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A leader in name only – our powerless PM

One of the most important attributes of leadership is the ability to unite your team, to set the direction, and to get people collaborating towards achieving stated goals.

Malcolm Turnbull has shown himself incapable of doing that. He is not a good people manager and nothing in his history indicates that he can become one.

When he was undemocratically appointed head prefect at school, the other students carried out an “Anyone but Turnbull” campaign.

The principal who chose him for the job said “When he bossed people around he did it in an abrasive way people didn’t like. He makes it clear that he thinks people are perfect fools and haven’t got a brain in their head – that’s not how to make friends and influence people.”

After a failed attempt at preselection in the 1980s, Turnbull gave away any political ambitions saying “I’m not sure that I’m really suited to the democratic process.”

As Opposition leader, Turnbull was unable to get his party to support action on the most pressing issue of our time – emission reduction. So incapable of leading the debate was Turnbull, so hated by many of his colleagues, that the unthinkable happened and the very inadequate Tony Abbott fell into the leadership, a reward for his conversion to climate change denial.

Abbott proved so bad at the job that Turnbull seized the opportunity presented by disastrous polling to have another go at trying to lead but it is proving just as problematic as all his other attempts.

When he was 21, Turnbull told radio broadcaster David Dale that he wanted to be Prime Minister by the time he was 40.

“For which party?” asked Dale.

“It doesn’t matter,” responded Malcolm.

And therein lies the problem. Turnbull wants the kudos, the prestige, but he doesn’t have a clue how to get people on board. He doesn’t seem to have a direction let alone the ability to steer others along with him.

Any pretence of a “strong united team” has been blown out of the water.

Bernardi has been openly critical and is collecting conservatives together in what he assures us is not a rival party…yet. Abetz and Dutton have been calling for an Abbott comeback. The climate change deniers are continually calling for inquiries into the science and for bans on renewable energy. The xenophobes are calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, and the homophobes are determined to deny marriage equality and to demonise programs designed to stop the bullying that has seen so many children take their own lives.

Senator Ian Macdonald wants Queensland MPs and senators to sit apart from the Liberal and National party rooms and for the LNP to be considered a separate party, presumably because, despite being a shadow minister, he did not get a ministerial position in government.

Barnaby Joyce is demanding more power for the Nationals and we can only speculate on what he is insisting on for his agreement to give support to form government.

And George Christensen has, only two weeks after an election, threatened to cross the floor unless he gets his way on no changes to superannuation.

In uncertain times, a team must be able to look to its leader for guidance. They must trust his or her judgement to decide on a course of action and have the loyalty to support them in pursuing it.

There is no such confidence, trust or loyalty on display in the Coalition who, under Malcolm’s lack of leadership, have splintered into disgruntled groups competing with each other for more power and influence.

And Malcolm seems powerless to do anything about it.

60 comments

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  1. captain51

    I have always felt he was a hopeless at negotiating. And his rolling over to Bananaby with apparently not even a whimper confirms this. Also after taking over the leadership, he simply accepted the demands of the National party which in turn led to the disillusionment of the broader community

  2. Aortic

    Good article Kaye. Turnbull far too patrician in his demeanour, little wonder he has splinter groups shattering the polity. Certainly not an exciting time to be an Australian. I can see another poll in the not too distant future.

  3. brickbob

    A very good article and spot on the money,a PM and a leader in name only.”””””

  4. Matters Not

    Senator Ian Macdonald … despite being a shadow minister, he did not get a ministerial position in government.

    I suspect the resentment runs deeper than that because he was a Minister under Howard – “MacDonald was appointed to the Cabinet of the Second Howard Ministry as Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government

    In 2001, Macdonald was appointed Minister for Forestry and Conservation in the Third Howard Ministry but switched to the portfolio of Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation in November 2002. He continued in this position in the Fourth Howard Ministry until January 2006 when he lost his position in a Cabinet reshuffle triggered by the retirement of Robert Hill.”

    Nothing like an ex Minister hanging about, remembering the ‘glory days’. As for an ex Prime Minister, the ‘wrath’ of rejection knows no bounds. Denied twice … And the rooster is yet to crow.

