Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – Turnbull captures the middle ground

Watching Malcolm Turnbull edge the Liberal Party from the frontiers of right-wing madness to the middle ground of middle Australia has become an absorbing pastime.
Every week of his short time in the prime ministership, Turnbull has signalled a significant shift in policy to the centre ground.
This week he declared that knights and dames would no longer be part of the Australian honours system. There were growls from a handful of relics of the late British Empire – arch-monarchist David Flint among them – but the move was endorsed overwhelmingly.
Less publicity was given to a decision to end the blanket ban on the reappointment of directors to government boards who had originally been appointed by Labor’s Rudd or Gillard governments.
In a mad act of political cleansing, Abbott decreed that they should all be sacked and replaced by true blue Libs. No doubt preference was given to ones who believed that climate change is “all crap”.
Of course, Turnbull’s motives aren’t altruistic. He is creating an electoral constituency among the professional, university-educated middle class, the people who had fled from the “Mad Monk”. Many, including the wives of doctors and dentists and their voting age children, had vowed never to vote Liberal again.
Now they are reconsidering their options and drifting back to Turnbull. He has become the champion of science over obscurantism in the energy debate, he has signalled his interest in the arts, education and technical innovation and he has flagged changes towards marriage equality.
In pre-Turnbull times, Labor leader Bill Shorten was focused on capturing the middle ground to trounce Abbott. That tactic is now obsolete and it is Labor that is being pushed into the margins by barnstorming Turnbull.
The Oz social democrats have become so saturated with the rancid values of European social democracy – Tony Blair’s New Labour, François Hollande’s French Socialist Party, Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) which is now in a junior coalition partnership with the right-wing CDU/FDP and PASOK in Greece – that it seems incapable of offering a practical, believable, rebuilding alternative.
Meanwhile, under Turnbull, the smug and the self-funded will get richer and those at the foot of the “ladder of opportunity” will stay there, sinking further into debt and poverty.

Albo and the Chihuahua

Whenever two or more Labourites gather together there is talk of who should replace Bill Shorten and when.
Opinion appears to be divided between deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, MP for Sydney, and Anthony Albanese, MP from the neighbouring seat of Grayndler.
While Plibersek has the ability to be a steady health minister, she has zero qualifications to be a party leader or a prime minister.
Much the same applies to Albanese, leader of the fake “hard left”.
The bizarre notion that “Albo” could step into the shoes of John Curtin, Ben Chifley or Gough Whitlam surely came to an end this week when he appeared on Annabel Crabb’s TV’s show Kitchen Cabinet with Christopher Pyne, the Liberal Industry Minister.
It turns out that the two of them are old friends. You have to ask yourself – what kind of Labor man would adopt Pyne, aka the “yapping Chihuahua” from Adelaide, as a “mate”?
And why would you put on an apron and appear alongside him in a trashy celebrity program cooking supper?
Albanese and Pyne also perform a weekly chat show with host Ben Fordham on Alan Jones’s 2GB. I’m told that the announcer is regularly deemed to be the smartest person in the studio.
The ALP’s “hard left” may still believe “Albo” is the future of Labor, but I suspect most Australians have correctly concluded he’s a clown.

Murdoch hires “Killer”

The self-publicising military intelligence spook, David Kilcullen, has joined Rupert Murdoch’s Australian as its “contributing editor for military affairs”.
This is a position previously shared by Greg Sheridan, Paul Kelly, Chris Kenny, Gerard Henderson and several other “experts” on global military strategy.
The current inmates of Holt Street, Surry Hills, will have to make way for “Killer” Kilcullen, the chief spokesman for the discredited theory of “counter-insurgency” which failed spectacularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
An early critic of the George Bush/Dick Cheney/Donald Rumsfeld “shock and awe” strategy, Lt Colonel Kilcullen became a favourite talent for ABC hosts, Tony Jones, Fran Kelly and Leigh Sales.
Today he appears to be remaindered goods. He has run out of steam with both US Republicans and Democrats and his career seems to have nose-dived along with that of his former boss, the disgraced General David Petraeus.
What is the head of a tiny strategic consultancy in DC to do? Get a well-paid job with Murdoch to write about world terrorism and keep up a profile in the gullible Australian media. A political career beckons for the 47-year-old Duntroon alumnus.

Mulock v Wran

A memoir of the late Ron Mulock, NSW deputy premier from 1984 to 1988, was launched at Penrith Civic Centre recently.
The book, Inside the Wran Era, Connor Court Publishing, was edited by former NSW parliamentary historian David Clune and completed in the final days of Mulock’s life on 5 September 2014. He was 84.
Three senior Liberals attended the book launch: former premier Barry O’Farrell, former shadow attorney-general Andrew Tink and former Cronulla MP Malcolm Kerr.
Not a single serving Labor MP attended and, apart from Rodney Cavalier who gave a keynote speech,and only two former Labor MPs, Richard Amery and Faye Lo Po, were present. So much for Labor’s love of history and reverence of tradition.
Clune has edited the memoir with infinite skill and a deep understanding of the Wran years, factional politics, Mulock’s unassuming wisdom and the importance of his family, particularly his wife Desley.
Wran was an unforgiving bastard. He was incensed when Mulock refused to vote for him in the 1973 ballot for the leadership.
At a private meeting, Mulock explained that he had pre-existing loyalties to Pat Hills who had been instrumental in his move from Penrith mayor to MP for Nepean.
“Whatever Ron Mulock’s sin was it must have been mortal,” remarked the then state secretary Graham Richardson.
When Mulock won the deputy premiership in a 1983 ballot to replace Jack Ferguson, Wran became even more embittered. It is common Macquarie Street gossip that he never spoke a word to Mulock during their years as premier and deputy premier.
Mulock’s book is a fascinating journey through recent NSW political and social history. The general reader may not be interested but the politically addicted will find something to please and tease on every page.
Many ex-politicians are reluctant to write memoirs because they achieved little or nothing in parliament. For others their careers were so corrupted by vested interests – pubs, clubs and developers – that they don’t wish to write about them.
Mulock’s voice may have been soft but it is highly commendable that his family and friends have found a way for it to be heard.

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