FROM ONE FIASCO TO AN­OTHER

PETA CREDLIN

Sunday Herald Sun - - NEWS -

DUR­ING Ju­lia Gil­lard’s hung par­lia­ment, I would of­ten look across at my coun­ter­part in the gov­ern­ment ad­viser’s box dur­ing ques­tion time and won­der how he man­aged to get out of bed that day.

Hav­ing read the news­pa­pers be­fore dawn, I’d have a good idea how the lat­est calamity might un­fold and knew that any­thing else they might have planned to say or do would be swamped by the new­est leak or tawdry rev­e­la­tion.

Hit with one thing af­ter an­other, it seemed they couldn’t take a trick and, even when it was not of their own mak­ing, Gil­lard’s po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment was chaotic and La­bor was hostage to events. How the ta­bles have turned. Now it is Bill Shorten’s bloke, squar­ing off against Mal­colm Turn­bull’s chief of staff (his third in just two years), who must be won­der­ing how he got so lucky.

Al­most ev­ery week there’s a new is­sue that throws the gov­ern­ment off course and there doesn’t seem to be any­one be­hind the scenes mop­ping things up or run­ning a strat­egy to avoid the prob­lems in the first place.

Even the most ju­nior po­lit­i­cal player could have fore­seen that spend­ing months de­bat­ing a clean en­ergy tar­get, only to dump it in the end, was pok­ing an al­ready an­gry con­ser­va­tive base in the eye.

Or how the in­ter­nal mis­man­age­ment of the same-sex mar­riage is­sue stole months of much-needed oxy­gen.

Or how the cit­i­zen­ship de­ba­cle, if not taken charge of early, would cast doubt over all MPs and chal­lenge the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem it­self.

Some of these prob­lems should have been an­tic­i­pated, they’re what for­mer US de­fense sec­re­tary Don­ald Rums­feld might have called “known un­knowns” — those things you’re hit with in pol­i­tics that you know will come, like an en­ti­tle­ments scan­dal with one of your MPs, but you don’t know who’ll be in­volved, or when.

And then there’s the “un­known un­knowns” — like the cit­i­zen­ship fiasco, a big hit that knocks a gov­ern­ment for six and has ev­ery­one scram­bling.

I don’t ex­pect any­one in Turn­bull’s strat­egy team to have fore­seen the loss of the two Green sen­a­tors in July, but it is be­yond be­lief that since that time they haven’t done an ur­gent in­ter­nal au­dit of all Coali­tion MPs to as­cer­tain who in their ranks might be vul­ner­a­ble and de­velop a con­tin­gency plan.

I’m sure there’s one or two “rocket sci­en­tists” in­side the tent who have ar­gued it is bet­ter not to know and hope they don’t get found out (and it looks like that’s the strat­egy they’re fol­low­ing), but that is death by a thou­sand cuts.

It is also ren­ders the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment, like Gil­lard’s, hostage to events and un­able to es­tab­lish a nar­ra­tive. Most im­por­tantly, at a time when faith in politi­cians is at a dan­ger­ous low, it makes a mock­ery of the sys­tem that all Aus­tralians should rightly be­lieve works for them, and in the na­tional in­ter­est.

Right across the board, there is no po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment in­side the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment.

Worse, the Prime Min­is­ter lacks judg­ment. As im­por­tant as the Beer­sheba com­mem­o­ra­tion was, faced with the High Court’s de­ci­sion and the loss of a deputy prime min­is­ter, and that deputy’s deputy (Fiona Nash), Turn­bull should have sent Gover­norGen­eral Peter Cos­grove. Af­ter all, that’s what New Zealand did, and what bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tive to send to a mil­i­tary event than Cos­grove, a for­mer gen­eral?

I don’t use the word lightly — the Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment is in cri­sis. I don’t know which would be worse — if they haven’t done an in­ter­nal au­dit so they have no way of know­ing which MP will fall to­mor­row, or in­deed whether this one-seat gov­ern­ment is still le­git­i­mate, or, if they have done an au­dit and are sit­ting on the find­ings in the hope the me­dia will get sick of the is­sue and move on.

The me­dia won’t move on, and now that the public un­der­stand it bet­ter they won’t let it drop ei­ther.

In his re­cent press con­fer­ences, Mal­colm Turn­bull has done his lawyerly best to make this is­sue seem dif­fi­cult to sort out but it isn’t that hard.

Get your birth cer­tifi­cate, work out where your par­ents were born, check your four grand­par­ents as well and if it in­volves any­where other than Aus­tralia, tell the for­eign coun­try in writ­ing that, for the avoid­ance of doubt, you re­nounce any en­ti­tle­ment to cit­i­zen­ship.

Then, and only then, nom­i­nate for par­lia­ment. If you’ve been elected and you didn’t fol­low those steps, you have ques­tions to an­swer and should be re­ferred to the High Court. The Con­sti­tu­tion is clear and the re­cent de­ci­sion by the High Court was unan­i­mous.

There’s no amount of po­lit­i­cal spin that can make this go away, so a smart gov­ern­ment would take it head-on and a smart prime min­is­ter would ac­tu­ally make trans­parency a virtue.

If Mal­colm Turn­bull was ac­tu­ally in power, rather than just in of­fice, he would have ar­rived back from Is­rael and an­nounced a full au­dit and demon­strated lead­er­ship.

Yes, he might lose MPs when the re­sults are known, but so would La­bor, and while Shorten tries to pro­tect his own, Mal­colm Turn­bull would have the ad­van­tage of fi­nally start­ing to look like a leader, rather than some­one who, in his own words, just says of the job, he’s ‘never had more fun.’

Sadly, it isn’t much fun for the rest of us. PETA CREDLIN IS A SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST

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