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Day to Day Politics. Abbott was not a leader’s bootlace. As for Turnbull well . . .

Thursday 10 December

1 In the recipe of what makes a good leader there are many ingredients. Self-awareness is one. The innate ability to know who you are and what your capabilities and limitations are. The need to have the aptitude to motivate people with your vision.

Often the art of leadership is the ability to bring those otherwise opposed to your view, to accept it. Or compromise when the situation demands it.

It is also about delegation, empathy and understanding. It can also require from time to time the making of unpopular decisions. Decisions like going to war. However, when they consistently imply the leaders own morality and spiritual beliefs they are more akin to autocracy.

Most leaders want to be popular but some will forego it for power. Getting things done for the common good is also a fine trait of an excellent leader. Another important feature of leadership is the ability to be able to change one’s mind when circumstances change. Together with the skill to explain ‘why’ after listening to the views of others.

To break a promise or change one’s mind in order to serve the common good should be viewed as courageous leadership rather than a sign of weakness. Having the grace to say “I was wrong” is another quality rarely seen.

Above all, great leaders know that humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. But it is truth that enables human progress.

Tony Abbott, in his opinion piece for News Corp ably demonstrated why he failed as a leader.

Abbott is a very divisive force. His leadership was based on the assumption that lies repeated would eventually become truth. That confrontation displayed strength of character and it alone would win an argument. If I shout loud enough I will be heard.

In his piece he seeks to blame a whole religion for the actions of a minority of extremists. It reflects his ‘confrontation solves all’ attitude to life in general. Turnbull fire back with; “The simple fact of the matter is the vast majority of Muslims are as appalled by these acts of extremism as we are“.

There is nothing wrong in suggesting that Islam needs reform, but to do so whilst at the same time his own church condemns homosexuality, (defining it as disordered) doesn’t allow women to control over their own fertility and, as Kristina Keneally reports; “tells divorced people that they have failed as Christians – even if the marriage was abusive or if their spouse was cheating on them – and denies them access to the sacraments“.

A church that for decades has condoned the abuse of children. Only a person who thinks he has some sort of macabre ownership on righteousness could suggest that another religion needs reform.

All it displays is Islamophobia of the worst kind and an incapacity for deep reflection. A hatred for all things other than those ideals derived from an indoctrination by Catholicism.

Indeed, a church led by very old men wearing dresses with no experience of consensual love is also in need of reform.

Sound judgement is also a prerequisite for good leadership. In saying that he would have won the next election, that his first budget was a fair one (when it was judged by all sections of the community as the most unfair ever) and only lasting two years as leader – that he has a legacy to protect – it’s all the Senate’s fault, confirms what little judgement he had.

The notion that he spoke to most Australians is nonsense. What he did was to talk to a very, very small group within the Australian community who have views that aren’t consistent with a pluralist, modern, twenty-first century, multicultural nation. The polls showed this and it’s why he lost the leadership. The conundrum in Australian politics is that the public has one idea of what a leader should be but the conservative parties have another.

Abbott lost his leadership because he had none of the aforementioned leadership characteristics that Australians see as desirable.

As a moderate leader Malcolm Turnbull now finds himself the leader of a party that wants to be very much to the right. As a leader he does have some of the aforementioned qualities, however, they in themselves are not necessarily of a rightest mould. In his interview with Leigh Sales he showed a propensity for self-indulgence. He was not up to scratch with detail, expected Sales to be conciliatory, and wanted to impose his own version of leadership spin without the slogans.

To quote Sean Kelly:

‘The first and most worrying thing from the 7.30 interview is that the PM seemed to have scant detail about his own innovation statement, announced earlier that day. This is supposed to be his bailiwick: a technology announcement by a man who loves technology, support offered to entrepreneurs by the nation’s best-known entrepreneur.’

There are those political leaders who have a sagacious gift for detail. In my experience no one surpassed former Prime Minister Howard. He consumed facts and figures with a childlike appetite for rice bubbles at breakfast. There was not much else I liked about him but his grasp of the finer points of policy were formidable. So too did Hawke, Keating and Beasley who I would rate next to Howard. Brendan Nelson also had an impressive mind for the fine print.