  5. bilko

    Nice one Kaye keep it up

    Ah Malcolm the Claytons PM we have in these uncertain times. When Rupert the real PM kicks off this mortal coil (sooner than later I hope) we may see a less biased media(not holding my breath on that, just wishful). Or a PM (hopefully Labor) running the Country and a future we can all look forward to (end of dream back to my meds). Stay alert we need more lerts. Amen/Awomen

  6. lawrencewinder

    Yep… and apart from his lack of policy, integrity and leadership, he can’t act, either!
    As David Marr said today on “Insiders, “They spent three years really doing nothing and now that they’re back; what are they going to do, what are they going to do?”

    The ruling rabble Mk2: an IPA exercise in dismantling civil society.

  7. kerri

    For all their criticisms that she was a childless, atheist, woman with red hair Julia Gillard was a shit hot negotiator! Sigh!

  8. Kaye Lee

    A prime example of Turnbull’s lack of leadership is the marriage equality plebiscite, engineered by Abbott by including the Nationals in the party room debate on the matter. When Turnbull took over he had the opportunity to renew that discussion but did not have the courage.

    PwC undertook modelling of its own volition having decided to join the more than 800 organisations that have signed a corporate letter backing marriage equality. They concluded that “The plebiscite legislation will be a minefield of unexpected costs, unintended consequences, and complications about timing and public funding.”

    As well as the $160 million to conduct the poll, we look like being asked to cough up another $66 million in public funding to promote both the “yes” and “no” arguments. Despite the public being overwhelmingly in favour of a yes vote, both campaigns will be equally funded from the public purse.

    The modelling suggests there would be another $281 million surrendered from the national economy from lost production as people take the time to vote. That is, around $525 million all up.

    All to appease a few very loud Christian MPs. Thanks Malcolm.

  9. stephentardrew

    Good lord and people voted for this farce. I need a long sleep.

  10. ozibody

    Right ‘ on the money ‘ . in more ways than one Kaye! …Mr. M. Turnbull only ever wanted the ‘ Title ‘ (along with the ‘prestige’ ) bought with his $$ Money $$ just recently! …. he’s not driven by any desire to make any heartfelt ‘ Difference ‘ in our world – so of course he’s happily a ‘Reed in the Wind’ to vast degree.!

    Might I suggest that any Neocon opposition to the man is simply personal, and mostly based upon his arrogant nature.along with the fact that he possibly has more $$ Money $$ than many of them! ….. Mrs. Rinehart excepted … 😉 …..

  11. Matters Not

    There’s the concept of a ‘leader’ and then there’s the concept of ‘leadership’ and while the two may overlap it’s not helpful to conflate the two in all instances. Take the Labor Party at the moment. The designated ‘leader’ is Bill Shorten; the person who is the current ‘face’ of the ALP and yet when it comes to so many matters the ‘leadership’ doesn’t come from Shorten but from others.

    Take ‘economic’ policy as an example. The ‘leadership’ provided in that recent election debate emanated from Bowen (with the able assistance of Tony Burke – now replaced by Jim Chalmers). It was Bowen who came up with the policy framework, who did the homework, who led the debate. In short, while not the designated leader, it was Bowen who provided the necessary ‘leadership’.

    While good teams might have to have a designated leader, good teams must consist of people who can provide ‘leadership’ in a variety of areas and at different times. The idea that it can all be provided by the designated leader is a nonsense. A ‘leader’ must try to tie it all together and ensure there is a strong measure of ‘consistency and ‘coherence’ as a ‘minimum’ and something approaching a ‘philosophy’ (broadly defined) as an ideal.

    Not an easy task when you have someone like Dutton (who loathes the ‘rule of law’) and others (well grounded in legal principles) in the same Cabinet. One suspects that Turnbull is not up to the task. So many providing ‘leadership’ in so many areas that simply do not ‘gel’.

  12. Max Gross

    Turnbull’s sole aim was to become PM. he achieved that. All other issues were peripheral. His sole aim now is to remain PM. All other issues remain peripheral.

  13. Jaquix

    Oh so true, Kaye. And as David Marr said, they spent 3 years doing nothing, what are they going to do for the next 3 ? The answer is going to be the same – nothing. Unless others in parliament agree with them, which most of the time is not going to be the case.

