Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Thank you, Brendan Nelson

One could tell it was going to happen one of these days, and today was the day. Dr. Brendan Nelson was ousted as Liberal Party leader in an intra-party coup this morning. His sudden gamble to force the leadership issue early resulted in an equally abrupt end to his 10-month job as leader of the opposition. Now the job is Malcolm Turnbull's, and Australia will be watching to see what he will do.

This post is mainly to say thank you to a man who took on the difficult and thankless job of leading the shambles of John Howard's defeated party after the old man ran it into the ground last November. [The swing to Labor at the last election was so great that Kevin Rudd will probably remain PM for another term, so Malcolm Turnbull shouldn't count his chickens just yet.]

Dr. Nelson may not have raised confidence in the Liberals during his brief spell of leadership, but he did command immense respect for the dignity and decency with which he conducted himself, and for the civilised tone that he brought to Australian politics. That is no mean achievement in these days of gutter politics. I felt it was worth mentioning his thoughtful speech when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to the Aboriginal people in February. True to form, he put his own feelings behind him today and urged his partymen to support their new leader. Thanks once again, Dr. Nelson, and I sincerely wish you the best in your life and career. This is not the end. Your contributions to Australian public life are significant and will surely continue.

I'm inclined to give Malcolm Turnbull a sporting chance. I know he's widely disliked, but that's probably because he's so obviously ambitious. It's no secret that he wants to be PM one day. That's not a crime, and I won't hold it against him. Unlike many other career politicians, Turnbull has actually worked in the real world, having founded companies like OzEmail and been a partner at Goldman Sachs. He's also actively pro-environment and wants Australia to become a republic, both causes that get my vote.

Turnbull may not do much more than erode Labor's gains in 2011, but in 2014, he may be the one to watch.

History was probably made today.

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