Turnbull in 2012 said:

‘I am not suggesting politicians are innately less accurate or truthful than anyone else. But rather that the system is not constraining, in fact it is all too often rewarding, spin, exaggeration, misstatements … Dumbing down complex issues into sound bites, misrepresenting your or your opponent’s policy does not respect “Struggle Street”, it treats its residents with contempt … Call me idealistic if you like, but we have a greater need than ever for informed and honest debate.’

As a leader he will have to show more than just charm and pleasantness. He will have to show substance.

2 The Newspoll result in yesterday’s Australian which is presumably the last for the year, has the Coalition’s two-party lead unchanged at 53-47, from primary votes of 45% for the Coalition (down one), 33% for Labor (steady) and 12% for the Greens (up one). However, Malcolm Turnbull’s personal ratings have taken a knock, with approval down eight to 52% and disapproval up eight to 30%. Bill Shorten’s ratings plumb new depths with a three-point drop in approval to 23%, while disapproval is up four to 61%. Turnbull’s lead over Shorten as preferred prime minister is down slightly, from 64-15 to 60-14.

The penultimate Essential Research fortnightly average for the year is unchanged at 51-49 to the Coalition, from primary votes of Coalition 44% (steady), Labor 36% (up one) and Greens 11% (steady). Also featured are the monthly leadership ratings, which fail to back up Newspoll’s reported slide for both Malcolm Turnbull, who is at 56% approval (steady) and 23% disapproval (up three), and Bill Shorten, who is unchanged at 27% approval and 47% disapproval. Turnbull’s preferred prime minister lead is at 55-15.

3 Donald Trump is now advocating closing all mosques, deporting all immigrants, abandoning refugees and now censoring the internet. Where will it end?

There is an abundance of psychiatrists in the US. I suggest he seeks one of the best. He appears to be an extremely sick man.

4 Meanwhile in Paris Australia’s inglorious position at the bottom of the developed world’s ranking on climate change policy comes in sharp contrast to the triumphant rhetoric of Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Paris.

The fact that Australia has been rated third last out of the 58 countries assessed reveals the extent of the Turnbull Government’s climate hypocrisy.

Last week the Prime Minister himself was in Paris championing Australia’s efforts at meeting our climate change targets early. And this week Minister Hunt has gone out of his way to talk up the positive response that Australia’s representatives have received at Paris. “We’re meeting and beating our targets,” he said. Bullshit we are.

5 Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs says Malcolm Turnbull has welcomed her back into the corridors of power. Good to have another voice of reason but the neo cons won’t be happy.


The ideas of today need to be honed with critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of enquiry so that they clearly articulate the currency of tomorrow’.

PS: My thanks to those of you who share my posts on Facebook. You make it all very worthwhile.



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  1. Keith

    Abbott has been our watered down version of Donald Trump.

  2. Möbius Ecko

    Abbott’s confrontational attitude and propensity for warmongering was again on display overnight when he called for a global coordinated (ground troops) effort in attacking ISIL to wipe them out. After admitting Iraq and Afghanistan were failures of undertaking action he said that not taking action against ISIL is a far worse failure costing many more lives.

    Does he realise it’s the actions of Iraq and Afghanistan that allowed the spawning of ISIL, and that in every likelihood if they are completely wiped another possibly more extremist group will rise.

    This man is not just an utterly failed leader in every way, but a gormless belligerent and war monger to boot.

  3. Terry2

    Abbott is a loose cannon posturing as a statesman : he no longer represents the Liberal party and they should disassociate themselves from him.

    He has extended his decision on his future direction from Christmas to Easter and he tells us that he has been receiving overwhelming support to stay and that’s a shame although it looks as though The Australian has dropped him.

    Won’t somebody offer him a job – Clive Palmer, looking at you..