  14. Kaye Lee

    MN,

    At no stage did I even intimate that a leader must do everything on their own. Quite the opposite. Another aspect of leadership is to recognise your team’s qualities and talents and to delegate accordingly.

    I also did not say that the leader must decide on a course of action in isolation. You bring together the team, you listen to all sides, you weigh up the pros and cons together, and, on the basis of consultation, come to an agreed direction. There will be some who disagree and a leader has to get them on board. Even if they have reservations, the team must eventually unite and be able to present the reasons for taking the direction they have. At the moment, the people who make up the Coalition are pushing individual agendas. That makes it very hard to achieve anything and shows Malcolm’s inability to convince his team.

  15. Matters Not

    At no stage did I even intimate that a leader must do everything on their own

    Never said ‘you’ did KL. Just exploring the dimensions.

    No control over the meanings given and all that. (But maybe I’ve said that before). ?

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    Yes Kerri, a doer, not a talker. Suspect Shortens shares same attributes.

    I also believe Shorten has learnt from the Rudd/Gillard days. One has to sell what they have done as well.

    One has to sell as well as build. Seems in our toxic political party, is hard to do.

  17. David1

    kerri…amen to that

  18. Kaye Lee

    Dan,

    No-one seems to be getting their way.

    Politicians against marriage equality are going to vote against it no matter what a plebiscite says. Politicians for marriage equality resent the unnecessary cost and fear the consequences of a nasty campaign. Climate change deniers still reject the science and suspect the CSIRO and BoM and resent renewable energy targets or subsidies. Those who understand the danger know our action is inadequate. Those who want to achieve a surplus are not allowed to raise revenue. We are getting nowhere.

    Without leadership you have a bunch of squabbling kids achieving nothing.

  19. Michael Taylor

    Saw this comment on Facebook under one of the links to this post:

    “Only three PMs ’til Christmas”.

    Loved it.

  20. Keith

    Immediately after the back stabbing of Abbott there were signs of division in the Coalition. After the stabbing was completed, people generally had high expectations that Turnbull would change the character of the Coalition, he failed. Labor spent time reformulating their policy which outshown the Coalition’s. But, the downers for Labor were they had a big task to win government and were not trusted enough by the electorate;hence a large vote for small parties and Independents.

    With Frydenberg and Canavan being Ministers in relation to climate change, the future is looking grim. We will soon learn whether Turnbull displayed poor judgement in providing key climate change roles to Frydenberg and Canavan. They both have aligned themselves with fossil fuel companies in the past.

  21. Kaye Lee

    MN,

    I understand. I phrased my response poorly. I do not believe that you can separate leadership from leader. A real leader enables others to lead.

    Keith,

    Not to mention One Nation’s Malcom Roberts being the climate change adviser for One Nation who could well play a decisive role in the Senate.

  22. Steve Laing

    Leadership and management are entirely separate things however most good leaders will have strong management skills and vice versa. So far Turnbull appears to have neither, but he is obviously a better communicator than most of the rabble beneath him hence the presidential election which the MSM, being more concerned with fluff than policy, were happy to go along with. He is in fact little more than a figurehead no doubt similar to one of the many versions of the like of the Good Ship Venus…

  23. silkworm

    “When he was undemocratically appointed head prefect at school, the other students carried out an “Anyone but Turnbull” campaign.”

    I was in Turnbull’s year at Grammar and I was not aware of any such campaign. What is the source of this claim? And besides, all prefects were selected by the school senior staff and were never subjected to a vote by the students as far as I can remember.

  24. Kaye Lee

    Silkworm,
    A former teacher said there was a deputation to the principal from “older 1971-leavers” complaining Turnbull was too domineering. Campaign may have been the wrong word to use.

  25. Matters Not

    A real leader enables others to lead

    Indeed! real being the operative word. Seems to me that statement at least entertains the notion that you can have a designated leader who doesn’t provide ‘leadership’. Take Billy McMahon as an example. He was a complete failure as the Leader of the Liberal Party and provided no leadership when Prime Minister. In some ways he was like Abbott: hung around Parliament long after he was defeated and ignored.

