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Flatlining Malcolm Turnbull can still win. Here’s how

Amid so much anger and disruption, the only agreed fact is that politics remains unpredictable.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s a hell of a time to be in power. Relative to their electors, democratic governments have never looked so weak, so low in standing, so easily disposable.

The Coalition government is beset on all sides: subject to global forces beyond its control, and captive to the mistakes it has made on the matters it can influence.

In the first category, the world has edged closer to a thermonuclear exchange than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis 55 years ago.

In the second, Australia is experiencing what University of New South Wales law professor George Williams noted this week was the most profound constitutional uncertainty since the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.

To voters, the Parliament is a shambles.

The government’s outlook is bleak. Yet Turnbull himself continues to see the bright side even with the stakes this high. High Court high.

If the bench rules against his oddly unlegislated same-sex marriage survey, and against the validity of his “triple double” (three cabinet ministers with two countries each) Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership can be expected to continue draining away, ending in ignominy.

But if, as the legal advice informing Turnbull’s bullish demeanour suggests, things go well, the 29th prime minister may be in a strong enough position 12 months from now to be plotting an unlikely win in 2019.

He is banking on it. So let’s consider his best case scenario.

Imagine that the High Court upholds the executive’s power to stage the plebiscite, and that the public in turn, goes on to participate strongly, delivering a decisive “yes” verdict.

Turnbull says a private members’ bill would be presented before year’s end and would “sail through” the Parliament. Licketty-split.

Clearly there are many ifs and buts including the increasingly disreputable attempts by reactionaries to grant religions the right to ignore the law.

Nonetheless, the issue would be solved by Christmas, a thorn in Turnbull’s side, removed.

Assume also that Turnbull’s confidence in the electoral validity of his ministers is well placed. That will be known in October, and thus could also be old news by Christmas.

So, by October it could be ministers safe and plebiscite under way. (Turnbull’s fate would still turn on a positive survey – a negative outcome would merely prolong the agitation)

That only leaves the other promise Turnbull gave to conservatives to prise them off Tony Abbott’s leadership: energy policy.

Turnbull’s preferred solution is the 50th recommendation from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s national electricity market review. He wants a clean energy target of sorts settled by cabinet by Christmas also.

This is easier said than done but if he can find a way to resolve the impasse and provide investment certainty in electricity, while keeping his party united, Turnbull will head into 2018 with a fighting chance of recovery.

Sure, it doesn’t fix the braggadocio between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, but there’s always hope.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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