  4. OldWomBat

    Tony Abbott is just a small, angry and bitter man. Apparently encouraged from birth to believe that he was a wonderful human being destined to be either the Pope or the Prime Minister, he has yet to realise that he has neither the compassion or understanding demanded by the basic principles of Christianity (neither do most ‘christian’ businesses in my view), nor does he have the skills (people and intellectual) that would justify his elevation to any senior position let alone the Prime Ministership. Taking an idea from Leung, Tony Abbott’s views and opinions might be useful as mulch around the roses.

  5. Kaye Lee

    Abbott has always been exactly the same. When he lost elections at uni he punched walls and kicked in doors and blamed feminists and gays. When he left the seminary, after they sent him to see a psychologist, he blamed the church.

    “Looking back, it seems that I was seeking a spiritual and human excellence to which the Church is no longer sure she aspires. My feeble attempts to recall her to her duty — as I saw it — betrayed a fathomless disappointment at the collapse of a cherished ideal.

    In addition, a “cooperative” style of management ran counter to the Church’s age-old hierarchical structure.

    The more they played up lay ministry and ecumenism and played down the unique role of the priest in the one true Church, the more the struggle seemed pointless and the more I wanted to participate in worldly activities which were much more to my taste.

    l felt “had” by a seminary that so stressed ”empathy” with sinners and “dialogue” with the Church’s enemies that the priesthood seemed to have lost its point.”

    His arrogance and self-belief have been nurtured from birth. He does not understand his own limitations and is incapable of long term thought or consideration of consequences. He is a simple man who was promoted beyond his level of competence.

  6. Free-Thinker

    Spot on John !

    When Joe Hockey conceived his complex conceptual model of ‘ lifters’ and ‘ leaners’, it was Tony Abbott who unbeknowingly to Joe, provided him with that inspiration.
    Abbott is a life-long leaner on institutions and people, a man whose personal and political delusions prevent him from seeing that his age of entightlement is over.
    I find it hard to think of anything positive he has done in his 21 years in politics.

  7. Pudden'head

    Poor old Tony is like a fart in a crowded room, the longer he lingers the less he is appreciated. What about unpopularity and derision doesn’t he understand?

  8. Ella

    Terry2, “Abbott… longer represents the Liberal party”
    I wish I could agree with the above part of your post.
    I fear … But hope it won’t happen that there are more supporters in the conservative wing of the Liberal party for Abbott’s economic agenda
    than we realise. I am starting to wonder how much wriggle room PM Turnbull will have in implementing the kind of policies he would like to.
    The mere fact that he has been ‘forced?’ to implement many of Abbott’s agenda is proof of that.
    It has also given Abbott the opportunity to think that what he did as PM was RIGHT….how sad.( lack of social policy to protect the vulnerable is an area of concern to me)

    It will be interesting to see if PM Turnbull wins the next election will Liberals see it as a mandate to implement his policies or will it be the same old same old.
    It is annoying that the PM is developing his own 3 word mantras “learn , work and save” HA HA,

    you can learn but if there are very few jobs how can you work or save ?

    I was relieved when Mr. Turnbull became the PM …BUT …the proof of the pudding is in the eating so we will see.

  9. Terry2

    Hi Ella

    Good points .

    One positive, I suppose is that the families of Liberal politicians can now feel free to buy ties of many hues as Christmas presents rather than the mandatory blue of the Abbott regime.

  10. Michael Taylor

    Brilliant, John.

  11. June Currie

    Splendid analysis,John.
    June Currie

  12. Keith


    I’m afraid you are right in believing Abbott has much support in the Liberal Party.
    On the dark side, a former Liberal contender for the Senate has suggested that a Royal Commission into Climate Change Alarmism should be conducted. He is now standing for Family First. That’s the mind set of many in the Liberal party:

    Inside story gives an appraisal of Abbott Parliamentary supporters, a dismal comment on politics generally, but aimed mainly at Abbott.