    Silkworm, as you would be aware, any ‘history’ is A history. There can be any number of historical accounts even if there is agreement on the most basic facts. Then there’s the ‘meanings’ given.

    One wonders why we even bother. ? ? ? ?

  26. diannaart

    Imagine leading the execrable cluster that is our federal government – enough to make anyone feel ill and probably explains why Turnbull,having got what he wanted, finds it all so unpalatable. Almost feel sorry for him, almost…. naaaah, not at all, not one bit.

  27. Terry2

    The question is, should we have the marriage equality plebiscite at the same time as the aboriginal recognition referendum ……………………or should we have a vote on that ?

  28. diannaart

    We have a cabinet of delusional zealots. May their nonsense be their retribution.

  29. Freethinker

    IMO Abbott and now Turnbull are used as a tool by others to fulfill their agenda.
    Abbot was useful because he share the ideology of those that were using him and was removed because they knew that they will be loosing the election with him as a leader.
    In desperation a “yes man” with the only ambition to have a position of prestige was suitable and Turnbull was the one.
    It will be interesting who will be selected to replace Turnbull in the future if the extreme right still calling the shots in both parties.

  30. silkworm

    Turnbull made his ambition to be PM known to us as early as First Form (now Year 7). He used to sit up the back of the English class, and he had an ugly troll doll which he called “Schmoû,” which was some kind of totem for him. He rested it on the skirting or mantle on the wall behind him. It seemed to symbolize the god of Chaos lording it over all of us, but it could easily have symbolized himself lording it over the rest of us. Turnbull had a similar doll on the recent election campaign, and after the election, when the PMship was still undecided, it made another appearance perched on a newspaper wedged between the bars of his metal fence at his Point Piper home.

    And here’s a picture of Schmoû I drew recently. Schmoû is naked, so maybe it just represents “naked ambition,” or maybe it represents Turnbull pointing his arse at the rest of us.

    https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7346/9602504817_1dee7afa93_o.jpg

  31. wam

    Turnbull does what he has to do to stay PM and he clearly handles the rabbott’s boys far better than gillard was able to do with the lemon and whining wimps like fitzgibbon and husic.
    imho because labor has not set the media asking questions. Just hoping murdoch will without prompting.
    marr is right they spent 3 years doing nothing but changed horses to stay in power, and the electorate will be happy with the media reporting the senate kerfuffles and ignoring any attempts labor makes at making turncoat and his inept governance the focus.

  32. economicreform

    Good article Kaye. I would regard all of the plotters seeking to undermine Malcolm that you referred to as belonging to the looney tunes (extreme right) section of the Coalition, which is precisely why Malcolm removed them from the influential positions they held under Abbott and consigned them to the backbench in the new parliament. He also did the right thing in getting rid of Hockey as Treasurer. These actions could be interpreted as displaying a form of leadership. However I would view them as an indispensable requirement for drawing a line under the incompetent excesses of the Abbott ministry, while pretending to moving in a more progressive direction for electoral reasons. However the reality is that little has changed in regard to the policy settings first implemented by the Abbott government,

  33. Kaye Lee

    Christensen has said, in order to compensate for the revenue lost if they abandon superannuation changes, we should cut people off the dole after six months. I usually try to be patient and understanding but f*ck this man is a fool – youth unemployment in his electorate is well over 20%. He thinks expanding Abbott Point will get them all jobs despite the government report saying it would employ less than a hundred during the less than one year construction and only one ongoing job. How many people in his electorate would be affected by superannuation changes that limit you to having $1.6 million tax free in your account or capping private contributions at half a million.

    Let’s make the unemployed pay for the wealthy’s tax dodging. That sounds fair.

    http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/dole-payments-mp-george-christensen-wants-dole-payments-cut-after-six-months/news-story/61d03a242118d3ec3b3d46c554620359

  34. Florence nee Fedup

    Silkworm, there has also been two differing accounts of his relationship with his father. One we have now of the saint father he was closed to. Another where the relationship was far from close. One story he told was when he married in the UK. Dad turned up the day before without invite, saying no way he was missing his only son’s wedding.

  35. Jack Russell

    Turnbull is the kewpie-doll on the IPA stick.

