AS far as displays of political power by an embattled leader go, last week’s party room meeting called by Malcolm Turnbull was an abject failure.
Liberal MPs emerged from the meeting having failed to advance the debate over same-sex marriage in any way, while also proposing a postal plebiscite that will make the party a laughing stock.
Australians will receive a ballot at their homes which they will be asked – not told – to send back with an indication of where they stand on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Quite apart from the question of what right any household has to vote on the lifestyle choice of a neighbour (and that remains one of the key arguments against a plebiscite of any sort), the idea of democracy by snail mail in 2017 is just embarrassing.
Adding insult to injury, though, is the reality that the findings of the plebiscite will have no legal standing and will not compel MPs to vote a particular way if and when a proposal to change the Marriage Act belatedly makes its way onto the floor of parliament.
Before we go down that path, though, parliament will need to go through the charade of reconsidering the failed plebiscite bill, despite government MPs knowing that the result will be the same as last time.
This is all nothing but an act of obfuscation by a party and a leader already being criticised for a preference for talk over action.
Malcolm Turnbull has not come out of the meeting in a stronger leadership position, nor has he improved his standing among the general public.
Opponents of same-sex marriage now see him as a weak leader being dragged into line with his party’s stated policy while supporters see him as a weak leader too gutless to stand up for something he clearly believes is right.
Only Bill Shorten’s continued inability to inspire the voting public is keeping Malcolm Turnbull in The Lodge at present.
The Liberals know they do not have a palatable alternative to Mr Turnbull at present, but nor do they necessarily need one while Labor sticks with Mr Shorten.
The polls show Labor has majority support across the country but Mr Shorten still trails Mr Turnbull as preferred PM.
It’s a sad state of affairs when neither party has a leader ready to lead. No wonder we have a public that refuses to follow.