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Why Malcolm Turnbull is the Neville Chamberlain of Australian Politics

Malcolm Turnbull is the Neville Chamberlain of Australian politics. His raison d’être is simple. He expounded it as a schoolboy. He wants to be Prime Minister. He doesn’t know why. He just wants to be. And, having dealt his way to the top job, he will do anything to make sure he remains in it.

When he came to power the nation breathed a sigh of relief. He was urbane and witty and seemed like the kind of leader we could all feel comfortable with. He offered hope. Even Labor voters were relieved and, without saying it too loudly, quietly pleased. Some of them might have flirted with the idea that they might go as far as to vote for him. After all, the Left/Right divide had muddied and certain sections of the Labor Party seemed to be further to the Right than Turnbull’s Liberals. Or what they thought were Turnbull’s Liberals. Turnbull seemed to represent values that they could relate to. His track record with the Republic, Climate Change, Gay Marriage and even Refugees seemed to suggest he was a man of the times. For all of us. He even spoke Language in Parliament to show he was simpatico with Aboriginal Australia. This last act stands as a perfect metaphor for Malcolm Turnbull. He is a man who is big on rhetorical flourishes but increasingly is proving to be ideologically barren.

Turnbull did a deal with the devil to win support to ditch Abbott. He was prepared to appease the Right of his party to achieve his childhood dream.

Chamberlain famously achieved “peace with honour” by appeasement. It was one of the hollowest victories in history. Following his treaty with the devil the world was plunged into a darkness it has never recovered from.

Turnbull sings from the same songsheet. It appears that he will appease whatever devil he needs to ensure his grip on the Prime Ministership remains secure.

His latest appeasement with the Right of the Liberal Party was over the Safe Schools Coalition that was established to protect our children. All of our children. The Safe Schools Coalition focuses on “creating safe and inclusive environments for LGBTIQ students”. In doing so it not only seeks to protect LGBTIQ children but crucially, raises its hand against pernicious bullying in our schools. It says,

“Stop there, enough is enough, bullying will not be tolerated.”

It draws a line in the sand.

Marginalising young people because of their sexuality is not new. Nor is marginalising them because of their race. Or religion. Or anything else.

History is replete with the agonies of the marginalised. We have grown to accept that marginalising anyone, let alone children, is a crime against humanity. It is why a generation sacrificed all to turn back the oppressor whom Chamberlain was all too willing to appease.

Appeasement is about making deals. In Chamberlains case it was with the devil. He might have acted with the best of intentions. He might have been prepared to cut any deal to give him time to prevent the kind of conflagration the world had endured just twenty years before. He might have been playing the “long game” that the shrinking number of Turnbull optimists pray he his playing. That narrative goes along the lines that, once he’s won the election, he will show his true colours and promote the kind of progressive, inclusive policies the nation is crying out for.

Chamberlain’s “peace with honour” was a sham. It’s consequences as dire as anyone could imagine.

Similarly Malcolm Turnbull’s policy of appeasing the Right of his party will have dire consequences. Just one child being bullied because of the scrapping of the Safe Schools Coalition would be a tragedy. The inevitability of hundreds of children being bullied and reduced to unimaginable suffering should be enough to convince the Prime Minister that it’s time he stood up to the bullies in his own party and really promoted “peace with honour”. By sacrificing his principles to keep the peace in the Liberal Party and, ipso facto, to keep his job as Prime Minister he is betraying our children and turning his back on those who need our support.

Just like Chamberlain did.

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