If it's no longer clear to anyone -- perhaps not even himself -- what Malcolm Turnbull stands for, it's not his problem alone any more. His party's ready acceptance of yesterday's package of interventionist measures aimed at power companies shatters what's left of the Liberal Party's credentials as the champion of free markets in Australia. What do the Liberals now stand for, if anything? Breaking up companies, price controls, the re-entry of government into the electricity generation sector.
Business is aghast -- and all the more so because of the looming abandonment of company tax cuts following their defeat in the Senate. Business groups emerged yesterday to slam the policy chaos (carefully leaving the impression that Labor was to blame as much as the Coalition) and lament the proposed new competition regulator powers. The Financial Review and veteran pundits like Matthew Stevens and Tony Boyd are dismayed, as is John Durie at The Oz. How could it have gone so wrong in just three years since Turnbull took over promising a new era of economic reform, liberal policymaking and smart politics?
Much of the blame lies, yes, with Tony Abbott and his tiny band of malcontents who, like Kevin Rudd was, are prepared to rip their own party apart and set back the cause of good policy for the sake of their own egos. As Abbott correctly notes, though, at least he does his destruction in full public view, unlike the gutless Rudd. And yes much of the blame also lies with old white male climate denialists in the Coalition who won't accept any climate action of any kind.