Despite Tony Abbott’s Festival of Snipe, in which the feather duster did his best to tarnish his replacement as a “no change” PM, it became clear this week that Malcolm Turnbull is planning a radical overhaul of Abbott-era policies.
Mr Abbott tried to cast doubt on the reasons for his ousting, telling grieving shock-jocks that “we were doing a good job” and that nothing had changed on the policy front with the Turnbull government.
“Climate change, the same. Border protection policy, the same. National security policy, the same and if you listen to the prime minister and the treasurer, they’re even using exactly the same phrases that Joe Hockey and I were using just a fortnight ago,” he said.
This self-indulgent blubbering only served to reinforce the need to remove the former PM, who demonstrated yet again his lack of political judgement.
Or perhaps Mr Abbott simply wasn’t paying attention when Mr Turnbull clearly telegraphed his intention when he became PM to change any existing policies “if they don’t work as well as we think, or we think others can work better”.
True to his word, Mr Turnbull is giving the government’s policies a Spring clean, seemingly intent on expelling the fustiness of the previous administration.
One of the first old things tossed out was climate denier and tinfoil hat aficionado Maurice Newman, whose term on the PM’s business advisory council was not renewed.
The government’s climate action agenda was pulled out of the cupboard and given a polish, with Environment Minister Greg Hunt reportedly setting up a new unit to bring together all climate change and clean energy programs from across the government.
Other fresh approaches were given an airing, with an overhaul of Medicare announced to find ways of reducing health costs rather than slugging voters to visit the doctor.
Potentially sky-rocketing university fees were set aside so that university reform can be reconsidered. And potential economic savings were put back on the table, such as tax concessions for wealthy retirees, capital gains tax concessions on property, and negative gearing.
Mr Turnbull has also flagged taking a more conciliatory approach to working with the Islamic community, to address a widespread feeling of marginalisation among Muslims which is reported to be impeding counter-terrorism efforts.
Here be dragons
The new PM has also signalled a willingness to venture into potentially dangerous policy territory, which could aggravate Liberal conservatives or the broader voting community if badly handled.
Mr Turnbull showed an empathy for asylum seekers that was seemingly beyond his predecessor, describing this week’s allegations of asylum seekers being raped and sexually assaulted at the Nauru detention centre as “alarming”.
Domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty joined the call for Mr Turnbull to close the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, making it particularly challenging for the PM to find a policy pathway that deters boat-borne asylum seekers while meeting progressive voters’ demands for a more human way of doing so.
There are also early signs the Turnbull government is willing to consider taking changes to the GST and workplace relations laws to the upcoming federal election. Time will tell if these initiatives are bravely necessary or simply “courageous” in Yes Minister terms.
Labor holds its counsel while Mr Abbott does a Rudd
Meanwhile, the Opposition stayed mostly quiet this week, finally taking note of the old political adage that it is best to avoid interrupting your opponent when they’re making a mistake. Or when one of them is trying to spoil things for everyone else.
Labor MPs would have undoubtedly been transfixed by the unedifying trainwreck that is Tony Abbott’s whingeorama, noting that not even Kevin Rudd sooked as much in public as the former PM has done in the past seven days.
“I never thought, having watched the Labor Party implode, that the Coalition would want to venture down the same path,” Mr Abbott told the Telegraph last week.
And yet by self-indulgently holding court with a growing list of media commentators, trying to re-write his place in history and undermining his successor, the former PM is trying to cause the same instability that voters deplored in the Rudd-created omnishambles that was the former Labor government.