Malcolm Turnbull gay marriage

He was the headline writers’ dream — and great cartoon fodder — as he danced on the Libs’ policy hot coals: Malcolm in the middle/in a muddle, etc.

If he’d stuck to the middle, as he is now saying Menzies always envisaged for his party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, would, I believe, be looking healthier in the polls.

It was the job-protecting lurch into the narrow, vindictive, divisive, ultra-right wing world of Tony Abbott, and Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews and George Christensen, that made thousands of voters who had applauded his ascendancy decide that that emperor had no clothes. 

It is no exaggeration that there was a genuine feeling of excitement, close to adulation, when Turnbull toppled Abbott.

[Matthewson: Turnbull just pulled a Credlin and reset the agenda]

Many liberal Liberals, middle-grounders and some Labor voters thought here was a clever, intelligent, successful businessman occupying The Lodge. And a republican to boot. And an advocate of same-sex marriage. A political match made in heaven for many voters. 

OK, he looked like a candidate from Central Casting, but was that so bad? He didn’t eat raw onions nor walk like he’d just got off a horse. 

The history re-writers forget that after Abbott had 39 dissenters in that February 2015 “empty chair” leadership challenge, even some of his current boosters were calling him a “dead man walking” — so on the nose he was not re-electable. 

And now his successor is halfway through the number of bad public opinion polls that he (rashly) used as a major reason for ousting his predecessor. 

***

I have written before that, for Turnbull, it is past time for a Gough-ian crash or crash-through. And the best way to start that is to just get out of the way. Let the Dean Smith same-sex marriage bill take to the field. (I not only offered Smith my support, I offered to co-sponsor his bill if he needed me.)

Give your government tribe a conscience vote in “the other place”. It would fly through the Senate, could be law by the end of August, and Neil Diamond’s September Morn could be playing at same-sex weddings all over Australia. Within weeks. 

Malcolm, at least you’d be remembered as someone positive. For triggering something that 75% of Australians want. You might even get invited back to the gay Mardis Gras next year. 

Unless of course, the right wingers’ rumours are true that — to get the numbers to replace Abbott, you implacably sold your soul to the Nats with a guarantee to never to abandon a plebiscite. Maybe even in writing.

***

Unlike The Donald, I can stay away from Twitter, and I have on the Pell court saga. I’m glad to see he has returned to Australia to face charges and “have my day in court”. (The Vatican sanctuary story was a furphy.) The only time I have tweeted about it was this: “Been trying to stay out of this but: Predictable stuff from Pell PR teams like Bolt and Devine. Don’t insult genuine responsible jurors”. They conveniently ignore the fact that the High Court ruled the opposite in the Father Glennon case. I should know that; they were my media reports about that child rapist that prompted the High Court decision.

Which leads me to THAT book: Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell.

 [Is Andrew Bolt right? Would 12 random Victorians be too biased to judge Pell’s fate?]

Louise Milligan’s book has rightfully been withdrawn from sale by Melbourne University Press pending Pell’s trial. I took a copy to Thailand for a relaxing/reading break, and it was the least-relaxing holiday read I could have packed.

This book is one of the most forensic, explosive, historically detailed tomes I have ever read. MUP were brave to get it out there. This, and Pell’s trial, will make the final royal commission report vital, viral reading. And then I’m chairing a joint parliamentary committee into the National Redress Scheme to make sure the churches and other institutions pay the victims for what they condoned and ignored.

***

Speaking of courts, there’s another big court case currently underway in Sydney: the transvaginal mesh trial involving Johnson and Johnson and 700 women.

I’ll avoid commenting except to point out I am on record — in a Senate speech last year — saying this is “the biggest medical scandal affecting Australian women since Thalidomide”. There will be public hearings around the country starting next month after the Senate passed my demand for a Senate inquiry. 

***

That pug-nosed American actor Karl Malden used to spruik on telly for the American Express card and earnestly warn us to “never leave home without it”.

In recent years, I’ve felt that way about my laptop. Wouldn’t/couldn’t leave the apartment without it. And that’s surprising, since I was one of those technologically dyslexic fogeys who didn’t know what @ or dot.com meant and thought Microsoft was a new upgrade of Sorbent toilet paper.

Last week, I did the unthinkable. Maybe subjectively. I went to Thailand on vacation and forgot my laptop. Karl Malden, you were wrong. It was bliss.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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