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A Cherry on Top of a Compost Heap

Former Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating has a delicious way with words. At a recent fundraiser in the Blue Mountains for Susan Templeman, the Labor candidate for Macquarie, the wordsmith spoke to the gathering and showed that he was in good form.

“Malcolm Turnbull… fundamentally he is a cherry on top of a compost heap,” he said.

While in the mood, he had a precise comment to offer the present government too. “This is a very, very ordinary government, with people falling out of it, ministers being lost, resigning, having to leave.”

Then he returned to Turnbull, “The great risk for Malcolm is that he doesn’t remain a cherry but turns into a sultana.”

Sometimes Keating’s words are sheer poetry. But, stepping back from the jousting that is party politics, one cannot help but wonder how, in Malcolm’s case, it has now come to this. He looked every inch the statesman just 6 months ago. Back then he looked like the Prime Minister we needed to have; forthright in dissecting the crux of an issue, articulate, caring.

So what went wrong?

The flip flopping that has followed the various tax reform measures proposed by Malcolm leaves political watchers like me in a blurred state of confusion. How does a government leader announce something one day and dump it the next?

I thought these things were thrashed out behind closed doors. I thought the script was prepared well beforehand and a unified launch executed with such precision that it took the media by surprise, thus limiting the opportunity for embarrassing questions.

This latest initiative, offering the states the right to collect income tax, has been a train wreck. It was a stupid idea from the start. The prospect of having six states and two territories competing against each other for people wanting to pay less tax was a “race to the bottom” to quote Helen Hodgson of The Conversation.

So what on earth was Turnbull thinking and who advised him on the plan? Many thought he would be better than this. Or, was it simply a case that the paucity of talent available in the Liberal parliamentary party is so great that anyone who was able to string a decent sentence together, was seen as a strong candidate?

When compared with Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton et al., the competition wasn’t all that great. So perhaps we have given Malcolm more credit than he is due. Perhaps he isn’t the statesman we thought he was. His subsequent performance would suggest we have made a grave error of judgement.

He is still the best choice among the Liberal Party, though, and the public seemed to agree. But was he the best choice in a field bereft of highly qualified, articulate, caring and forthright candidates?

Or, to use Paul Keating’s analogy, was he a healthy piece of fruit thrown on top of a smelly, rotting, rat infested, magpie scavenging, heap of dung? That question, it would seem, is being answered as we speak.

Much is made of the status of preferred prime minister in the various polls that we are fed. Malcolm is clearly the darling of the electorate when compared with Bill Shorten. Yet, Bill Shorten was the preferred prime minister when compared with Tony Abbott.

So, is the preferred prime minister stakes nothing more than a popularity contest between two less than charismatic candidates, absent of any policy initiative offered? It would seem so. How much store do we put in this type of poll? Is the electorate that superficial that it would vote for appearance over substance?

Bill Shorten has filled the policy vacuum created by the government and leads on initiative. Turnbull’s flip flopping on tax policy must surely be noticed, even by a dis-interested electorate.

The media have noticed it, but they are playing it very softly.

One can’t help get the feeling that one or two more flip flops by Malcolm, or by the government, will be enough to see a seismic shift in recognition of policy, rather than presentation.


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  1. z

    apart from last attempt ( failed ) Mr. Turnbull lack of option to choose from to do tax reform, party’s interest is the key here. for instance, if many cross bench are using negative gearing, then, hard to imaging he dare to touch it. public sector for the nation wasn’t top priority for them, so cut and cut, to save revenue spending, it is regardless with personality, Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, —-all the same

  2. cartoonmick

    He’s right when he says it’s a very, very ordinary government.
    The cherry is using most of its energy in containing the right-wing element of the compost heap. No energy left to actually run the country.

    Malc is a much better front man than the previous guy, but that’s all. He can’t chuck an invisibility cloak over the compost heap and pretend there aren’t any problems there. The public just aren’t that dumb.

