Can it work the second time around for Malcolm Turnbull?
Tony Abbott came to the Prime Minister ship with a mixture of negative malevolence, callous misogyny, lying, cheating and creating crisis when none existed. With the support of Rupert Murdoch he successfully deceived the Australian public into believing that the country would be better in his hands. The evidence of his unconscionable leadership is open for all to see.
Conversely, Malcolm Turnbull will it appears, obtain the office with a calculated mixture of personal charm, reasonableness, and consummate diplomacy. He presents a façade of calm confidence and understanding in stark contrast to Abbott who shows all of the traits of a man who has lost control of his emotions.
In December The Saturday Paper said this of Turnbull:
“He has worked up a lovely public persona: as cultured as Keating but blessed with a kinder sense of humour; as intelligent as Rudd but far from as malevolent. And somehow, with his green-froth-drinking diet success and his endearing leather jackets and business shirts, his Stephen Fry-like adoration of gadgets and mastery of social media, his raffish smile and mellifluous voice, he has formed the perfect personality for most popular, and probably most trusted, politician in the nation.”
It seems inevitable that one will replace the other. I for one, like many on the left, don’t subscribe to the theory that Abbott in power gives Labor the greatest chance of winning the next election. It may be true to some extent but the current state of our democracy demands that the tempestuous buffoon Abbott be removed and the matter is urgent.
But who is Malcolm Turnbull and can he succeed a second time around?
Born 24 October 1954 Malcolm Bligh Turnbull was educated at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney where he graduated with a Batchelor of Arts and Batchelor of Laws. Later he obtained, as a Rhodes Scholar, a Batchelor of Civil Law from Oxford.
He has worked as a journalist and has been extraordinarily successful in many businesses including his own law firm and his success in the Spy Catcher trial is well-known. He established a merchant banking company with Whitlam’s son Nick. Later he became a partner with Goldman Sachs.
He became chair of Internet Service Provider OzEmail and later sold the company for an enormous sum at the height of the tech boom. In the 1990s, Turnbull was chairman of Axiom Forest Resources, which conducted logging, with a dubious record, in the Solomon Islands.
In 2008 as the Member for Wentworth he was elected leader of the Liberal Party. In December 2009 he lost the leadership to Tony Abbott by one vote with two of his own supporters absent.
He is also well-known for his work with the Australian Republican Movement and was its delegate at the convention. He later wrote a book on his experiences in which he described the then PM Howard as having broken Australia’s heart. Having worked on the referendum myself, I concurred.
He married Lucy Hughes in 1980. Their two children, Alex and Daisy attended local schools and have now completed University. Lucy and Malcolm have been partners not only in marriage but also in their many businesses. Lucy was the first female Lord Mayor of Sydney, a position she held until early 2004.
He is related to the famous actress Anglia Lansbury. Contrary to popular thought he is not a descendent of Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame but is a forebear of John Turnbull who was a supporter of Bligh’s during the Rum Rebellion. It became a tradition for sons of Turnbulls to take the middle name Bligh. Malcolm’s son likewise has ”Bligh” for his middle name.
His personal fortune is estimated in excess of $100 million.
But who is Malcolm Turnbull?
Undoubtedly he is a man, like Rudd, of prodigious intellect and charismatic personality who carries his superiority as an example for others to admire. Like Rudd and despite the veneer of public self-assuredness he is hated within his own party.
The National Party are on the record as saying they couldn’t work with him, such is their detestation.
Again like Rudd he has frequent displays of bad temper. Nick Whitlam said he was a “prick”. He doesn’t suffer fools and he lets them know it. He is a silver tongue, smooth urbane and charming. One of his colleagues jokingly said but he carries a knife with him at all time.
He is also known to be generous with his cash and readily splashes it around if he considers a cause worthy.
It was well-known that he would storm into the office of Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson and hurl abuse at him because he felt he wasn’t performing adequately.
So behind the public persona of the, mannerly articulate, polished Q&A debonair performances, there lurks the other person. The political animal who is just as ruthless as Abbott.
Let’s not forget that as an Opposition Leader last time around Turnbull was an abject failure. His polls as preferred prime minister were a disaster and he made a fool of himself over the Godwin Grench affair.
What might be different under Turnbull?
Remember these words?
“As we are being blunt, the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it’s cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.”
“Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.”
There exists in the Coalition Party Room at least 50% of its members who are fervent climate deniers. They will have nothing to do with the science.
Malcolm Turnbull has hung his hat on a firm belief that it is real and that the party’s current policy of Direct Action is nothing more than a joke. He would have to show support for renewable energy, emissions targets and investment. If he compromises his hypocrisy will be difficult to overcome.
