Malcolm Turnbull Is A Hostage, Not A Leader


If Turnbull is re-elected, all signs indicate the worst of his party will continue to push the agenda, writes GetUp National Director Paul Oosting.

Turnbull headed into this week promising stability. Peta Credlin’s warning was hard to miss – the Coalition is heading for chaos (she would know).

Credlin criticised the Coalition’s leadership and Malcolm Turnbull for lacking a plan if the marriage equality plebiscite is blocked in the Parliament.

“There’s no plan B”, she said.

“I think it will be a very big schism inside the Liberal Party going back to territory of 2009 (if the plebiscite wins), Malcolm knows that very well because that’s where he lost his leadership,” Ms Credlin warned.

The hard right of the party is getting ready to “create chaos” over marriage equality, she foretold.

Everyone understands that Malcolm Turnbull has a long history of supporting issues like marriage equality, it’s one of the reasons people were relieved when he took over from Abbott.

He gives the impression of existing in a reality based environment; he thinks people should be able to marry the person they love, he acknowledges the existence of global warming, he opposes overt racism.

new matilda, don't mess with marriage
An image from the Don’t Mess With Marriage booklet, handed out in Catholic schools.

But he’s over a barrel. If Turnbull wants to stay Prime Minister he needs to keep the party’s right-wingers happy and deny LGBT people the right to marry.

So what’s the plan? Is there, as Credlin suggests, “no plan B”? Or is there a plan to delay and stall the vote, make it as hard as possible to win, and then even if it does win, refuse to vote for it?

It looks like it. First, the hard right will seek to create chaos around the rules of the plebiscite – rules that will mean it’s a question people are more likely to oppose – and then create difficult conditions for it to pass.

They will put these to Parliament, and it is clear from Credlin’s comments that they don’t even care if it doesn’t pass, and if the status quo is maintained.

Assuming the plebiscite plan gets up, and Australians vote for it, the lunatic right have indicated they won’t even support it then. They won’t accept the decision of the Australian people. They will make sure that their electorate supports it first before voting to approve the will of the people.

Oh and if it does get up, then they’ll roll Turnbull. That’s essentially what Credlin was saying.

Without these bigots Malcolm Turnbull can’t be Prime Minister.

Can he stand up to them if he’s elected? There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest so.

Rather, the plebiscite farce shows Malcolm is more beholden than ever to their demands.

Malcolm must be looking nervously at the UK. In the last week we’ve seen how much damage a weak leader beholden to bigots can cause. Cameron negotiated with the anti-immigrant wing and UKIP to gain re-election. He lost control.

It’s easy to follow Credlin’s warning and see how the same could happen here. That’s because it’s hard to negotiate with zealots and ideologues. Particularly when all they want is Abbott back, bigotry and racism legalised, gay people persecuted and global warming hastened.

The Safe Schools capitulation was evidence of how, when George Christensen and Cory Bernardi throw their weight around, they get what they want.

Turnbull’s weak leadership is dangerous. If you negotiate with terrorists, you get more terrorism.

The evidence for this has gone global. The ultra right are on the march. They deny global warming, push racist views and, if Turnbull is re-elected, will force us to spend millions on legitimising bigotry by creating a false balance in the public argument.

Leadership matters. It sets the tone for the public argument. It codifies acceptable behaviour. By its nature it sets an example. By being a respectful leader, we have more respectful communities.

Reports this week of racist behaviour in the UK should be a warning.

According to Aditya Chakrabortty, writing in the Guardian, “the Leave campaign has opened up a Pandora’s box of resentment and suspicion (toward immigrants or suspected immigrants)”.

This is what happens when you set up an argument between “it’s ok to deny people equal rights” and “it’s not ok to deny people equal rights”.

On Saturday, Malcolm Turnbull takes a divided party to an election. So did Cameron. Both made the promise of a vote pandering to the interests of extremists.

It’s weak and dangerous. The impacts are on people are serious. What if the plebiscite fails? What does that say?

“We’ve had a vote. We have rights and you don’t.”

That’s not acceptable.

Malcolm needs to look carefully at what’s happened in the United Kingdom and heed Credlin’s warning. The vote could be a disaster. Giving in to the lunatics is worse.

If does win, he better be a leader. Because right now he looks like a hostage.

And you don’t need to have a subscription to Peta Credlin and Andrew Bolt to see that.

Paul Oosting is the National Director of GetUp, a 1 million strong member-driven organisation that has campaigned for progressive policy in Australia for a decade. Paul has been with GetUp since 2012, driving campaigns on renewable energy, consumer power and the Great Barrier Reef amongst others. He has ushered in a raft of innovative campaign tactics, new approaches to fundraising and the Better Power campaign, which empowers GetUp members to switch their household energy provider. Before joining GetUp, Paul led the successful campaign to stop Gunns' proposed pulp mill in Tasmania which resulted in the protection of over 160,000 hectares of Tasmania's ancient forests. You can follow Paul here: