Malcolm Turnbull seems able to breathe more freely these days. The tumultuous events of recent weeks that saw him lose the leadership to Tony Abbott appear to have freed him from the restraints of Liberal party shackles.
The force with which he’s now arguing the case for action on climate change is reminiscent of the Malcolm of the Republican debate. It’s the Malcolm most people thought they would get when he was elected to represent Wentworth.
But during his time as a Howard government minister and as leader of the Opposition Turnbull looked like a man in first gear, restricted and defined by party policy. He is now speaking out like a man with nothing to lose.
Also looking like his old self after trying to improve his “people skills” and appear more moderate following the 2007 election loss is Tony Abbott. His behaviour of recent weeks harks back to the old Tony some know all too well.
Back in 1978 Abbott showed form as a cultural warrior when he changed the locks and barricaded himself into the SRC offices after being elected SRC president. Seems the power changeover was not fast enough for his liking.
In a president’s report titled “Left clings to power” published in Honi Soit in October 1978 Abbott took pains to explain himself to those who “abhor the tactics of the Broad Left” but might still consider some of his actions rash.
“I felt that desperate and unusual circumstances justified my actions,” he wrote.
His justification? The belief that the ‘Broad Left’ was “possessed not of reasonableness but consumed with malice and ill-will, and prepared to go to almost any length to secure political advantage”.
This choir boy of Bob Santamaria and Mary Whitehouse, not to mention John Howard, is still fighting ideological battles – changing the locks on the climate change debate and barricading the Liberal party, and Australia, inside.
That reaction, as Turnbull pointed out in his blog, leaves the Liberal party with a do-nothing policy on tackling climate change. And that’s just not good enough.
Despite the renewed stridency of the climate change deniers, the science continues to tell us we are running out of time. For Abbott and his newly-anointed frontbench to appeal to cynical hip pocket politics in a bid to secure the Coalition base is sacrificing the interests of all Australians, those now living and future generations.
It’s like telling a cancer victim that treatment is too expensive. We’ve done the damage to the planet by partying like there’s no tomorrow: the time has come to pay the piper.