Malcolm Turnbull: Lack of Leadership and Purpose

by on 30 August, 2016

By Rowan Cravey

As someone who doesn’t mind if a Prime Minister isn’t the most charismatic tool in the shed, I expect them to have an agenda and a purpose. I think most people would probably agree with that. In the lead up to attaining the leadership of a major party, no matter the country, one should at least have a clear bedrock of purpose to their tenure.

Malcolm Turnbull lacks this.

So let’s go through the context of the now to see how Turnbull is failing to provide ample reason why he should remain the Prime Minister and lacks purpose.

Context number 1: At the beginning of 2015, the Liberal Party had a leadership spill. The only problem was that there was no candidate. Or wasn’t there? While Turnbull did not put his hand up for the challenge, the spill paved the way for him to eventually claim the leadership of the Liberal Party. Tony Abbott attempted to win back the party room’s favour over the next few months, but ultimately failed to do so.

During this time of several months, if he had not been doing so before, Turnbull should have been thinking about what he would do as Prime Minister. I find it difficult to believe that he would have had no time set aside to formulate what his leadership would be. From what can be observed over the past twelve months, it would seem that he did not do this.

Context number 2: After winning the leadership in September 2015, he continued governing for a few months. During this time, little happened. Even after providing one of the reasons for his successful challenge to Abbott as “providing the economic leadership Australia needs”, there was very little talk of taxation reform. Even when the interesting and potentially important idea of a state income tax came up, it evaporated away in less than forty-eight hours after it was raised. There wasn’t much talk of serious welfare reform during this time, and social issues like freedom of speech and the advocating of Western values took a back seat.

So from the time Turnbull became Prime Minister to May of 2016, he had not offered a bedrock of what he wanted to achieve in the long term, and only piecemeal changes to budgetary settings, none of which would have adequately dealt with the debt or deficit.

Context number 3: The election campaign to now. Over the course of the campaign from May to July, the Liberals basically boiled down to the failed ‘Innovation and Agility’ mantra, a company tax cut over the course of ten years and maybe two mentions of the ABCC and Registered Organisations legislation that the entire double dissolution was predicated upon. Again, very little talk of serious taxation reform, welfare reform or anything that would attack the debt. Not to mention the passing up of attacks against Labor when they arrived (i.e. their history on immigration for example).

So here we are. Going on a year of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership, and quite frankly, little to show for it. There has been no economic advocacy of any note, save for the lip service of needing to lower the debt, ignoring the fact that the Treasurer has taken that mantle up.

But perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps there have been many reasons to explain this ongoing lethargy of leadership. Let’s go back to English class and compare and contrast another new Prime Minister. Theresa May of Great Britain.

Since rising to the leadership of the Conservative Party, May has upended a ban on grammar schools, has committed to leave the EU without going to a parliamentary vote, where Labour and the House of Lords would spit in the face of the people and force Britain to remain in the EU, has ordered public servants to get on with their job for Brexit and all this in under a year of being Britain’s Prime Minister. May had and has purpose and a will to implement what she believes in.

This decisiveness and taking the reins as Prime Minister is in stark contrast to Turnbull’s time thus far.

This brings me to the final part to my opinion: what to do about it? What does the phrase ‘It’s Time’ refer to?

There are two options. The first answer is to change leaders again. Yes, this would be very risky and could send the Liberals back even further in what the stand for and the direction of which they live by, but if Turnbull is incapable of actually changing the current situation and providing a leadership of purpose, then someone else must fill those shoes more fittingly.

The second is for Turnbull to seriously re-evaluate what he must do as leader of the Liberal Party and as Prime Minister. A reawakening of both Classical Liberal/Libertarian and Conservative advocacy is a necessity. Being a Moderate only resigns one to being rudderless and without purpose. Turnbull should have a movie night and watch the Matrix series (third one isn’t so good, but one doesn’t not finish a story), and listen to Agent Smith. For as evil as he might be, he has a point. According to him, it is:

 “…purpose that created us, purpose that connects us, purpose that pulls us, that guides us, that drives us; it is purpose that defines, purpose that binds us.”

If Turnbull takes this to heart, he should find the direction his government must take to remain in office, but more importantly, to govern Australia for its prosperity and success.

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