EDITORIAL WEDNESDAY 30.07.08. How much longer can Brendan Nelson carry on the charade that he is the leader of the opposition? Of course he holds the title, but he could hardly be accused of leading the party after his performance on climate change policy. After making a big fuss about formulating an economically responsible policy which amounted to sitting on our hands and waiting to see what the rest of the world does, he has been forced to revert to the position espoused by Malcolm Turnbull. In essence he has been over-ruled by his colleagues, or as the newspapers have reported it, he has been “rolled”.
Of course, Dr. Nelson’s grip on the leadership has been in question since day one. The contest against Mr. Turnbull for the position was won by only a small margin. His public policy pronouncements have been a meandering discourse that seems to have responded to pressure from a variety of interest groups. At its most ridiculous it included the suggestion that ordinary Australian battlers should spare a sympathetic thought for the banks which have been forced into foreclosing mortgages and repossessing peoples’ houses. After all it hurts the banks just as much as it hurts the poor souls losing their homes. It was after Dr. Nelson made that particularly silly observation that I made the bold prediction that his leadership was already dead, it just hasn’t fallen over yet.
As far as I can see, there really is only one reason for Brendan Nelson to be still keeping the chair warm for his successor. It is this: the Liberal Party hasn’t yet worked out who that should be. Although it is clear that Malcolm Turnbull will one day be leader, it would seem that many in the party are still waiting to see if Peter Costello might change his mind and stick around to give it a go. If he does, then Mr. Turnbull will have wait a little longer for his turn, although that might actually be to his long term benefit.
As I have said before, I believe that Peter Costello will choose not to stay in parliament, and will retire at a time of his choosing and pursue other opportunities. In that case, the choice for the Liberal Party will become clear. But either way, Brendan Nelson’s leadership is already finished. Already, the real decisions are being made by other people.