    On the surface, we can see strong signs of disunity and chaos within.
    How much of a shambles do we actually have in that heap?
    How disorganised are they?
    What is the next thought bubble ?

    Does this cartoon indicate what may happen next ? . . . .

    Editorial / Political


  3. kerri

    I have often wondered about the “Preferred Prime Minister” survey question. Obviously the only answers are the present PM and the leader of the opposition. It could do both political parties some good for the question to be open. ie; name who you would prefer! Justin Trudeau? Angela Merkel? Donald Trump? Kim Kardashian? Mick Jagger? Hugh Jackman? The pollsters would hate an open question as there are too many variables to quantify as a result. But imagine if the answers came up with Tanya Plibersek? Scott Ludlam? Warren Entsch? Fiona Patten?

  4. Loz

    John, I personally have never thought that Malcolm Turnbull would be the shining light of the LNP. My views of this man are shown below – a comment I made on a newspaper article a few months ago.

    Why does a man who has no need for the financial gains of political life, align himself to the LNP who took this country into a very dark place? Is Turnbull so desperate for power. He dismantled an excellent NBN for a useless and expensive broadband that is probably outdated already. He had a SBS journalist sacked for airing his views re Anzacs. He did not question the bizarre climate change policy of the LNP despite his previous alignment to Labour’s excellent climate change policy. He did not raise his voice to ask why we are placing men, women and children in danger of violence and sexual abuse on remote islands. Again I ask is Turnbull so desperate for power

  5. Anzac Bikky

    Oh come on people…you all know that the winning party elects the PM! Don’t buy into the meme that WE do. The best we can do is GUESS who it might be while waiting for the announcement. The popularity polls about preferred PM’s are completely insulting rubbish…ignore them.

  6. Ross in Gippsland

    That old joke about the National Party is now applicable to the Liberals as well.
    “If you can read you get to be the local member, if you can read and write you get to be the leader”

  7. Wally

    Paul Keating has a way with words and generally hits the nail on the head.

    It takes a good opposition to keep the government on its toes and performing at its best. If Labor wins the next election Australia will be better off but will not perform as well as it could if parliament house was full of ministers with the key attributes the voters expect an elected member to have. Even a half wit who was more interested in Australia than self preservation and a personal agenda would be better than most federal LNP politicians.

  8. billie11

    Malcolm is thinking out loud, it’s the hallmark of someone without a supportive network behind him, ie a loner

  9. Glenn K

    Damn, i miss Keating! A politican with a passion to build a better society, right or wrong with some of his decisions, he nevertheless had the passion to improve our society for everyone. I think Shorten has the same passion, he just lacks the eloquence and quick witted sharp tongue of Keating. Keating is a special man.

  10. Florence nee Fedup

    billie 11, a loner in a government where everyone appears to be doing their own thing. Many more than Turnbull or Abbott camp in this government.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if we are seeing the same a happen when Whitlam loss that Tassie bye election.

    Whole country in one swipe turned against Gough at the time.

  11. PC

    We all thought he [Turnbull] would be better than this.”

    WTF are you on about? His record clearly shows this is exactly what one would expect from him.

    With comments like this;

    “He looked every inch the statesman just 6 months ago. Back then he looked like the Prime Minister we needed to have; forthright in dissecting the crux of an issue, articulate, caring.”

    Just shows this country is at a point where it’s too gullible to exist on its own two feet.

    Is this not obvious to anyone else, or am I just going crazy?

    Not sure what you point is here. Can you be more specific?

  12. Jexpat


    It was obvious to some of us from the outset, but things often get carried away when it comes to what are perceived as dragonslayers.

    Look for a similar (and perhaps, similarly unfortunate) dynamic down the track in the US in the event that Trump is denied the Republican party nomination.

  13. terry

    just another headwork of the public . bring on the election .

  14. Kyran

    The COAG dynamic is worth a little more scrutiny. The council meets, usually, twice a year, and produces a communique after each meeting. The most recent farce underscored the similarity between the current PM and COAG itself – All talk, No action.

