Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

Turnbull for NSW Premier?

Around the traps a new idea has begun to take root: How about Malcolm Turnbull runs for leadership of the NSW liberal party and come March 2011, become Premier of NSW.

Surveying his new domain?

Surveying his new domain?

Turnbull is a Sydney local of birth and career. His own electorate of Wentworth roughly covers the electorate of Vaucluse which is lead by outgoing former leader Peter Debnam.

While Barry O’Farrell is now owner of the closest thing to a Golden Willy Wonka ticket in politics (a guaranteed rise to the top job at the next election) his job has come under intense speculation. Whether for goals fair or foul, senior liberals were (off the record) touting the idea of Joe Hockey heading for NSW politics and O’Farrell’s job. However with his position now safely locked in as the default leader if Abbott falters at the election (or rather when) he is staying put. Turnbull however has nothing to lose, (he will never, ever be PM), enjoys excellent name recognition and an image that would appeal across the board if rightly managed. Voters may not have been willing to hand him the nuclear launch codes, but might enjoy watching him bring his iconoclastic style to the usually drab state level. Moreso it would appeal to Sydney’s ego to have such a Premier.

However this is more than just a question of jobs for the boys, it may be the only way to save the state. As John Birmingham demonstrates so eloquently in the latest edition of The Monthly (no online copy) the single biggest problem in NSW is not labor but a culture of corruption which has steadily overtaken labor. As much as a vote for the liberals (which I urged in 2007) would get rid of the worst problems, there is still a significant problem across the states industries, institutions and departments of governance and regulation that will remain. O’Farrell has taken the position of inevitable only because of the weakness of Labor. He has not been able to strongly force his will on his own party, or in the parliament, so his likelihood of taking on the developers, councils and moneyed interest is extremely doubtful. Birmingham argues that O’Farrell has probably also learnt the lessons of Nick Greiner who snared himself in his own anti-corruption efforts and so would be quite hesitant to try and do too much, lest it suddenly see his downfall after so long waiting for the prize.

Turnbull on the other hand would have no such concern. He has the independent wealth to be incorruptible, great knowledge and experience of the sydney business community, and having failed to be PM, being the man who resurrected the premier state of the country would be an impressive enough replacement (and sure to be climate martyr as his new blog post seems to position him). Like Obama his own story and image would instantly restore credibility and energy to the government, and he would be willing to fight till bloody end to win policy fights. Turnbull doesn’t need to be premier of NSW, if anything it’s a step-down, which is why he would be perfect to go in, shake things up, take on the corrupt and stogid elements and make the changes where weaker career politicians fear to tread.

Federal Labor would love it & assist it, for while Turnbull would be hard to bargin with, he is likely to be less parochial and more willing to find common ground with Rudd at COAG on issues such as Health and Water. The Conservative rump which now rules the Liberal Party might figure it would be a way to distract his prodigious energy, and keep him happy and away from federal issues. O’Farrell and his people would obviously fight like wild jungle cats to keep their golden ticket, but Turnbull has shown he’s not afraid of a fight and if he was willing to work with the rest of the NSW liberal party, could likely prise their support away.

So how about it? Turnbull for Premier? Sounds pretty good to me.

7 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Jacob

     /  December 7, 2009

    Have you heard whispers or this just an idea your mind stumbled across? Either way, it’s quite exciting, I’d love to see Turnbull as NSW Premier!

  2. Fhakk

     /  December 7, 2009

    Only whispers at wine bars methinks at this stage. MT seems to be hell-bent on creating as much trouble as possible on a Federal level. He’s settling a few scores and making Abbott as uncomfortable as can be (I don’t blame him, either). There’s no doubt that the NSW race would have entered his mind, and the minds of Liberal faction-leaders. Whether the State Opposition is ready to be Turnbulled is another matter.
    I think he has a very real chance.

  3. Francis R.

     /  December 8, 2009

    Malcolm Turnbull is history’s greatest criminal!!

  4. MC

     /  December 8, 2009

    Surely this is just wishful thinking on your part. Turnbull has no natural constituency in the NSW Liberal party. Who do you expect to support him and his policy changes?

    He would confront just as many difficulties as Griener and O’Farrell. Are these difficulties just going to disappear because he is who he is? I don’t think so. This is just the sort of megalomania that Turnbull himself would come up with. He doesn’t need you to do it for him.


  5. Jason Soon

     /  December 8, 2009

    As much as I would like to see Turnbull back in politics, too many Liberal supporters hate him now because of his err candid comments. There is no chance of him leading a Liberal party again in any capacity again, much less a Liberal branch. If he is to have any future in politics he’ll have to form a breakaway party.

  6. MC – True, however he would know all the important figures from his time as treasurer and again as Opp. leader. He didn’t have very strong links to the Federal party (And faced initial antipathy from Howard), yet branch-stacked his way into the seat taking down a sitting member, and from there into the cabinet. As for policy, Turnbull doesn’t need to make any changes, he can keep the same policies and cabinet given that victory is so likely. Changes can come once in office and stronger in his position.

    Jason – You’re probably right. I’m not sure if he will become the new Wilson Tuckey. After all it’s now only just a week since he lost the leadership, and the issue of climate change has been red hot with the Senate vote and Copenhagen (And he has entirely restricted his comments to that topic).

    Turnbull consistently ruffled feathers and yet still often got his way. If he set to it, I don’ see why he couldn’t achieve it.

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