  36. Michael Taylor

    I’ve sometimes wondered what sort of politician Turnbull might have been had he joined the Labor Party. Something tells me he would have embraced their NBN. He’s that sort of guy.

  37. cornlegend

    Michael Taylor
    I think you are right on the money there
    Dunno how he’d go as Communications Minister under Bill though,
    It’s all about the Prize with Fizza .
    Do you remember who ran 2nd to Usain Bolt at the Beijing Olympics?
    That’s Fizzas problem, he never wanted to be an also ran,trouble is, now he ends up a Neville Nobody

  38. johnlward010

    The-Climate-Deception-Dossiers.pdf

  39. silkworm

    Turnbull did join the Labor Party and stood for preselection, in Mosman I think, but lost. So he switched to the Liberals. He left Labor, he said, because it was “run by the unions,” but this may just have been sour grapes.

  40. Möbius Ecko

    So after Turnbull’s promises during the election campaign as to what will be his first order of business if he won government, the first thing he’s going to table in August is anti-terrorist legislation to take to the States so as to be able to lock up convicted terrorists indefinitely, something not mentioned at all during the election.

    Wonder if post election polls showing a decline for both the Liberals and Turnbull have anything to do with it.

    The second highest priority is another item he never flagged as his first order of business, though he did flag a crack down on welfare. Turnbull is proposing a major overhaul of the entire welfare system with the introduction of an overarching system that will cross check and assess all welfare recipients.

    Christian Porter, the Social Services Minister, stated that even though this will initially save the government money in the long run it will be more beneficial to welfare recipients with better targeted services and payments. Pull the other one Porter.

    But totally absent from any sort of priority, and indeed any sort of crack down or major reform, is the rorting and tax evasion by the other end of town. The ATO staff sacked won’t be reinstated and there is no plan whatsoever for any sort of overarching system to cross check and assess big business and wealthy Australians welfare payment and taxes, an area that is rorted to a much greater extent and to a far greater cost to Australia than welfare cheating.

  41. Michael Taylor

    Both will be fanatically supported by the Murdoch media, Adrian. We’ll again be flooded with front page stories of welfare recipients being bludgers, and of course every crime around the world will have a perceived terrorism link to it.

  42. Michael Taylor

    Silky, they were wise to reject him. Labor doesn’t need his type.

  43. Kaye Lee

    Turnbull didn’t join the Labor Party. He ran for preselection in 1981 in Wentworth as a Liberal. Apparently John dela Bosca approached him about making the switch during the republican referendum but he never joined, perhaps because he wanted to be parachuted into a safe seat.

  44. diannaart

    save the government money in the long run it will be more beneficial to welfare recipients with better targeted services and payments

    How many times have we heard this excuse before a service is slashed into oblivion.

  45. Russ

    ” only 3 PM’s to Xmas”………made my day, loved the quip

  46. Pappinbarra Fox

    Hello Kaye, You asked for links to articles about Australia’s ecological carrying capacity. Apologies for not getting back to you sooner, but try these:
    1 https://candobetter.net/node/2318
    2 Is the Concept of Carrying Capacity Useful in Variable Environments? Steven R. McLeod, Oikos Vol. 79, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 529- 542 Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos DOI: 10.2307/3546897 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3546897
    3 THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIAAUSTRALIA’S POPULATION ‘CARRYING CAPACITY’: ONE NATION – TWO ECOLOGIES REPORT BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES STANDING COMMITTEE FOR LONG TERM STRATEGIES DECEMBER 1994 Canberra Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra

    The first refers to work by Tim Flannery circa 1995 where he calculated that the ecologically sustainable population of Australia was between 8 and 12 million. The second is a general discussion on carrying capacity and the third is a parliamentary Inquiry report which does not put a number on it. If this type of reading interests you I have hundreds more books on ecological sustainable development and all the nuances that elements which constitute systems analysis of global environmental factors are explained. In my simple view the environment trumps most considerations when talking about quality of life or even maintaining life on this little sphere. We are currently experiencing a mass extinction episode that is as scary as all get out, put that with the meta stability of many global environmental systems and holy kapow batman people who espouse a bigger population for Australia or anywhere else in the world are committing species suicide.