    An anatomy of Abbott’s army

    The National Party has much influence over Turnbull as well … Christensen et al
    Would a Royal Commission call in Guy McPherson et al who appear to be mavericks suggesting extinction will begin to occur in 30 years or more sanguine scientists. Over the last couple of years more conservative scientists appear to have moved towards the Mc Pherson view; though still have a distance to go. The 1.5C goal being pushed at Paris being an indication.

  13. Julian

    The simple solution to Abbott is for a good local independent to take him out at the next election. His local liberal electorate loath him…

  14. stephentardrew

    Great read as usual John.

  15. Chris

    “In his interview with Leigh Sales he showed a propensity for self-indulgence. He was not up to scratch with detail, expected Sales to be conciliatory, and wanted to impose his own version of leadership spin without the slogans.”
    That is exactly what I thought about that John. I heard it on the radio but that actually helps to cut out many of the distracting aspects of TV. I thought it was a terrible performance and don’t understand how anyone could be convinced. He has been waffling on on the radio today as well. Apparently ‘nature’ is still in beta and has been for some years….. Good grief.
    No fan of KK…..she might make sense if she forgot all her religious ideology and indoctrination. I find her terminally boring.

  16. Chris

    Compliments about Brendan Nelson or John Howard just make me whince. I couldn’t even be bothered looking up the details of the times when those claims are totally wrong. Howard was mostly a manipulator and rarely dealt in facts and details when he was PM.
    Boris Johnson has actually been making some pretty good jokes about Donald Trump (and I hate Boris)

  17. Chris

    To me Gillian Triggs has become a default ‘good person’ mostly for a lack of anyone any better(in the government/bureaucratic system)…..she is too quiet and polite on most issues and has even seemed to excuse bad policies in some ways at times. I wouldn’t want her to be the only person on my side, put it that way.
    Cool I just almost filled up the comments feed at the top of the page….. : D

  18. John Lord

    Agree with your analysis Kaye.

    Chris. Nelson had a nickname because of his grasp of detail. It escapes me.

    Howard was prodigious with the GST detail.

  19. Chris

    No matter, it is not worth arguing about anyway. I can’t remember the things he said that made me think him ridiculous. He reminded me of a duck or perhaps Daffy duck even (Brendan). My late uncle(and Labor member) always said nice things about John Hill. He possibly knew some stuff but couldn’t manage to be the environment minister he wanted to be in that government. My uncle did go to the same school as Hill, though…..that may have provided some bias.

  20. madeleinekingston

    Well Kaye Lee, Projectionism is one of the more sinister aspects of personal dysfunctionalism. If I have read you correctly in your comments about Tony Abbott; we may on the same page.

    However, leaving aside the distasteful experiences of many ordinary voters within the general public, such as myself of the Abbott administration and/or any conclusions that may be drawn about the basis upon which such conclusions may have been drawn; or indeed whether other voters have from time to time, either consistently or inconsistently supported such conclusions according to their own stable belief systems; or alternatively, on the basis of vacillating opinions, based on innumerable variables; including but not limited to the vagaries of wind direction and such-like; I must agree with author John Lord’s opinion that mere charm and pleasantness are simply not quite enough in any leader,. This includes references to the snake-oil charmer current Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, who appears to me, as just an ordinary consumer and voter, to be a reproduction of the former misfit displaced PM Tony Abbott, with a less grating persona and tongue.

    Turnbull, in my perception is nothing but an irritating puppet to the Extreme Right Wing Faction of the uncomfortably-matched LNP Coalition Party, supported by a politically-motivated wife, La-Lucy [Malcolm Turnbull; Lucy-Baby], who has climbed his way to the top on the basis of deals. Hey, must think most ordinary voters are complete fools without a clue.

    Merry Christmas

  21. madeleinekingston

    So hands up then anybody who wishes to back-up Snake-Oil Charmers.

    So are buying or not? Here’s my card. Yours Always. Your Ever-Loving Prime Minister of Australia, Your-Very-Own Malcolm Turnbull [with Lucy by side] Successor to ex-Priest, Dumped PM Tony Abbott, Of-the-Sour-Grapes-Variety; adopting the very same policies, but with oh so much more charm-and-grace

    Merry Christmas then

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