Malcolm Turnbull is risking it all on a double dissolution gamble.
The Prime Minister’s threat to the Senate, delivered this morning, might prompt the crossbench to pass the ABCC and registered organisations bills. More likely, the nation will head to a double dissolution election to be held over what will in effect be 10 gruelling weeks of campaigning. This might deliver Turnbull authority in his own right as elected Prime Minister — or he might crash to a defeat that seemed impossible mere weeks ago.
This is not what voters expected, or wanted, from Turnbull. His coup to remove Tony Abbott was welcomed across Australia because it promised to usher in the kind of stable, mature government that Abbott himself had promised and completely failed to deliver.
Turnbull said he would treat the electorate with respect and conduct intelligent and informed debate about complex issues. He promised to explain the need for economic reform as well as the solutions, without resorting to Abbott-era sloganeering or fear campaigns.
He has delivered none of this. Although it’s hardly Turnbull’s fault that Abbott is conducting a destabilisation campaign, the drift and lack of direction that has marked the Turnbull government this year is a product of Turnbull’s own failings and those of his ministers and advisers. Now, in order to regain control of the political narrative, he is threatening to send the country to an early election.
Above all else, voters want politicians to govern, and they were prepared to give Turnbull the free air to do just that. Turnbull’s strategy might appeal to political commentators inside the Canberra bubble, but to the average Australian the constant electioneering — including shifting the budget to suit political needs — is deeply unappealing. Australia’s political system is starting to look permanently self-obsessed, and voters are turning off in droves.