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Wednesday 19 October 2016

Malcolm's mixed messaging

What is he up to? After several weeks seeming to take at least some control and demonstrating some core Liberal values Malcolm is falling back to old habits.

His overseas trip showcased Malcolm the statesman. Mixing it with the leaders of the world he cut a fine figure. Astute, confident and willing to address issues directly and with conviction. He affirmed Australia's position on border control, despite the wide criticism it had received from many, and he "sold" the policies well. He was the very model of the Liberal leader of old, his mentor of sorts, "we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come".

So too his attack on Green/Labour renewables policies following the unprecedented total blackout in South Australia. He was unwavering and caustic in his critique of the strategy that claims aims for renewables at any cost. Yes, he had a good reason to do so. After an unprecendented total blackout of an entire state, that despite the attempted deflection by the guilty , was inexcusable caused at least in part by SA Labour government policies.

Given his personal stance on climate change, one would have thought it went against the grain for Malcolm, Nevertheless he seemed to enter the fray with gusto and with piercing logic. Of course that doesn't mean the Left simple conceded defeat on the contrary they went on at great volume obfuscating , denying, and generally excusing the inexcusable. Still it was there for all to see, we may all believe in responsible climate change action, many will also believe in renewables, but definitely not at all costs. We must have electricity!

So after this most welcome change in fortune why is he wavering on SSM?  On SSM Malcolm seems to be trying to have it both ways. He avers the stated policy of the government is to have a plebiscite.
He repeatedly re-iterates the facts; -

  • a plebiscite on SSM was taken to the election
  • the government has a mandate for the plebiscite
  • a majority of voters supported the plebiscite on SSM
  • Ireland had a successful referendum that saw people come together

Yet, and it is still causing him enormous political problems. He has not and seems unwilling to state clearly and convincingly that as far is his government is concerned it is the plebiscite or nothing.

He has been given plenty of opportunities to do so. No interview goes by without the press asking him if he will rule out alternatives. He has refused to do so. His apparent wavering has caused the opposition to seize the political opportunity to create mischief. They have refused to support the plebsicite and enlisted their leftist army to attack the government for not letting parliamentarians have an unfettered conscience vote. Yes this is politicking plain and simple. Yet Shorten seems to be on a winner, at least for now.

At this stage it is the government that is being blamed for this 'postponement' of SSM. In the long term that may be a different matter, but for now the game for both the opposition and the press is to make Malcolm blink.

So far Malcolm has stood firm, but is making his own party nervous. They see the wavering indecisive vacillating Malcolm. The politically naive Malcolm, the Malcolm who failed to handle the politics of Tax reform or the budget, or the election campaign with any convincing aptitude.

Leaders are decisive, they command respect by willingness to state their position with conviction.
Malcolm started his reign with great expectations, support from the press and an opposition in disarray.

Yet after 12 months, after a much to narrow electoral victory, his party standing is poor even with its own supporters, the opposition is in the ascendant , and the loyal press though still willing to cut him slack question his political nous.

Although it should have been done a lot earlier, he could simply remove one of the questions of his leadership by simply declaring "on SSM it is the plebiscite or nothing".

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