A six-month trial. From now until March is probably what Malcolm Turnbull has bought himself with his narrow win in today’s Liberal Party ballot. The new leader will be under just as much pressure as Brendan Nelson to show he might be a winner. If the pollsters keep reporting the same findings as they have of late then the leadership mutterings will re-emerge when the Parliament resumes after the summer break. In fact the closer it gets to the next election the more frenetic will become the speculation if it seems a defeat for the Coalition is inevitable. Brooding away on the backbench will be Dr Nelson who is unlikely to have lost his ambition. And, who knows, there might still be that great spoiler himself — Peter Costello — waiting to be welcomed as the Liberal Party’s messiah.

Courageous and correct. A few words of praise for the political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald Peter Hartcher. With most journalists caught by surprise when Brendan Nelson called on his leadership spill, there were few predictions about what the outcome would be. The only one I noticed this morning was the assessment of Peter Hartcher that Malcolm Turnbull would end up with the numbers.

A bad time to be leaving. Kevin Rudd will give Malcolm Turnbull a dream start by flying off to New York next week to big note himself at the United Nations. I am sure that voters do not mind their Prime Minister making an occasional sortie overseas but the jokes have already started about us having an absentee leader. For the mob it is a matter of no consequence whether Australia ends up with a seat on the UN Security Council some years down the track.

Surreal feeling. The Wall Street Journal called it “a day in which the U.S. financial system was shaken to its core.” The US government’s decision to reject a bailout for Lehman touched off a nerve-wracking test of the U.S. financial system’s ability to hold itself together. Lehman said it intends to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America. A deepening credit crisis. One of the most perilous trading environments in decades. Wall Street was dealing with surreal sums of money while over in the Australian House of Representatives proceedings were marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream. In the face of a real financial crisis that will end goodness knows where, our politicians were pretending there was some crisis for the country’s old age pensioners.

Peter Fray

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