. With the Senate sitting tomorrow to continue debating the ETS legislation, he flagged continuing delaying tactics by the Coalition:
We should delay it and if that means talking it out that means talking it out. Whatever we need to do to represent what I believe is the overwhelming view now of people who are talking to us and who have been polled.
He was pressed by The Age’s Michelle Grattan on the task that faces any new leader: unifying the party.
Andrews: What we’ve got to find a way through is how we can bring all of my colleagues together –
Grattan: But you can’t do that. You can’t do that.
Andrews: Well, well, I think we can Michelle. We have to look at a way that all of us can actually respect the overwhelming view of our supporters and Liberal Party supporters around Australia.
He did, albeit at some length, explain the position that any new leader will have to accommodate to placate the anti-ETS wing in the party. Here it is:
There is a range of people in the Liberal Party, some who are opposed to it, but some who say that, “Look, I’m not opposed as such to some sort of legislation but this legislation will not do the work.” For example, 750,000 small businesses in Australia are not going to be compensated properly or adequately for this ETS. It’s all right to say that lie will get some compensation for a period of time. The majority of middle-income earners in Australia are going to be worse off under this legislation. Once we have it in place, it’s going to be there forever, it’s going to cascade through the economy and it’s going to make Australia less competitive than other countries around the world. So it’s not whether or not you are a sceptic or you have a different view about the legislation. We’re saying, the majority of us, I believe in the party, are saying for a variety of reasons this piece of legislation is not going to achieve what is desired.
Julia Gillard and Paul Kelly on ABC TV
Gillard, who is acting PM with Kevin Rudd out of the country, started her interview on Insiders by saying wasn’t going to comment on the Liberal leadership. She then proceeded to spend a considerable amount of time discussing it.
She telegraphed the government’s intention to pin Joe Hockey, should he be elected leader, on his previous support for the ETS as part of Turnbull’s leadership team. She then brought up the matter of his tweet on Friday that was widely read as Hockey’s signal that he might be prepared to shift his position on the bill.
He can’t govern the nation by tweet. People don’t expect their politicians to just text out a message - imagine, you know, `What do you think the defence budget should be?’ And apparently a whole lot of tweets come back and you accept that. That’s not leadership.
Paul Kelly of The Australian, meanwhile, said he believed the decisive factor in the leadership contest was the relationship between Hockey and Turnbull. If Hockey was prepared to run against Turnbull, he would require two conditions, according to Kelly. First, “he doesn’t want blood on his hands”, so the question is “will Malcolm Turnbull step back to allow Joe Hockey to step forward”. And second, the party would need to clarify its position on the ETS before Tuesday’s partyroom meeting.
Given what we saw this morning from Turnbull and Andrews, neither condition looks likely to be satisfied. But then recent events have shown that a day, let alone a week, is a long time in politics.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…