Turnbull's invisible hand
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

The right love a good conspiracy theory. Climate change is a UN hoax. Fluoridation is a communist plot. The international financial system is run by the Rothschilds. Gay transgender cultural Marxists want to indoctrinate our kids. Somewhere there’s always a sinister, shadowy cabal manipulating the course of events, providing both a target to rail at and expose, and — not that conspiracy theorists will ever admit it — the comforting sense that at least someone is in control and life is not a giant rolling lottery in an indifferent universe.

Now the right in Australia has a new conspiracy theory: according to our very own version of Fortean Times, The Australian, Malcolm Turnbull is the sinister force behind all of the government’s problems, wielding an “invisible hand” within the Liberal Party (presumably unrelated to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”, but who knows — perhaps this conspiracy goes back centuries). Fortunately, The Australian’s photographers have snapped Turnbull with an all-too visible hand — clutching an black umbrella!

You know who else carried a black umbrella? Yes, that notorious appeaser Neville Chamberlain (which brings us to another conspiracy theory, because they’re all connected).

Turnbull’s hand, visible or otherwise, is apparently at work texting his successor in Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps, and that his “hands” (plural this time) are “all over” Julia Banks’ resignation, an unfortunate metaphor, but the truth needs to be revealed.

Then there’s fellow conspirator Julie Bishop, who blatantly advertised her treachery by attending a social function with crossbenchers last night in parliament (and yes it’s an outrage that independents should flagrantly flaunt their independence in public). Bishop’s attendance was highly suspicious, being totally out-of-the-ordinary behaviour for a politician who has never been known to show up at social occasions. Wake up, sheeple.

Like any good conspiracy theory, this one’s flexible enough to incorporate seemingly contradictory information. What about Craig Kelly, the otiose reactionary and Vladimir Putin fan who is planning to spit the dummy and move to the crossbench because he’s going to lose preselection in his seat of Hughes? Surely Kelly, who was one the backbenchers who led the charge against Turnbull when he was prime minister, couldn’t be part of the “invisible hand” as well? But who is responsible for Kelly being in his seat of Hughes? Why none other than Malcolm Turnbull! Turnbull saved Kelly from preselection defeat in 2016 in what looked at the time like an effort to look after members of the right in his home state, but which we now know was a cunning long game to maximise dysfunction for the current government. Evil, as they say, is patient.

Turnbull himself denies the conspiracy, calling it a classic symptom of paranoia. Of course, that’s exactly what the conspirator always says — it’s not real, it’s all in your head, have you seen a doctor?

Of course, we can mock this sort of rat-baggery all we like, but the truth is there is a conspiracy against the right of the Liberal Party. It’s the most vast and deep conspiracy in Australian history. It involves the voters of Wentworth, and the voters of Victoria, and the thousands of people regularly polled by Newspoll on behalf of the Oz. These 4.1 million people have actively sought to undermine the Morrison government. They walk among us, a fifth column operating in plain sight.

But like all conspiracies, it goes deeper. There’s a very good chance it extends beyond those to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of other Australians, who will actively work to destabilise the government the first chance they get. But then, if everyone’s in on the conspiracy except you, is it a conspiracy anymore, or just reality?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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