Malcolm Turnbull and the politics of appearing powerless

THE most confusing thing about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s apparent determination to keep the ageing Liddell power station on life support until at least 2027, and trumping its sale as Plan B, is that he’s doing it at all.

He is the millionaire PM with the dazzling CV that includes stints as barrister, journalist, company director, financier, entrepreneur and new enterprise leader.

In his maiden speech to Federal Parliament in November, 2004 he said his life’s experience had been “that there is little reward without risk”. Australia’s economy and prosperity depended on “a culture of initiative and enterprise”.

Turnbull hoped that “my experience in the small and medium business sector will enable those men and women who are the very engine of our nation's growth to become better understood, as our parliament makes laws that affect them”.

Nearly 13 years later the innovators and creatives, the business and enterprise leaders looking to Turnbull for leadership as Australia attempts to transition to a new energy world, are almost speechless at Turnbull 2.0 – the prime minister who has pinned his hopes on Liddell and coal.

The energy “debate” of our energy “crisis” has deteriorated to name-calling by politicians and abuse of Liddell owner AGL by government ministers, unchecked by the prime minister.

The extraordinary part of this energy “debate” by politicians is that it is so narrow, in a field where there is so much information. The Turnbull Government’s focus on Liddell, giving the impression that an ageing piece of infrastructure is the most important part of an energy debate that has been stalled, beaten and neglected for years, is not in the public interest.

There is a wealth of evidence available, from independent, objective and informed sources, as well as academics, industry leaders, business groups, regulators, think tanks and environment groups, all strongly backing the need for a comprehensive government response to our energy challenges.

We need a national energy market for the 21st century, capable of managing the transition to rapidly evolving technology and market demands. We need a clean energy target, now, to unlock the investment that has stalled with every government sidestep over the past 10 years.

Finally, we need leadership from the prime minister, because that’s his job.

Issue: 38,596.