One of Turnbull’s first problems will be, as an intelligent individual, to form a balanced (I mean women) front bench. He would have to dispose of the likes of Pyne, who he detests, and others who have passed their used by date. It would be no good reinstating all the regulars of this untalented disoriented, characterless and anachronistic group or his credibility will suffer. He is a Liberal amongst neo-conservatives and a sprinkling of Tea Party nutters.
The question of sexual equality and gay marriage
As an outspoken supporter of gay rights it would naturally be expected that he would allow a conscience vote on the matter. In doing so he will confront a huge number of homophobic Bernardie type personalities. He would need to win the argument or again face charges of hypocrisy.
Both of the following statements conflict with Turnbull’s publicly stated view of support for the last budget. I support it in its entirety he said. But both quotes address the question of fairness which means he goes back to the drawing or admits that it was unfair:
“It is vitally important, both as a matter of social justice and political reality, that structural changes are seen as being fair across the board.”
“That means not only must tough decisions be justified, but that the burden of adjustment is not borne disproportionately by one part of the community.”
This raises the question of what will happen with the GP Co-Payment. He could retreat on it altogether arguing that it was an Abbott broken promise that he wanted nothing to do with. Labor would of course say correctly that it was one of many flawed policies symptomatic of a government devoid of ideas.
Would he sack Pyne and move him out of the ministry or give him another portfolio. He is just one of many grating personalities hindering the public perception of the Coalition. Then he might take up independent Senator Nick Xenophon’s suggestion for a proper comprehensive review of the University sector.
Some might see it as a delaying tactic but Turnbull would have a solid argument for a fresh approach and it is right for the government to pursue reform of the tertiary sector. Labor would come back with a picture of a dysfunctional, out of control government.
After John Howard’s spending spree years of vote-buying we now have revenue shortfalls that need to be fixed. Long term welfare reforms also need to be looked at and Turnbull would have an opportunity to explain all of the issues in detail and tackle the perception of unfairness.
Of course the ability to accomplish all of these things is a matter of timing. The Budget is due on May 12. If Turnbull is to change course, indeed change policy direction and influence the upcoming budget they would need to act soon.
As I see it though the three major challenges he faces are firstly his own ego which was Rudd’s downfall, secondly the public’s perception of his party as untrustworthy ideologues and thirdly to bring the party back to the center from the extremity of the far right.
As a party with a born to rule mentality together with an obsessiveness’ towards ideology and telling people what’s best for them they will find it hard to listen to people of constraint and reason.
For a party now so infiltrated with political nutters it might be a bridge to far, or at least a bridge over very troubled waters.
Seeing Abbott go may not, in election terms be what’s best for Labor but it is what’s manifestly best for Australia and that should be our first consideration.
Then if as Bill Shorten says 2015 is to be a year of ideas we might dare to dream that our democracy will come in for some badly needed repair.
Who knows? Between then they might, as has been done in Brittain form a consensus on climate change, organise a plebiscite on a republic and ban knighthoods. Well you can always hope.
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Turnbull is indeed a silver tongue – but watch out for the ever present edge in anything he has to say.
For example, the following extract from a talk he gave at the launch of the One Million Donors Program:
That’s past the bit where he describes philanthropy:
A man to keep track of, I believe.
Remember the NBN and Metadata retention. He knows the right responses to both but instead he toes the IPA line. I wouldn’t expect much support on climate change from this member of the 1% club.
It will still be the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine.
Wealthy man, speaks with silver tongue, seeks power. Who knows what he will bring to Australian society.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Now comes the big cover up Mr Smarmy I am really such a nice fellow bullshit.
Yeah pull the other leg jingle bells compassionate conservatism with the same old cruelty and brutality couched in fairy dust.
You bloody cowardly sellout.
Oh but I did it just for you.
Watch the slime ooze down the side of his facecious maw.
People need to stop having wet dreams about Malcolm Turnbull as a replacement for Tony Abbott. The party would still be the same and he wouldn’t have the backing to just ditch all of the high profile liberal party front bench because “he doesn’t like them”. He would just have to do exactly what Abbott is doing.
Interesting commentary John Lord – always appreciate your writing.
I think the Liberal brand has been terminally damaged by Abbott. A right-of-centre moderate like Turnbull would be a lonely figure as PM – and thus a failure since the party would sooner cannibalise than let a moderate succeed. He’d be a sheep surrounded by a wolf pack. The Abbott team would willingly tear Turnbull into bit-size chunks and devour the lot in one snarling feast.
I’m not giving up on Australia yet, but I do think the two party system is well past it’s usefulness – in fact I think it is a major road block to resolving the burning issues of our times. But, I’m not confident that enough fellow citizens will take the risk and let go of the old habit of voting for one or ‘tother regardless of the mendacity or incompetence of their respective political party.
