Turnbull: a new face but same all policies

The Turnbull government is continuing the Abbott government support for the coal industry.

 Documents seen by Fairfax Media show Australia has opposed a USJapan plan that would in effect limit public financing of coal-generated power by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries to only the ‘‘cleanest’’ coal plants, mostly those classed as ‘‘ultra-supercritical’’ generators. 

This represents an opportunity for Turnbull to put some distance between his government and the coal industry and to do it in a very public forum.  But it looks as if Malcolm Turnbull is going to pass up the chance.

 The persona that Turnbull has presented to the Australian public is such a contrast to that of Tony Abbott. Turnbull is likeable,  reasonable, articulate, sophisticated and charming. It’s no wonder that is popular.

 Abbott, by contrast, was remarkably unpopular and one of the reasons was probably that he was always spoiling for a fight.  His approach to  politics was “take no prisoners”. This was played out in uncompromising attitudes in areas such as climate change and broader policy.

The change of leadership was an interesting dynamic between the desire of Liberal party parliamentarians in marginal seats to be re-elected and the dismal performance of the party in the opinion polls. Public opinion appeared to want a change from Abbott, who was massively unpopular, but they also wanted a policy change.

Abbott to Turnbull: soon people will be asking how much is changed
Abbott to Turnbull: soon people will be asking how much is changed

 This is where Turnbull is slowly but surely wasting his political capital. The refusal to back the ban on investment coal-fired power stations is a continuation of old Abbott policies.  In addition, nothing has changed in terms of the refugees in detention centres and the situation continues to deteriorate. There has been no progress on reconciliation, gay marriage, education funding or euthanasia.

 There has been some talk of tax reform but apart from “Everything is on the table”, the government appears to lack direction despite some pretty clear and well accepted ideas about how to fix the structural problems of the budget.

 Unless Turnbull can begin to be “action man” and be less of “schmooze man”, his party will quickly be returned to the parlous position it was in under Abbott.

It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to stamp his authority on the Liberal party. At the moment, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison appear to be making the running in policy terms and it’s not a pretty or impressive sight.


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