Over the Christmas break I have found myself catching up on Australian political talk shows and talk back radio. I was struck by a consistent theme: people like criticising Tony Abbott and telling Malcolm Turnbull he should lead the Liberal National Party.
Turnbull’s reaction is cool and collected. He says he’s flattered, but respects Tony’s leadership. It’s hardly a convincing assurance. Other than defending Abbott when pressed on the subject, the communications minister has done very little to effectively communicate the LNP’s policies. It appears as though Malcolm has separated himself from the current government and is waiting for his turn to lead.
It’s irrelevant whether the minister is personally in favour of LNP initiatives because it’s neither media-friendly nor politically advantageous for him to outwardly express his support. If he continues to quietly differentiate himself from the current government and poll ratings for the LNP do not improve in 2015, Turnbull could be in a prime position to offer himself as a real alternative to Tony Abbott.
Malcolm Turnbull is more popular in the polls because voters do not associate him with current Coalition policies, and it is feasible that the Liberal Party could soon be looking for new leadership to avoid defeat in the next election.
It may be advantageous for the LNP to have a back-up plan but the opportunity cost of Turnbull staying on the sidelines is monumental. He is a great salesman and has a chummy relationship with the ABC and SBS, despite having to administer their budget cuts. This could be utilized to a far greater extent to sell current policies to the public.
It will be interesting to see if Turnbull changes his tune in 2015. If not, it is possible that Abbott and Hockey will fail in their renewed efforts to sell the Budget to voters and the Senate, by which time no amount of ‘fresh’ or ‘alternative’ leadership could ensure a Coalition victory at the next election.
TOP IMAGE: Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Parliament will return on February 9, 2015. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)