This sounds crude, and I am loath to use the vernacular, but maybe, finally, the time has come for Malcolm Turnbull to “grow a pair”.
He’s ticking away, inevitably, to losing Newspolls 29 and 30 — which he used as a major excuse for knifing Tony Abbott. And, even though Abbott was a dead man walking, he and his 2GB barrackers aren’t even waiting for the last two shoes to drop before white-anting the PM. That’s why it is not so far-fetched for the PM to invite a challenge: “Come and get me”. (Remember the time when Prime Minister Abbott almost lost to an empty chair?)
Abbott doesn’t have (and never again will have) the numbers to do it. Neither do Dutton, Morrison or the perennial bridesmaid, Julie Bishop. Malcolm Turnbull should stare them all down and say that he is still their best chance in the apparently Sisyphean challenge called the 2019 federal election.
My “grow a pair” scenario gets a little thin, I’ll admit, when the PM keeps emasculating himself like he did last week. He racked up Brownie points with his passionate, principled, TV demolition of Barnaby, and the announced ministerial code of conduct. And his genuine call for more respect for women staffers on the Hill. But then he totally blew it in Question Time when he blithely defended the Michaelia Cash splash – that disgusting, defamatory smear against every young female worker in Bill Shorten’s office. Not to mention Shorten’s wife and family.
Who the hell in the PM’s office convinced him to buy, and try to sell (with a straight, righteous face), the “Senator Cameron bullied me” bullshit? Did the PM’s media adviser go AWOL at the same time as Barnaby’s obviously did?
What angered observers as much as her estimates blackmail-style threat to Doug Cameron, was the Clayton’s apology that Michaelia Cash did when forced to withdraw by Senator Penny Wong. She withdrew the remarks but added “… if anyone had been offended by them”. A non-apology that is also known as the “Wayne Carey cop-out”. In 1995, the drunken AFL star aggressively grabbed a passerby’s breast as he left a nightclub one morning and told her to “get a bigger set of tits”. Forced by the North Melbourne Football Club to apologise at a media conference, Carey used the “if I offended anybody” line. Years later, on Enough Rope, Carey admitted to Andrew Denton that he wasn’t really sorry for groping the total stranger.
Beware the Ides (and tides) of March. I say “tides” because this week saw Malcolm Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten, as preferred prime minister, totally washed away in the wake of the Joyce headline-dominating shambles. Meanwhile, the Opposition Leader had his own Adani waves to contend with as he tried to outgreen the Greens for votes in Batman while posturing as a coal-loving miner in northern Queensland. It reminded me of my old newspaper days when I told the sub-editors’ table not to try to “out-Murdoch Murdoch”. You can’t and you shouldn’t even try.
Shorten’s political and geographic straddle and struggle prompted Sky News commentator David Speers to recall the old Joh Bjelke-Petersen line about the pain of having feet planted on either side of a barbed wire fence. Former Labor Premier Peter Beattie also warned his federal allies just how many House of Reps seats they’ll lose in the far north next year if they cosy up to the city slicker latte sippers down south and cop the blame for Adani jobs evaporating in Rocky and Townsville.
I’m old enough to remember the Fred Daly line, “Rooster one day, feather duster the next.” I had some great times with the colourful Labor legend. When I was editor of The Sun in Sydney, I assigned feature writer Alan Farrelly, a future editor of The Australian, to ghost write a series of articles with Fred before his book came out. His “feather duster” line is still used often in Foggy Bottom without attribution and I thought about it last week when dual citizenship casualty, former senator Jacqui Lambie, returned to Canberra to promote her memoir Rebel with a Cause.
Jacqui had a book signing in the parliamentary book shop, just off the awesome marble hall. I dropped in (pic below) to give her a hug and wish her well. Got a smile but there was a barely concealed, palpable sadness behind that smile. And I wondered if any other senator even deigned to go down there and say “Hi”. I doubt it. Feather duster, right? And that was before the Jacqui Lambie Network lost all those feathers in the Tasmanian state election last weekend.