There seems to be a residual myth in the Australian political establishment that the real Malcolm Turnbull stills exists. You see this myth cropping up alongside all kinds of sideways excuses for why Turnbull is missing. For instance, Katharine Murphy implies the centrist-Malcolm is being held captive by the far right of his party: ‘If Turnbull moved decisively in the direction of centrist cooperation, various charges would be levelled against him in predictable quarters. He’d be thumbing his nose at the base. He’d be provoking Ray Hadley. He’d be emboldening Tony Abbott’. Michelle Grattan says he needs some more runs on the board, and to better define his narrative. I think it’s time we all grew up and come to terms with the sad reality. Santa Claus isn’t real. Never was real. Never will be. And he’s not coming over to your house to bring an iPad, a credible renewable energy policy or to make gay marriage a reality. The truth is, old Malcolm doesn’t exist. It was all just a con to make him palatable enough for first the seat of Wentworth, and then the job of Prime Minister. The fact is, the real Malcolm is exactly the Malcolm you see in front of you. The Abbott pig wearing lipstick. Malcolm’s narrative is just the same as Abbott’s. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’ll give you a moment to let this sad reality sink in before I make you truly depressed with a description of the Prime Minister we’ve all ended up with, while being played and teased with the idea he was something different. You see, the thing is, when we desperately want to believe something, us humans are very good at ignoring all evidence against it. That’s why people didn’t hear Malcolm when he said, in his first speech as Prime Minister, that he would lead a ‘thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market’. A free-market. This stood out to me because I can see the neoliberal-wolf wearing the social-progressive-sheep’s clothing. But after the harrowing experience of Abbott, it’s no wonder the hopeful souls of Australia wanted so badly to follow the Pied-Point-Piper of Vaucluse over the edge of the neoliberal cliff. The fact is, ideologically, Abbott is a social-conservative who also happens to enjoy the support of neoliberal donors. Turnbull is a neoliberal warrior who doesn’t think social is a thing unless there’s profit in it for his Panama tax havens.
The one-seat majority, and the herd of angry Abbott-supporting backbenchers has actually been a gift to Turnbull. He’s using the slimy creeps, the George Christensens, the Eric Abetzs, the Cory Bernardis, as an alibi to say ‘I’m only doing stuff most people don’t agree with because I’m hamstrung by the right-wing of my party’. This idea works so nicely with the ‘it’s not my fault and I can’t help it’ fairy tale that it’s no wonder the myth of the old-Malcolm-will-return is still alive. But the thing is, in order to believe this myth, you would have to also believe that Malcolm cares more about hanging onto his job as Prime Minister than he does about doing the things he apparently believes in, such as addressing climate change and promoting marriage equality. But if this is true, this behaviour is a complete contradiction to the theory that Turnbull is an honourable man who has been side-tracked by the politics of his situation. Think of it this way; if the real Malcolm is siding with Bernardi to keep his job, doesn’t that make the real-Malcolm a real-bastard anyway? The whole point of Santa is that people want him to turn up. Who wants the bastard-Malcolm? Nobody.
But no, there really are myths within myths. The truth is, Malcolm talks about agility and innovation, while walking Abbott’s school and higher education policy which makes user-pays education less accessible, and the nation less agile and innovative. Malcolm talks about the moral challenge of climate change, when the real Malcolm wants the State’s to stop with their silly-renewable energy targets and to go back to coal like the good old miners-said-so-days. Malcolm could have scrapped Abbott’s 2014 budget welfare ‘reforms’, which aim to make it harder for young people to use the social safety net they need to stop themselves sliding into possibly-lifelong-poverty, but he has chosen to make this first order of business for his government. As it slowly dawns on everyone that Malcolm is neoliberal to the core, that he would sell off Parliament House to the highest bidder and rent it back to the government if he could get away with it, who would rather walk on hot coals than have a banking Royal Commission, who, if the apparently dead-buried-and-cremated WorkChoices could be reincarnated, would sew the ashes back together with his bare hands, he starts to look not just weak, but actually just as scary, if not scarier, than Abbott. A $20 billion tax cut to his big business mates at the same time as moralising a budget disaster? Of course he would. That’s Malcolm through and through!
In order to defeat an enemy, you must know the enemy. It’s time to stop falling for the ‘old Malcolm will return’ trick, and wake up to who he really is. He’s not spineless. He’s not being forced into a situation he doesn’t approve of. He’s not weakly refusing to answer questions about the behaviour of his right-wing colleagues because he’s scared to offend them. He’s not scared of them. He agrees with them. They’re talking on his behalf. Wake up Australia. The leather jacket was a prop. The public transport riding was public relations. There’s not a nicer version inside Malcolm waiting patiently to appear. This is him. This is all you get. Our Prime Minister is not the man you thought he was. Santa’s not coming because Santa doesn’t exist. Get used to it.