Editorial: Turnbull imploding—but don’t give Labor a blank cheque

The chaos and division around Malcolm Turnbull seems to grow by the day. His government could be gone within weeks.

As we went to press, the government was facing by-elections in Bennelong and New England. A loss in either one would push Turnbull into minority government.

And the dual citizenship crisis that brought on the by-elections still has a long way to run. The new disclosure regime, requiring MPs to prove their citizenship status, could easily catch out other government MPs. Turnbull is so on the nose that he will struggle to win by-elections.

If this forces Turnbull to a snap federal election he would face a crushing defeat.

The Queensland election confirmed this. Not only did the Liberal-National Party (LNP) lose, they haemorrhaged votes to One Nation. This was worst in rural areas, even as the LNP preferenced One Nation ahead of Labor in some seats. But in south-east Queensland the LNP’s association with One Nation proved toxic. It was widely predicted that the LNP’s only chance at government was through coalition with One Nation, something LNP leader Tim Nicholls refused to rule out.

Turnbull’s government is falling apart. He scrapped a sitting week of parliament in the hope of avoiding a bill for an inquiry into the banks. But then he was forced to give in and declare he’d hold one anyway. There were already enough Nationals MPs in the lower house pledging to cross the floor to win a vote.

Legislation on equal marriage has been promised before the end of the year. The bigots of the No campaign were comprehensively defeated, with 61.6 per cent for Yes in the postal vote. But the hard right of the Coalition are exposing how out of step with the population they are, demanding discrimination against same-sex couples in the name of religious freedom. This only reinforces that the Liberals and Nationals are the most hardline opponents of equality.

A Labor government could be just months away. The unions are throwing themselves into electoral campaigning against Turnbull, putting enormous resources into Bennelong.

But this does little to put any pressure on Labor for change. Labor says it will abolish the anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission, but it has said nothing about changing the rules over fines for industrial action or giving us the right to strike.

The NSW union day of action on 16 November was an example of the kind of action needed—a weekday stopwork rally showing that the unions will fight the government’s anti-worker laws.

The wave of protests and pressure over Manus Island forced a small concession from Labor—which has now called on Turnbull to accept New Zealand’s offer of resettling 150 people from Manus. But Labor remains committed to the offshore detention policies that have seen refugees languish on Manus and Nauru for over four years. It’s only a matter of time before Turnbull is kicked out. But we need bigger campaigns, protests and strikes if we’re going to get rid of his policies as well.

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