Can Turnbull stop the leadership turnstile?

FIVE prime ministers in five years is a statistic that should concern all of us.

Australia may have third world levels of population growth courtesy of the 200,000 annual boost through immigration which is being used to pump prime a directionless economy.

We may act like it at times, and five prime ministers in five years has a Banana Republic ring to it, but Australia is still yet to become the white trash of Asia Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew prophesised in the 1980s would be our destiny.

Malcolm Turnbull's election to the Liberal leadership and to the nation's top job will undoubtedly regalvanise his party which has been in despair after 30 consecutive negative opinion polls.

Polling in South Australia and Victoria identified Coalition support had collapsed, giving some sitting MPs just 18% of the primary vote.

The survival instinct may be behind Tony Abbott's overthrow less than two years into his three-year term.

Leaders clearly come and go.

But the challenges we face remain and require more than the window dressing afforded by leadership change.

Australians are desperate for a leader with the capacity to enunciate a vision for the country and with the ability to explain how we get there.

As Amanda Vanstone once early in her career told the Liberal Party room: It's not about the bus, we need to explain where we are going on it.

Malcolm Turnbull has promised to do that - to respect voters and their intelligence - and to move from three-word slogans to discussion about not just where we want to go but how we want to get there.

He will have difficulties though in identifying the challenges and explaining them to an electorate that has had five years of rubbish spat at it not just by his predecessor but also many who will form the Cabinet around him.

First among those challenges is climate change. It also presents some of those opportunities Mr Turnbull alluded to, but didn't identify yesterday.

A progressive country looking to maintain relevance in a modern world and to create the new era jobs that go with it, simply can't afford to cling so desperately to an unsustainable past.

A co-ordinated response engaging federal, state and local government is required to avoid leaving a bigger mess than we already will for the future to clean up. Policy settings in all areas, but especially in planning, must become absolutely rigid in their refusal to allow increased density in vulnerable places.

Mr Turnbull's ability to ensure polluters pay the true cost of their emissions will establish whether his goal was simply to win leadership or to lead.

It is no longer good enough to have as the head of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council, a climate change denier who is wilful in his ignorance.

Tony Abbott may have thought coal was good for humanity, but those with thinking unclouded by the need to serve vested interest understand the sense of shifting to renewables on a planet of finite resources.

There is also a greater appreciation that population growth, a policy setting of Federal Government, is unsustainable at its present rate without enormous cost to the environment and our standard of living.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is right to question whether Malcolm Turnbull will come to represent more than a change of leadership style, leaving policies unchanged.

But equally if Mr Shorten is to be a relevant element of a smarter future for this country, it is time for him to also explain what he envisions that future to be and how we will get there.