Beazley became notorious for a lack of ticker, but in reality he had a kind of dumb ticker because he opposed John Howard's tax cuts. Standing in the way of Australians being offered a windfall, however small, is a bit like thinking the way to stop a bull in a china shop is to lie down in front of it.
Beazley got rolled and rolled again, and while he was always game enough to get up and try again, he was never the answer to Howard.
Turnbull seems to think that bickering in old school political style will gain him some traction, playing hardball while talking about bipartisanship, and leaving the dirty work to the greens, and the other eccentric independents in the Senate. Right now, with the electorate truly spooked, people losing their jobs and short on cash, this is really dumb. It's like saying how much you care about the ordering of the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Watching Turnbull go a few rounds with the carrot top (our pet name for the ABC's Kerry O'Brien in honor of his dye job) last night on The 7.30 Report was a depressing experience, if you believe politics is best when there's a tough, capable opposition. Turnbull floundered and faltered, like a Kim Beazley on steroids, and came across like a bully being forced to grit his teeth and lecture his interlocutor while repressing the desire to biff him for his stupidity. And this is the man the neo Liberals are forced to hang their hat on.
Perhaps this is why our very own fat owl of the remove, Piers Akerman, that loyal battler for the workers and inveterate supporter of free speech in a Churchillian way, has at this moment thought it time to revive the Costello for PM battle cry of the desperate neo cons. Over at The Daily Terror, a paper owned by an American in Australia's national interest, he cries PM unwisely derides and revives Costello:
The revived Costello is being watched with keen interest by his colleagues, some of whom are keen to see him return to the front bench and lead the charge, in the Treasury portfolio for now, but in the leadership position should Malcolm Turnbull be seen as terminally unelectable when the Rudd Government goes to the polls.
Turnbull's decision to stand up to Labor's bid to ramrod its $42 billion debt bill through parliament this week permitted him to act resolutely and present a series of coherent alternatives to Labor's scatter-gun economic approach.
Should he have Costello beside him in the trenches, and reach out to Senator Nick Minchin to organise the Coalition's agenda, the Labor government will face a formidable and united Opposition.
We haven't heard this cry in months, and what a funny sound it is to hear deep in summer at loon pond.
Oh deluded, hapless fat owl. Costello's dead in the water, not because of my own dislike of his 'letter to the Melburnians' on Australia Day, but because of his half-baked dithering and equivocation this past year. While the American Roman imperium burned and Australia fell with it, Costello went AWOL, and indulged himself in pique. As for Nick Minchin, the man's a fundamentalist with the personality of a whip or a paddle, no joy there.
You can tell things are tough in the neo con camp when the fat owl is forced to turn to Mark Latham for reassurance. That's right, the very same Latham that self destructed and flamed out, Costello style, and was berated by all and sundry on the right as the very essence of a loon. Now the fat owl is quoting him as if he's a font of wisdom, as Latham assures us all that Keynesianism and industry welfare now form the basis of Australian fiscal policy. You know, if handouts are the answer to the competitive challenges of an open economy, he asks, why haven't they worked at any time in the past 35 years.
Well actually dear Mark, they worked bloody well for John Howard, who was always handy with the wallet to reassure his wide and loving family there was a bribe available for their vote at election time, and he creamed your clock in the process. (Let's just remember what Latham wrote about capitalism: "The Third Way ... sees the reform of capitalism as an ethical question. It wants the corporate sector to meet its proper social responsibilities, reconnecting global economics with local communities").
Dearie me, pie in the sky Mark Latham as an example of open market fiscal rectitude. I must have fallen down the hole with Alice, or perhaps he's just doing a Superman impression of Bizarro world.
Then the fat owl calls on Michael Costa to provide further evidence, via his columns in The Australian. That's right, one of the feather dusters who fucked over New South Wales in the guise of a Labor government (and let's make no mistake, however he might now dissemble and excuse, Costa was at the heart of the incompetence that's left NSW in a mess).
By golly, if these are the best character witnesses the fat owl can produce, his case is doomed.
The rest of the fat owl's piece is standard hagiography about what a wonderful man Peter Costello is and was, as opposed to our imagined image of him as a spineless, smarmy, smirky clown who never had the guts to take on Howard (one thing they can never take away from Keating, no matter how much the electorate hated him in the end, he had the guts).
But let's leave the fat owl with a final dissembling word on Costello and what he's been up to:
Over the past year, Costello wrote his book, he attended to some non-parliamentary matters and he gave the impression of a man who was content to let others take up the Liberal fight.
Darn tootin'. At a time of most urgent need, Costello stepped out of the ring in a fit of pique, saying he wasn't going to fight no more, because of the way he'd been treated. A momma's boy and a truly unedifying spectacle in what has always been a blood sport.
If Costello had had the guts and the gumption, he could have stepped up for the fight, and I dare say been in a position to knock off Rudd at the end of the first term. But he squibbed it. Trust this boy to put his finger in the right hole and save the dike? No way.
But I guess Julie Bishop is such a featherweight, nobody can see her developing the spurs needed to sink deep into the irritating Rooster duo of Rudd and Swan (how did we end up with Kevin and Wayne as the names controlling the Australian economy?)
And after yesterday's performance, it's surely not just the fat owl who fears for the future of Malcolm Turnbull. He looked and sounded like a dead rich prat walking and talking.