    A little more scrutiny and it becomes apparent that the last PM reduced the number of COAG committee’s from 22 to 8.
    There are several references on COAG’s website to “The Reform of the Federation” white paper. It was due out in 2015 with a commitment to producing a green paper by 2016. Notwithstanding this governments inability to produce white or green papers, it seems any reference to a timeline has now been all but removed. The language and terminology used in the terms of reference are identical to those used by the current PM in his most recent attempt at obfuscation.

    Not surprisingly, it is further evidence of an inept/incompetent government cherry picking (ironic, huh?) a few lines out of a paper and wilfully ignoring the spirit and intent of the whole document.

    By way of comparison, the treatment afforded the scourge of domestic violence is worth some scrutiny. This is the issue our current PM was so moved by that he replaced 1/3 of the funding removed by the previous PM, the ‘PM for Women’.
    From the COAG communique;
    “As such, COAG welcomed the final report from the COAG Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children (the Panel), thanking the Panel, guided by Mr Ken Lay APM, Ms Rosie Batty and Ms Heather Nancarrow, for its commitment in this area. All COAG members remain committed to making sure that women and their children live free from violence in safe communities.”

    Victoria has recently produced a report from a RC into DV, which Andrews brought with him.

    From the communique;
    “COAG noted the outcomes of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence released this week.”

    So, how does COAG deal with its own report and a RC into DV, both brimming with actions that can be undertaken right now, potentially saving lives and addressing real issues? Nothing, other than announce another meeting.
    “COAG also noted the COAG Summit on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children would be held in Brisbane at the end of October 2016.”
    “Is the electorate that superficial that it would vote for appearance over substance?”
    That seems to be the crux of it, Mr Kelly. Looking on the bright side, only two more PM’s till Christmas. Thank you for the read. Take care

  15. seawork

    I think that we have not given Turnbull the credit he deserves. If his plan had worked and the States had gone along with it, the inevitable consequence would have been that having been given the finance and control of the hospitals, the liberal states would have been able to sell them off and privatize the system.
    As the other States went Liberal in the fullness of time, so they too would have been privatized.
    Next would have been the schools.
    Privatization by stealth is quite crafty.

  16. Aortic

    I note in the Unaustralian that Shanahan is giving him a bagging in that Murdoch rag. If I remember correctly Sheridan did the same with Abbott, and look what happened to that so called PM. I would be afraid Malcolm, very afraid as I would imagine that such press is given clearance from the very top.

  17. PC

    My point is it’s a fallacy to write “We ALL thought he [Turnbull] would be better than this.” The suggestion that “We all” were duped by Turnbull casts insult to every thinking Australian that does NOT have a memory span of a goldfish.

    “Back then he looked like the Prime Minister we needed to have; forthright in dissecting the crux of an issue, articulate, caring.”

    Yes, from a goldfish attention span perspective I can see how people would view Turnbull in this way. But maybe someone might say I have a very good attention span. To those people I say; Really? Then what kind of a leap in imagination did you have to make to believe Turnbull would be any different to that catastrophe called Abbott when he himself said,

    “Alan I am not going to take dictation from you. I am a Cabinet minister. I support unreservedly and wholeheartedly every element in the Budget [2014]. Every single one.”

    Anyway, my point is don’t say “We all”. Because we all weren’t that profoundly naive of what the LNP are all about. You only have to as Keating himself. He’ll tell you.

