Tuesday, 15 September 2015


Bishop was Abbott’s close advisor and foreign minister. She strongly supported her boss until she didn’t. Bishop is a highly capable leader with a very strong international brand. She is tough, energetic, smart, and determined. She and Turnbull know one another well, and will likely keep Australia on a very consistent path in terms of its foreign policy, posture toward Asia, and foundational commitment to the alliance with the United States. But she is ambitious and given the patterns now well worn into the political track in Canberra, Turnbull will need to keep one eye on her even as he watches and courts Scott Morrison.
As Australia approaches the first quarter of the twenty-first century, Turnbull is a promising leader. He knows the world’s financial and foreign policy leaders. He has an investor’s instinct for identifying and mitigating risk and commitment to fiscal discipline. The question is not whether Australians will back him – polls suggest they will, in droves. The question is whether the Liberal Party is ready to be unified by this man. 
Like the also-fancily-educated Ted Cruz (Princeton and Harvard Law School), and unlike Bush in his “compassionate conservative” phase and some others, Abbott governed in a dark, “things are getting worse” style rather than with a sunny “it's all getting better!” tone.
As for Malcolm Turnbull? It’s hard to draw a direct American parallel to him, because he comes from a tradition for which we have no in-office specimens any more, only history-book and museum-piece relics. He is internationalist, unashamedly intellectual, urbane. With apologies in advance for the differences between American and Australian politics and personal styles, you could start by thinking of Malcolm Turnbull as a “liberal Republican”—Rockefeller, Heinz, Hatfield, even Gerald Ford—of a type no longer found in the U.S. 
Yet if Turnbull clearly belongs within the Liberal Party, equally clearly it is to its small-l liberal wing. All members of the Liberal Party genuinely believe, with different degrees of purism, in what some would call economic freedom and others neoliberalism. (Paradoxically, probably the least purist are those conservative members of the party, like Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz – known inside Turnbull’s office, as I discovered, as “the DLP” – whose political ancestry can be traced back to BA Santamaria and the tradition of Roman Catholic social action.) Fewer contemporary members of the Liberal Party, however, believe in social freedom or civil libertarianism. Malcolm Turnbull, who does, is the most important representative of this now greatly weakened tradition within the party.
Examples abound. Before Abbott closed the discussion down, Turnbull was one of the most conspicuous advocates of a conscience vote on gay marriage, which he favours. To advance the cause, he conducted a careful survey of the opinions of the members of his Wentworth electorate, where opinion was strongly in support. 

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