News National Is Turnbull soft on terror? His own party wants you to think so
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Is Turnbull soft on terror? His own party wants you to think so

Malcolm Turnbull in parliament
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Hardliners in the Liberal Party want you to believe Malcolm Turnbull has aligned himself with that renowned surrender monkey Barack Obama and is failing in his duty to assure the nation’s safety.

It’s not only followers of ousted Prime Minister Tony Abbott pushing this line, but what is now being called his “government in exile”. Prominent among the bomb throwers is dumped Defence Minister Kevin Andrews.

Never a fan of Mr Turnbull, he stalked him back in 2009 for the successful Abbott coup, and he is now accusing the PM of being soft on terrorism. He is doing it with some subtlety but not much.

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Mr Turnbull’s embrace of the American president’s rhetoric and strategy after three high-level meetings overseas has the Turnbull haters in high dudgeon.

Their most high-profile camp follower, Andrew Bolt, is railing against the Prime Minister as an appeaser of Muslim leaders like the Grand Mufti. He says Mr Turnbull should have been more forthright in his condemnation of the Mufti’s initial response to the atrocities in Paris.

The right wing columnist also believes Mr Turnbull should be pushing for reform of one of the world’s major religions. Imagine that.

Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama
Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama had plenty to talk about at the APEC summit last week. Photo: AAP

For good measure another ally, conservative Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, believes we should renege on our humanitarian offer to take 12,000 Syrian refugees because we can’t vouch for their good faith. All Syrians, especially Muslim ones, are terror suspects.

Reclaim Australia couldn’t have put it better. Never mind that our most critical ally in the fight against a Paris-style attack here is the Muslim community.

But stirring up animosity and intolerance of Muslims is only part of it. Mr Andrews, like his knifed leader, wants to revisit the hairy-chested militarism that led to the Middle Eastern quagmire in the first place.

‘Boots on the ground’ is the new battle cry. Mr Obama in Turkey conceded that it would win any battle against Islamic State and hold ground while the troops remained.

But despite what the hawks say, there is no appetite in the United States to recommit thousands of American personnel to the cause.

Australian public opinion is equally tepid.

Mr Obama has the lessons of Iraq at the front of his mind. Only a smarter political solution can assure a lasting peace and prevent the emergence of new forms of extremism.

Kevin Andrews
Kevin Andrews is critical of the PM’s stance on terrorism. Photo: AAP

Mr Turnbull added insult to the right’s injury by agreeing with the president. He even talked of “complexity” and the genuine grievances of the Sunnis, grievances that are being ruthlessly exploited by Islamic State.

Mr Andrews believes Mr Obama has abdicated American leadership, and by implication his Australian acolyte Mr Turnbull is complicit in the failure.

According to the newly-relegated Liberal backbencher, Paris was the last straw. He is unapologetic for any perception he could be undermining his new leader.

“What happened in Paris last week changed everything. I’ve got an ongoing role as a member of parliament to speak out on these issues and I will,” Mr Andrews told ABC TV.

It is hard not to conclude that Kevin Rudd-style destabilisation of the PM is underway.

It is curious.

Throwing the switch to khaki and trying to scare the pants off the nation didn’t save Mr Abbott’s leadership. Why he thinks it can restore his fortunes is surely delusional.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics. He is Contributing Editor for Network Ten, appears on Radio National Breakfast and writes a weekly column on national affairs for The New Daily. He tweets at @PaulBongiorno

Read all of his columns here

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