I can't think of a more important recent decision on the Conservative side of politics than to stop Malcolm Turnbull from siding with Kevin Rudd over the 2010 plans for an Emissions Trading Scheme.
I recall the details very well. It was democracy in action - talkback callers, emailers to electorate offices and Liberal/National Party members at Party meetings were pretty much united in opposition to Malcolm Turnbull over climate change. They did not agree with Turnbull's philosophy on anthropogenic global warming (much like Rudd's 2010 public position), and they definitely did not want any part in Mr Turnbull's ETS deal with Mr Rudd.
Today, Mark Latham has used Andrew Robb's stunning party room speech (which drew a standing ovation from his colleagues and turned the Party room away from an ETS deal with Labor) as the backdrop for his churlish and just plain weird commentary about Andrew's past depression. Here's part of Latham's column in today's AFR
The note was written by Andrew Robb, Turnbull’s climate change spokesman, who had taken leave from parliamentary duties in September 2009 to deal with a mental illness. Robb returned to work just in time to contribute to the party room debate on the ETS. He had been expected to support his leader’s proposed compromise with Labor, thus allowing the legislation to pass the Senate. Instead, he embarked on a series of deceitful ploys to bring down Turnbull.
Robb’s first lie was to conceal from his leader his opposition to the ETS compromise. When asked by Turnbull lieutenant Senator Michael Ronaldson if he was going to speak in the debate, he said he didn’t know. In fact, Robb saw himself as the key player in scuttling Turnbull’s policy. As he wrote in his 2011 book Black Dog Daze, “I knew that if I didn’t say anything, there was no one else [in the opposition] equipped to challenge the proposal.”
Robb suffers from delusions of grandeur. His book was a lightly veiled application for party leadership. Two years ago he publicly declared he should be the shadow treasurer, replacing Joe Hockey. During the ETS controversy, Robb thought he needed to speak early in the party room debate, otherwise momentum would build in favour of Turnbull’s position.
Robb achieved his goal through deviousness. In order to be elevated on the speakers’ list, he misled his leader about the impact of his depression medication. In a note to Turnbull, who was chairing the meeting, he claimed, “the side-effects of the medication I am on now make me very tired, I’d be really grateful if you could get me to my feet soon”. This was a wicked tactic. As Robb recorded in his book, under the heading An Act of Treachery, “I didn’t feel that good about doing this . . . I was tired, that wasn’t a lie, although I had my share of adrenaline pumping and could have easily sat there for another couple of hours.”
The ruse worked. “Malcolm called me up and I went for it”, Robb wrote. He received a “standing ovation” and “poked holes all over their proposal”. A week later Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership to Tony Abbott in a coup organised by Robb and the party’s other climate change sceptics.
While politicians sometimes lie about policy proposals, I have never known an MP to be disingenuous about something as important as mental illness and the impact of their medication. Robb has set a new low in Australian public life. He will say and do anything for personal and political advantage, symptomatic of someone unsuited to community service.
Really Mark? That's the best you've got for today's serve on Andrew Robb?
No, there's more. Andrew Robb hands his leader a note asking if he can speak first in a meeting because he's tired, just returning to work after sick leave. Latham's managed to spin a whole column out of that - which includes this incredible claim:
The Liberals are asking voters to trust someone in the management of the Commonwealth’s $400 billion budget who could not be trusted to tell the truth about his mental illness medication. (Mark ignores Andrew's tell-all book and his comprehensive speeches about dealing with depression - MPS).
Despite his many lectures on the need for honesty in politics, Abbott was unperturbed by Robb’s lies. He promoted him to the position of finance spokesman and then chairman of the Coalition’s election policy committee. This is the burning irony of the current campaign: the party running on the question of trust has had its policies drafted by the shiftiest figure in modern Australian politics.
The shiftiest figure in modern Australian politics? I think Mark Latham got that call right just over 12 months ago on Sky News's Australian Agenda when he assessed Julia Gillard's character.
Mark Latham's lament on 'liar' PM Julia Gillard
- The Daily Telegraph
- April 02, 2012
LABOR can't go to an election with Julia Gillard as leader and needs to install a "non-liar" into the post, former leader Mark Latham said yesterday.
Raising talk of leadership change only weeks after Ms Gillard beat a challenge from Kevin Rudd, Mr Latham believes there is no way the party would stick with Ms Gillard.
"Well, the only option for the Labor Party is to bring in a non-liar as prime minister," he told Sky TV's Australian Agenda. "And inevitably, as certain as night follows day, they will change leaders before the next election.
"They can't possibly go to the next poll with Gillard. I mean, there's no way of unscrambling the egg, having broken an important election promise like this."
Mr Latham said that aside from structural problems within the ALP, which led to the Queensland election loss, the party needed to heed lessons about the broken carbon tax promise: "There is absolutely no margin for lying."
Read all about it at the Daily Telegraph - I'd be obliged if someone could find the video!