  18. Salstarat

    If only …. If ONLY we had someone of Paul Keating’s stature, passion and eloquence leading the Labor Party right NOW … we would THRASH the living daylights out of the WORST, most inept, undemocratic, fascist government in living memory. Even though just about EVERYONE in the country – and overseas – breathed an enormous collective sigh of relief when the ignominious, LIAR, thief and cheat, Phony Grabbit, was kicked to the kerb by Turnbull, he (Turnbull) has proven to be a disappointment of EPIC proportions! It was inevitable that someone as inept as Abbott would be torn from the leading role of PM, but Turnbull has proven that he hasn’t got the intestinal fortitude or courage to stand up to Abbott’s band of lunatics from the screaming, ultra conservative right wing neoliberal fringe who revel in homophobia, misogyny, xenophobic racism and cold blooded inhumanity. The Abbott/Turnbull regimes are ruled by elitists FOR elitists – they are all about vilifying, marginalising and relentlessly attacking the poorest, most vulnerable people in our society yet allowing the top 1% and the self entitled, rapacious corporate raiders to get away without contributing one cent tax! Their stubborn REFUSAL to recognise that they have a serious, unfair REVENUE PROBLEM is ongoing and remorseless. This country cannot afford to be oppressed by this self serving fascist plutocracy for another four years … the sooner they are gone, the healthier our economy and our environment will be. Once the LNP have been removed, ordinary Australians can, once more, regain the pride we once had in our nation that we started to lose under the war criminal, John Howard – a pride that was completely obliterated under the tyrannical, insane excesses of the Abbott/Turnbull regime.

  19. Backyard Bob


    It’s true John ought to have said “many”, not “we all”. Nevertheless it’s also true that Turnbull’s personal popularity and status as preferred PM has barely budged over time, dropping somewhat only recently. This alone indicates, whatever else it may suggest about attention spans, that many people thought he would be better than he has been.

    For me Turnbull hasn’t looked remotely Prime Ministerial since the Government was elected. Indeed his previous stint as Liberal leader was pretty indicative of that incapacity as well.

    I don’t think John’s small lapse into hyperbole really warrants your reaction. Oh, and not every false statement is a fallacy. As Hugo famously [almost] said, ‘I don’t think that word means what you think it means”.

  20. Backyard Bob

    It was inevitable that someone as inept as Abbott would be torn from the leading role of PM

    That’s an easy thing to say post hoc. Some evidence of a prediction of such would be nice.

  21. Kaye Lee


    I suggest you read the articles we were all writing here before the election. There is not one thing in Abbott’s entire career that indicated he was capable of the job. His election as leader of the Libs was like Steven Bradbury’s gold medal….all the front runners fell over and the guy who was coming last just skated through the melee.

  22. Backyard Bob

    Kaye Lee,

    That all may be true, but it doesn’t speak to what I quoted and what I said. Plus I was speaking to the person I quoted, namely Salstarat. You might want to include my own post in your suggested reading list. 😉

    I.e. My post was about the purported inevitability of Abbott being torn from the leadership.

  23. PC

    It has been a torturous three years living under this vile hate filled government. I think we can all agree about that. My feelings are very much like Salstarat. Any suggestion that “all of us” thought that the LNP tsunami of destruction leveled towards us, and particularly towards the most vulnerable, would end under Turnbull is absurd, and this absurdity will always trigger strong emotions from me. I make no apologies about that.

  24. Wally

    Backyard Bob

    “Plus I was speaking to the person I quoted, namely Salstarat”

    This is an online comment forum not a PM centre.

  25. Andre Poublon

    It seems Malcolm’s only mission was to be P.M. He would say or do anything just to be P.M. Sort of like “I wanna be famous”.

  26. Kaye Lee


    I must admit I felt great relief to see the back of Abbott. For me it was personal. He and I have been facing off on the opposite side of protests for 40 years.

    Not only was he incompetent, he was humiliating. At least Malcolm wasn’t going to suggest that we should vote for him because he had “good looking daughters”. He wasn’t going to say to the head of World Economic Forum “climbing mountains is a wonderful thing” as he struggled to make small talk. When asked about the qualities of a candidate, he wasn’t going to say she had “sex appeal.” He wasn’t going to fly around the country filleting fish, chucking bags of ice, and laying bricks for the cameras.

