Last night Malcolm Turnbull should have flown back to Sydney, gone home and had a few stiff drinks. It has been a hell of a week for him. And this time, it wasn’t of his own making.

It should have been a good week. He stared the Government down over the RET bill, negotiated a compromise with Wong and Combet, and steered the compromise through his partyroom, even bringing on board the Nationals, who haven’t supported the RET. Victories are few and far between and Turnbull and his colleagues should have been celebrating one.

Instead the extent to which his backbench is bordering on the dysfunctional and uncontrollable was on painfully public display in Question Time on Wednesday when many of his WA MPs staged a bizarre walk-out, only to stage an even more bizarre walk-back-in-again minutes later.

Turnbull also walked into a sucker punch on China, mere hours before the Government unveiled the biggest deal in Australian history. But it was Julie Bishop who went back to make sure that, if she hadn’t made a fool of herself enough on China already, she was going to finish the job, over the Rebiya Kadeer visa.

And still the ETS bill looms for a party that can’t even agree that climate change is happening.

Turnbull may just be the most talented Opposition leader Australia has ever had. Quite how it has gone so badly wrong will intrigue political scientists for years to come. But for all those who cite Turnbull’s “misjudgement” as the cause, it’s clear that the problems are by no means all with the leader. It’s those he’s leading who need to take a long hard look at themselves in the fortnight before Parliament sits again.

Peter Fray

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