Barnaby Joyce’s victory of wills
over Brendan Nelson’s VSU bill means Nelson’s student union obsession
goes the way of the conscience vote on RU-486, now to be delayed until
February. By which time the Prime Minister will have had time to
reshuffle his ministry, despite his pro-forma denials last night.


Depending on the PM’s whim, by then Tony Abbott may have been moved
from the Health portfolio. Seems some people think that further debate
on the abortion issue is not going to do great things for Abbott’s
future leadership cred. The thinking goes that it would be much better
to wait until he is in a real position of power before he expounds his
position on the issue any further.

Further, the thinking goes, the PM could move Nelson (he’s a GP, after
all) to Health and Abbott to Education and defuse (confuse?) both RU486
and VSU debacles.

And then there’s Malcolm Turnbull. We didn’t attend his address to last
Friday’s Press Club annual dinner, but veteran gallery observer Rob
Chalmers writes in his “Inside Canberra” bulletin today:

Malcolm Turnbull was a hit at the press Gallery’s annual
dinner last Friday night. The general view was his speech was one of
the better performances of recent times and up there with that of
Senator George Brandis three years ago.

It is not telling tales out of school to say Turnbull left his audience
in no doubt he intended to press on with his campaign for major tax
reform, despite the Treasurer so publicly (and stupidly) deriding the
Turnbull research on tax. Turnbull can now be seen as the champion of
tax reform with Costello the major opponent.

Something for both Costello and Howard to consider over the silly season. Costello, in particular, who petulantly turned down the gallery’s invitation to speak at their dinner.

Peter Fray

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