    That being said, I never trusted Malcolm, I just wasn’t as embarrassed by having him dance on the world stage. Malcolm presents an even greater threat because he is capable of stringing a sentence together, he nearly sounds plausible where Tony NEVER did. Malcolm is a snake oil salesman who cannot be trusted and must be resisted and exposed, but at least he isn’t going to scare small children in France.

  27. PC

    I can totally relate to what you say Kaye Lee.


  28. John Kelly

    PC, I was never profoundly naive of what the LNP are all about. I did, however, think that Turnbull was better than that. It’s not the first time I’ve misjudged someone. It probably won’t be the last.

  29. PC

    I wasn’t actually referring to you. Your writings certainly do not suggest any naivety on your part in regards to the LNP. I was referring to LNP supporters.

    “I did, however, think that Turnbull was better than that.”

    Better than what John Kelly? Turnbull openly championed Abbott’s policies. Every single one of them, wholeheartedly. You do remember him saying that, don’t you? And, did you really think he could somehow transform the LNP into something of value for this country? The politicians of that party are horrible, horrible people. Anyone with any moral fibre left that party long ago. All that’s left are sociopaths and psychopaths with a mix of bigots, racists and homophobes out to screw over the rest of us.

    If Dante was alive today I bet he’d say to any politician out to do good for his countrymen and women..

    “Abandon hope all ye who enter the LNP”

  30. totaram

    Just as an aside, as any gardener will tell you, Keating’s comment is unkind to compost.

  31. John Kelly

    “The politicians of that party are horrible, horrible people. Anyone with any moral fibre left that party long ago. All that’s left are sociopaths and psychopaths with a mix of bigots, racists and homophobes out to screw over the rest of us.”

    That pretty much sums up my feelings too; something I discovered back in the days of the Whitlam government. My opinion has never changed. But Turnbull never seemed one of them…until he became leader last year.

  32. Kaye Lee

    Very good point totaram. Compost serves a useful purpose in making a plant’s life better. It actually makes a positive contribution. The only similarity with the Coalition is it is made from rubbish.

  33. totaram

    PC: “All that’s left are sociopaths and psychopaths with a mix of bigots, racists and homophobes out to screw over the rest of us.”

    A small correction is in order, I feel. They are paid apparatchiks of the people who fund and run the IPA (that is the upper 1%). That they are ” sociopaths and psychopaths with a mix of bigots, racists and homophobes out to screw over the rest of us.” is just icing on the cake. Make no mistake.

  34. Backyard Bob

    John Kelly,

    But Turnbull never seemed one of them…until he became leader last year.

    Well, now I’m on PC’s side regarding attention spans. I posted this a while ago when TPS’s Ad astra posted a recent article, but I’ll post it again:

    Turnbull’s loss of self, albeit a phantasmagorical, public sense, has long since been in decline.

  35. Matters Not

    Jensen gone? Oh no! ? Serves him right. After all he undermined Tone

    And I thought he was the new, modern day Xaviera Hollander. The Happy Mocker and all that.

    Although there was evidence he could add and subtract with the best of them. ?

    Little chance he will return to the CSIRO, because they are down sizing.

    One gets the clear impression that they are ‘riven’.

  36. Matters Not

    And so it goes. Vale Bob Ellis.

  37. bossa

    Turnbull could never be my Cherry Bomb, although I’m sure he’s fascinated with himself as much as any narcissist could ever be. He’s only the IPA’s new salesman, not the Messiah.

  38. Florence nee Fedup

    Does one notice, or is it only me, PM talks as if he is a onlooker not a participant. Seems to say he has no part in decisions made. All fault of cabinet.

    As Henderson said this morning, interview with Fran coming across as if in university debate.

    Henderson asked who knew what living within a fiscal envelope.

  39. Wally

    Florence nee Fedup

    Your right just a mouthpiece with pre-programmed responses. When the questions get too tough on tax reform for instance the standard reply is “you will have to wait for the budget”. After some more questions the response was “There will be a budget and it is not far away.”

  40. Geoff Andrews

    “How does a government leader announce something one day and dump it the next?”