I won’t be voting for Liberals or ALP again as they have each moved so far from their founding roots that they are barely recognisable – we need change and a voting renaissance is the only way forward.
Sorry about my first post John it was a bit underdone.
From the country’s point of view a change to Turnbull would be good. He would move a little back from the right but he would have a lot of opposition within his party so might not be able to make a real dent in the perception of the Coalition as a lost cause.
As for climate change. I suspect that would not be a big problem for Turnbull. There is enough CEF left to rework DA, putting the cost back on polluters, not taxpayer without actually calling it a tax or ETA. This has happened under Obama. You just fine those who pollute., Not what industry wants I know. NBNCo worries me more. He could not possibly support what he has created.
I can see no reason why Turnbull would be good for the country. He will be handicapped by past failures. He will have to promise too much, to get support.
I did like the article however now that John Fraser is head of treasury, as a Reaganite and supply side neo-con, the direction of the main game for conservatives has been set in motion and you can bet that, while Turnbull is playing shuffle the pieces with issue that are to his liking, the main game is chartered in the direction of more austerity and inequality. The very core axioms underlying conservationism that need to change have now become inexorably entrenched in Treasury.
Turnbull will solve nothing as we knowingly wait for the next ponzy collapse which now seems to be inflated housing prices and low interest rates. Once the rates rise watch out. Meanwhile be prepared for more redistribution of wealth upwards.
Conservatives are primitive greed infested menaces to the future of this country.
From memory, he was associated with the HIH/FAI debacle, and walked away with money. The company I owned at the time is still getting ‘proceeds cheques’ from the carcass, which has been less than 25 cents in the dollar. Last cheque was last year! You mention the Goldman Sachs relationship. If memory serves me right, they were very involved in that GFC thing whilst he was the Australian boss. In terms of corporate administration, I am not a big fan. But I think Florence gets the kudo’s on this one. NBNco. There is nowhere for him to go. So, Mr Lord, I think they will look elsewhere. I doubt they’re going to do too much before the NSW election. Mind you, I’ve been wrong lots of times. Take care.
Intelligence. Something for some reason the Australian public cannot stomach. Ideology, sense of ‘time,’ safety from a baddie, protection from the abusers of our system, anything but Intelligence. We cannot abide a hard working curious fact seeking mind centred (instead of sport or gendered centred) leader.
I do not trust Turnbull. He chose the wrong party and he is so far from average Jo/Josephine that it matters not that he might know a thing or two.
And so I despair for my beloved nation. We do not admire celebrate nor lionise Intellectual curious and multi thinking (if not speaking) Leaders.
I wish I wish for a future of the mind and talent like John Lord’s. Not over paid sports ‘hero’ nonsense.
Why is everybody assuming MT will replace Abbott? The LNP hate him and Morrison has gone out of his way to smile at everybody and have lots of pictures taken of him looking relaxed and very casual, in jackets and no ties. He would have a lot more appeal to the extreme right, being one of them and having “stopped the boats”!. From their point of view, what has Malcolm actually done? No, my bet is on Morrison. He would certainly work very well with John Fraser given that they both are of the same mould. And we all know Morrison is one ambitious bastard!
agh yes Malcolm the Zionist. Olivia even the dunderhreads in the notLiberal Party recognise that more of them will qualify for a generous pension scheme after two terms that will with Morrison as head.
As for the ETS maybe it’s not such a good idea afterall but more action is necessary but whatever it will be too late and too little to stem what’s is store for us,
The appointment of Fraser to treasury is indeed a major concern and gives every indication that they intend to go down the path on inequality.
Interestingly Fraser implied that it’s Howard’s fault that we have a structural problem
“In his first public address as Treasury Secretary, John Fraser flagged superannuation and middle class welfare as areas that must be reassessed if Australia is to be able to meet its future health and ageing costs.
Mr Fraser said that between 2003 and 2008, too much of the benefits of the mining boom had been spent on income tax cuts and middle-class welfare without regard to how they could be paid for into the future.
“Generous income testing arrangements for family tax benefits in the early part of this century and access, frankly, to million-dollar contributions to tax-preferred superannuation through 2006-07 were notable examples of middle or indeed higher-income welfare that contributed to the problem,” he said.”
Unfortunately Hockey has stupidly and defiantly ruled out any changes to superannuation
I agree Kaye however a person who is an open Reaganite has got to be a worry. His nervousness in front of Penny Wong is interesting because he seemed to be embarrassed about the facts. It really is a double edged sword that is not going to solve the dynamics of this capitalist, free for all, approach. Wonder what he thinks about deregulation and stimulus. Middle class welfare is only part of the problem. Is he willing to attack the corporates. I don’t think so so shifting the deck chairs is only going to help marginally.