Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Emperor With No Clothes

True to his word, Malcolm Turnbull has crossed the floor to vote with the government in favour of the Emmissions Trading Scheme. Independent member Rob Oakeshott also sat with the government and the bill was passed quickly. There is some irony to the fact that we have seen a rare sight in a politician actually doing exactly what he said he would do, even though it doesn’t seem to have won him many admirers. Whether it is because of genuine commitment or as some might suggest simply sheer bloody obstinacy is beside the point, as the gesture is virtually meaningless anyway. The bill would have passed without Malcolm, but his decision to stand apart from his own party probably means that there is no chance of him ever returning to the leadership.

Of course, the bill will now go to the Senate for a third time and is almost certain to be defeated for a third time, making Mr. Turnbull’s stand even more meaningless, but perhaps the grand dramatic gesture appeals to his sense of theatre. In that respect, comparisons with the Prime Minister are tempting, because Kevin Rudd also seems to have a propensity for the grand gesture, but without much substance behind it. Where Malcolm Turnbull might be seen as Don Quixote throwing himself into a futile battle which cannot be won, Kevin Rudd is increasingly looking like the Emperor with No Clothes, producing copious amounts of spin, but closer examination reveals that there is really not much of any substance there at all.

Despite all the bluster about triggering a double dissolution election, despite the repeated efforts to get the legislation passed in the Senate, there is very little chance that the government would take such a gamble when it is rejected yet again. That would involve actually DOING SOMETHING, rather than sitting around and just talking about it. More importantly, the government can no longer be certain that they would actually win. With Tony Abbott improving in the opinion polls, there is always the risk that going to the polls early could backfire badly for the government, while exercising a little patience could pay off for the government if the public starts to get tired of some of the opposition’s more buffoonish antics.

As for Malcolm Turnbull, there is still an outside chance that he could return to the Liberal Leadership if Tony Abbott fails, but the real question would be if he could be bothered wanting to.