  47. Kaye Lee

    Thanks. I will do some reading but, before I do, I agree that the environment is paramount. I have read before about Australian population rising to 40 million and then leveling out (or declining) but have been unable to find it again. In my opinion, education and lifting people out of poverty are the keys to curbing population growth.

  48. metadatalata

    In Malcolm’s case, the adage “Be careful what you wish for” has come home to roost. He has got what he always wanted; to be the PM but he will go down in world history as sharing the most incompetent government Australia has ever had.

  49. Michael Jones

    “For all their criticisms that she was a childless, atheist, woman with red hair Julia Gillard was a shit hot negotiator! Sigh!”

    No she wasn’t, she was a rollover merchant. She unnecessarily negotiated away her Prime Ministership by giving into Brown on the Carbon Tax. Seriously, what was he going to do if she said no …. support Abbott?

  50. Michael Jones

    This article misses the point. Many of us just voted for Turnbull ( in the Lower House at least) because he is not Labor, because Labor invariably stuffs everything up. He doesn’t have to do anything other than not being Labor to achieve what we want him to.

  51. David1

    Jones you aren’t even a very good troll, but then you are on the right track in one dept, bullshit.

  52. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Thanks Michael Jones for articulating the “truth” believed by so many as articulated by the MSM, particularly the Murdoch press. Your “truths” simply don’t stack up against the facts, but I know that this won’t bother you in the slightest.

    But your perspective is one that is widely held, and it is Labor’s biggest problem. How to overcome the systematic brainwashing of a significant percentage of the countries populace, the sheep who believe that Muslims are overtaking the country (despite making up less that 2% of the population), the sheep who believe that cutting company tax for big business will stimulate the economy (despite no evidence of the success of this policy over the last 40 years it has been undertaken in Australia, the US or the UK), the sheep who believe that boat people will steal everyone’s jobs (whilst many multiples more arrive by plane on 457 visas to supply cheap labour for billionaires), the sheep who believe that everything and anything that Labor ever did was simply a stuff-up (and the list of Labor’s achievements in power is simply too long to list). And BTW, I am not a Labor supporter, but I can separate facts from fiction.

    Other than take a few pieces of decent legislation apart, cut budgets of sometimes vitally important services, and committed significant abuses of human rights, what exactly have Turnbull, and Abbott before him, actually achieved? I look forward to your response.

  53. Jaquix

    Michael Jones must live in the electorate of Wentworth, because he says he “voted for Turnbull”. Only those in Wentworth get that dubious honour. Michael Jones is a victim of brainwashing if he believes the Coalition/Murdoch mantra about “Labor stuffs everything up”. We only have to look at Labor’s visionary NBN scheme as one example. TOTALLY STUFFED UP BY MALCOLM TURNBULL – and we saw him on TV the other night claiming that he had taken a “failed Labor project” and “turned it around”. My techy son choked on his dinner on hearing that.

  54. Freethinker

    Gutless Malcolm Turnbull again showed thet the extreme right faction are the leaders in this government.

    Malcolm Turnbull has bowed to cabinet resistance and objections from the government’s conservative faction and declined to support Kevin Rudd for the role of secretary general of the United Nations.”

    Turnbull rejected a question about whether the rebuff for Rudd was, as its essence, a partisan one. “This decision has got nothing to do with Mr Rudd’s party, nothing at all,” he said.

    The prime minister’s decision on Friday followed a lengthy cabinet discussion in Canberra on Thursday in which the treasurer, Scott Morrison, the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, and the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, spoke against Rudd’s candidacy.

    Articulating the objections of the Liberal party’s conservative wing on Twitter, the South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said ahead of Turnbull’s decision: “If being former PM is reason enough to be nominated for secretary general to the UN, why don’t we nominate Tony Abbott?”

  55. Jaquix

    Who is the leaker of the goings on in Cabinet??

  56. Florence nee Fedup

    I have this sense that Turnbull believes he is entitled to be PM without doing anything to warrant such belief.

    Believes he is entitled to be treated with respect, never questioned or having toi justify how he does the job.

    His body language and facial expressions are disgusting. Treats all with contempt, as if they are below him.

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