Is it goodbye to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull? Picture: Kym Smith
Is it goodbye to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull? Picture: Kym Smith

Five key things that doomed Turnbull

WHERE did it all go wrong for Malcolm Turnbull?

He was meant to be a centre-right prime minister who could repair the deeply polarising legacy of Tony Abbott, appeal more to the masses and reverse the Coalition's dire electoral fortunes.

Instead, Mr Turnbull is fighting for his political life against an unknown and unpopular contender in Peter Dutton, who holds his Queensland seat on a wafer-thin margin.

How did he get here barely three years after taking the top job?

NOT CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH

The Liberal Party is deeply divided and a civil war has been simmering for some time between the left and right factions.

On the face of it, it's driven by policy - but arguably more so by a resentment by figures who haven't swallowed the fact that their man Mr Abbott was cut down.

 

Malcolm Turnbull has faced considerable opposition from within his own ranks, led by the party’s ultraconservative forces. Picture: AAP
Malcolm Turnbull has faced considerable opposition from within his own ranks, led by the party’s ultraconservative forces. Picture: AAP

 

The hard-right cohort have increasingly felt that Mr Turnbull wasn't listening to them and as a result was alienating the party's conservative voter base.

In her open resignation letter last night, International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells summed it up, saying: "The party was moving too far to the left."

 

 

The discontent and power of this group, which includes Mr Abbott as perhaps its biggest stirrer of disharmony, was demonstrated over the past week when Mr Turnbull revised his key energy policy.

It was seen as a capitulation of epic proportions to the hard right. But it changed nothing for the Prime Minister.

HE COULD NEVER APPEASE THE RIGHT

Even after Mr Turnbull's embarrassing backdowns on energy last week and again on Monday, essentially giving Mr Abbott what he wanted, it didn't win him any support.

The former PM, who had criticised the policy and a plan to legislate emissions targets, quickly moved to criticising the U-turn and calling it a sign of bad governance.

In her scathing letter, Ms Fierravanti-Wells said the same-sex marriage debate last year "eroded further the support of our base".

 

 

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells cited the same-sex marriage as a reason for her discontent, even though Malcolm Turnbull did exactly what the conservatives in his party demanded. Picture: Sean Davey
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells cited the same-sex marriage as a reason for her discontent, even though Malcolm Turnbull did exactly what the conservatives in his party demanded. Picture: Sean Davey

 

When he was turfed out as PM by Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott promised not to be a ‘wrecker’. Picture: Kym Smith
When he was turfed out as PM by Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott promised not to be a ‘wrecker’. Picture: Kym Smith

But Mr Turnbull, an open supporter of marriage equality, did exactly what the conservative brand of his party wanted. He went down the plebiscite route - originally Mr Abbott's idea - conducted via a divisive and costly postal vote, which Mr Dutton devised.

Everyone got to have their say, but with so much of Mr Turnbull's efforts to appease his rivals, it wasn't enough.

On many occasions, Mr Turnbull just hasn't been able to win no matter what he did.

STILL TOO CONSERVATIVE

Centre and left-inclined voters who once admired Mr Turnbull have come to loathe him.

The man they thought they knew, who would appear on ABC's Q&A program clad in a leather jacket, spoke of the importance of a climate change focus, who inspired with ideas, disappeared.

They felt let down by what they saw as Mr Turnbull selling his soul in return for power, with which he did very little.

And they have seen examples of Mr Turnbull kowtowing to the right on policy. They wonder what, if anything, he stands for anymore.

 

The ‘old’ Malcolm appears to be long gone. Picture: Supplied
The ‘old’ Malcolm appears to be long gone. Picture: Supplied

 

The Coalition has lost 38 Newspoll rankings in a row, and now trails Labor 10 points on a two-party preferred basis. Their primary vote has slumped to dangerous lows.

If an election was held today, Bill Shorten would be the next prime minister and some two dozen government MPs would lose their seats.

In summary, voters on neither the left nor right are keen on Mr Turnbull's government.

A 'DO-NOTHING' PM

On the eve of the two-year anniversary of his ascension to the top job, Mr Turnbull appeared on ABC's 7.30 and copped a blistering first question from host Leigh Sales.

"You've been Prime Minister now for nearly two years. How is it possible that in all of that time you've not yet managed to have a signature achievement?" she asked.

In that instance and in countless other responses since, Mr Turnbull listed school funding, marriage equality and border protection.

 

Few in the LGBT community credit Malcolm Turnbull for marriage equality becoming a reality. Picture: Getty Images
Few in the LGBT community credit Malcolm Turnbull for marriage equality becoming a reality. Picture: Getty Images

 

But a hard-line stance on immigration was a carry-on of Mr Abbott's policies and then driven by conservative Mr Dutton.

Likewise, school funding was essentially a continuation of commitments made by the previous Labor government.

And on marriage equality, few of the people in the LGBT community who that change benefited credit Mr Turnbull for it, or feel warmly about the hurtful campaign that he forced on them.

The Prime Minister has claimed that getting refugee children out of offshore detention centres was a proud achievement.

But as has been seen in startling detail in recent weeks, there are still children in those camps.

 

Turnbull hasn’t managed to get children out of offshore detention such as Nauru. Picture: World Vision Australia
Turnbull hasn’t managed to get children out of offshore detention such as Nauru. Picture: World Vision Australia

 

Just yesterday, a critically ill 12-year-old boy was flown from Nauru to Australia for urgent medical attention after what experts described as "inhumane and cruel" delays by Border Force officials.

And his medical evacuation was further delayed when Border Force initially refused to allow his parents to travel with him, instead insisting the boy fly alone.

Mr Turnbull also lists among his achievements the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

It was seen as a political move to target the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, but the promise was that the revived watchdog would stamp out dodgy practices.

 

The re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission is another achievement Malcolm Turnbull hangs his hat on. Picture: AAP
The re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission is another achievement Malcolm Turnbull hangs his hat on. Picture: AAP

 

Instead, it has been criticised by the judiciary for wasting time and taxpayer money by bringing action against participants in a "cup of tea" meeting and for investigating a union sticker on a chair on a building site.

"This is all external forces that are beating up what's just a really ordinary situation that amounts to virtually nothing," Justice Tony North said of the ABCC in court last year.

Debt and deficit has increased. Wage growth has stagnated. The cost of living for many Australians has soared.

If you were to ask the average voter to name a signature achievement of the Turnbull Government, they'd probably be stumped.

BACKBENCH UNCERTAINTY

On the back of rolling Mr Abbott and becoming PM, Mr Turnbull went to an election and wound up with a precarious one-seat majority in parliament.

It was seen as a disastrous result. Changing the leader had not worked.

Since then, negative opinion polls have dogged him. It didn't help that Mr Abbott's Newspoll losing streak was one of the justifications for knifing him.

 

The damning Longman by-election result has rattled government backbenchers. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
The damning Longman by-election result has rattled government backbenchers. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen

 

But it was the Longman by-election in July that really rattled the Liberal-National Coalition, instilling a sense of dread in countless backbench marginal MPs that their jobs were at serious risk.

The Coalition secured just 30 per cent of the primary vote in Longman, down nine per cent on the 2016 election.

Queensland in particular is home to a swag of marginal seats.

Unless called earlier, the next election is less than 12 months out and at this rate, the government has a slim chance of retaining power.



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