Not this time. He had the potential. But even as he started tying the rope for himself on the ETS, he was still reffo bashing and playing to an even darker, more right wing audience than the ETS doubters.
So it actually makes no sense that he made a stand here. And while it may be tempting for we of the left to allow him the glory of his purported martyrdom, seen in context his conduct has little to commend it.
He chose to join the party that hogs the nomenclature of 'liberal' while taking, in most cases, conservative positions. He then fought hard, successfully, to lead it. True, he argues that he came to reform and modernise, but if anyone out there had the contacts, wealth, reputation and sheer bull headed confidence to start a new party it would have been him.
More importantly, when things started to sour, post Utegate, he did not hesitate to go into the muck with the very worst of the Right's dog whistling, race baiting, divisive, misleading use of the wretched asylum seeker as political pawn. Never mind the ETS, this was the real test of his 'liberal' character, ethics and bona fides. He failed spectacularly. He got into bed with Sophie Mirabella, she gave him fleas then unsurprisingly joined the deserters yesterday.
The 'fleas' will never leave him. No matter how high minded he feels about his present stand, it will always stain his record that he failed a handful of miserable people, fleeing a well documented war, well documented concentration camps in Sri Lanka, well documented bigotry and official discrimination, and in the process failed small L liberalism and any notion of modernising his party.
Which begs the question- why such a vehement stand on the ETS? I think it is an incredible case of pride and poor political judgement, rather than a noble stand for the future of humanity. I may be wrong, none of us can see inside Turnbull's head. But leaving the policy aside, and my personal preference for progressive action on emissions, his conduct in relation to his party and fellow parliamentarians was appalling, aggressive, and ultimately delusional. And surely if he had offered a conscience vote on the issue there would have been enough votes to get the ETS over the line, while allowing the god-and-sheep botherers their own version of integrity.
He's on his way down now. I don't mean to dig into him too hard, because on his failings I feel disappointment as much as anything. I resent, but understand, the unpleasant pressure and political compromise that led him to the path he took on refugees. I don't believe he believed in the gutter trawling policy position he allowed attack dogs like Mirabella to take.
He may yet spring up in politics somewhere, in a guise that more closely matches his more progressive liberal politics, perhaps even a party or organisation that would swear itself off race baiting, flag waving, god bothering and reffo bashing. You never know. And if he does, good luck to him...
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