    It was a captain’s call both times.
    Of course, when someone as brilliant as MT gets done over so easily at COAG one immediately suspects that it’s part of a clever plot to trump Labor in two months time. So far, all he’s said is something to the effect that: “you had your chance so now I wash my hands of any extra future funding”, as if trying to pit the voters in the state elections against the same voters in federal election.
    His argument, that if the states have to raise a tax they will be more careful when and how they spend it, is such an MT, childish offering from supposedly a top barrister that, based on the evidence and the balance of probabilities, the whole idea came from the Abbott camp and he fell for it just as he did with the fake utegate email that, I think, Erica Bits introduced into the senate.

    However, I see help is at hand. Kevin Andrews has announced that he might take a tilt at being PM some time in the future.

  41. PC

    Looks to me like a conga-line of arseholes is forming just outside the Prime Minister’s office.

  42. Otto von Heidelberg

    There’s no doubt about this, that if you have a political weakness of any description, Paul Keating (PM and pig farmer of old) will drill a hole in it the size of a truck. So, if Peta Credlin can be Election Commentator, lets have Paul on the same desk as well! That would make the Election a side show which it almost is at the present moment, that is until one finds the PM is on the Panama LIst as CEO of a company called Australia.
    While Bill Shorten isn’t someone you’d invite to dinner, he does draw a crowd when he speaks which might be debatable when applied to Tony, Kevin and possibly Mal these days. The odds on Bill are Shortening.

  43. Wally

    The Murdoch press has turned on Turnbull

    Saviour Malcolm Turnbull has turned out to be a dud – and is headed for electoral defeat

    BLUNTLY, and to put it quite simply, Malcolm Turnbull is a dud.

    No, that’s not an acronym for a three-word slogan. But as “Dr Google” tells us: “A thing that fails to work properly or is otherwise unsatisfactory or worthless.”

    Some other alternatives are: “a malfunctioning or failed idea; an unfulfilled expectation; something that does not do what it is supposed to do.”

    You would think that after the last six months — and most particularly, last week — this would be an unexceptional statement. That the expectations, indeed the dreams — fantasies — of last September, would by now have completely evaporated.

    Turnbull was supposed to lead the nation out of the policy wilderness and in the process save the Coalition government from the political perdition to which Peta (Credlin) via Tony (Abbott) had supposedly condemned it.

    Instead he has revealed himself as not simply a political dud but also — his supposed strength — a policy dud as well. He is quite simply floundering completely out of his depth and without the faintest idea of how to even just touch bottom again.

    Well, when I say “revealed” except not, it would appear, to the “intelligentsia” more broadly and to the Canberra Press Gallery more narrowly, very narrowly.

    That is to some extent understandable. The Gallery is both emotionally and ideologically invested in Turnbull as primarily “the non-Abbott”.

    He is the very model of their ideal prime minister — someone who not simply occupies the broad centre, but believes in all the “right things” that they do, and could sit easily in either of the major parties; as indeed he essentially has done over the years, at least, intellectually. The parallel, you might say, of a Donald Trump.–and-is-headed-for-electoral-defeat/news-story/b58444011a0497914fa2994cae231291

  44. Otto von Heidelberg

    You are on to something there Wally. Tony was/is a Stud, Mal is a Dud and the wannabee Kevin might just also come down on the party with an “…udd”. No soft landing for these jugglers. As for Rupert, he is just a used car salesman or was it used News? When there isn’t any around, he’d just invent some. There’s a James Bond Movie based on the same theme, raked in MILLIONS. Lamentably (from that movie) Dr Kaufman is dead, or else he would take a few pot-shots from Vienna at some of these Pollies well past their used-by date and maybe use a bit of torture as well to extract proper and truthful POLICY.

  45. stephentardrew

    John I persistently warned about this snake oil salesman. Conman writ large.

  46. Pingback: A Cherry on Top of a Compost Heap | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

  47. Peter

    Many of us always regarded Paul Keating as a compost heap without a cherry on top.

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