March 6

What is Malcolm Turnbull up to?

Just what is Malcolm Turnbull up to?

He would know there is mounting pressure to put republicanism on the agenda for this year’s election. The Treasurer Wayne Swan has been trying – at least since his long promised surplus disappeared – to use the politicians’ republic as a distraction.


He is also using it as a wedge. It’s a wedge to divide Liberal politicians. Readers will recall that in the 90s, some Liberal politicians believed what they read in the republican media about the inevitability of the Keating-Turnbull Republic. We hope they are wiser now, as wise as the greater part of the membership of the Liberal Party who honour Liberal traditions and who are too smart to fall for the trap.

…brand differentiation…

But Malcolm Turnbull has joined the republican push. Has he just swallowed Wayne Swan’s bait? More likely it’s a very unsubtle way of demonstrating brand differentiation from his leader, Tony Abbott.

The last time Malcolm Turnbull displayed a wakened interest in republicanism – and even an elected presidency – was in 2010 when he announced he was leaving politics. He cooled on this when John Howard persuaded him to stay.

Only recently, Malcolm Turnbull announced to the media that Tony Abbott will be restoring the principles of Cabinet government if the coalition is returned at this year’s election. The point of Cabinet government is that Cabinet is collectively responsible and does not appear divided.

Divisions and debates occur behind closed doors. So why has Malcolm Turnbull decided to demonstrate to the world that the frontbench is divided on the fundamental question of a politicians’ republic. Mr Turnbull is doing that the coalition no service in demonstrating such division.

ACM takes no position on the coming election but will of course examine and publicise the position of parties and candidates on the Constitution.

….rivers of gold…

As for a republic, the only problem is that voters are just not interested. To have any chance of turning this around the republican movement believes it needs vast amounts of money.

They have been doing quite well in the last few years from some very wealthy sources -the republican movement was never relied on the grassroots. But it’s nothing like the rivers of gold they had in the 90s. After the referendum was over, Greg Barns was to reveal how tight most of the celebrity republicans were, and that the principal source of funds was none other than Malcolm Turnbull. That tap was turned off, but the republicans are hoping that Malcolm Turnbull will turn it on again.

Perhaps they’ll have enough to employ Tony Blair’s ex-spin doctor John McTernan on a 457 visa if he is no longer managing Julia Gillard’s machine after 14 September.

Just as if the rivers of gold are flowing again, they’ve gone back to the celebrity dinners they used to have and about which they were much criticised by those of their supporters who could never afford such functions.

So on 10 May, they are offering a $200 a head dinner at the opulent Sydney harbour side function centre Le Montage.

Believe it or not the keynote speaker is …their one time principal benefactor, Malcolm Turnbull.



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