This delightful exchange between Malcolm Turnbull and one of our readers was sent to us by said reader, and while we are not in the habit of publishing everything that makes its way to our desk, this one was too good to ignore. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
This week I received the following email from the member for Wentworth, the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull.
I took it upon myself to read the thing through once, noting as I did that credit was not given for the first line to any of those who had said it before, but I thought to respond to Mr Turnbull in such a way as to make sure that when those amongst us who have vied for greatness and are called to serve, do not have their utterances go to waste, falling on the deaf ears of the less fortunate and other members of the stinking masses, or consigned to the deleted items folder of our much maligned email.
Dear Thinking Voter
‘The mark of a great society is the way it treats the neediest and most vulnerable’.
On June 19, I will be joining St Vinnies in their annual CEO sleepout – business and political leaders used to warm beds will be sleeping outdoors on a chilly winter night to raise money for the homeless.
Although I will be sleeping in a warm swag, a luxury that many vulnerable people sleeping rough don’t have, this year I will be doing the sleepout in Canberra, which will be a few degrees lower than Sydney.
The campaign will raise funds so St Vinnies can continue the important work they do in helping the homeless break the cycle of despair by offering them short term crisis accommodation, counselling and opportunities for education and training.
Last year the sleepout raised $5.3 million, which funded a range of programs to help the estimated 100,000 homeless around the country.
In my own electorate of Wentworth, money raised from last year’s sleepout ensured the ongoing operation of the Matthew Talbot Food Program in Woolloomooloo, which serves three hot meals to more than 500 homeless people a day.
In addition, the money raised by St Vinnies funded:
- The Our Lady of the Way refuge in Western Sydney, which supports female victims of domestic violence.
- Extending the Ozanam Learning Centre model to regional centres, such as Wagga Wagga and Armidale. The Ozanam model delivers early intervention for homeless people, providing educational, living skills and recreational courses.
- And the continuity of outreach services to assist vulnerable families, including counselling and material aid packages.
Having read the Honourable Malcolm’s missive I was urged to reach for a handkerchief and cry piteously for a few minutes about how our much vaunted leader (or at least I should say member of the leadership team for the moment), could be so selfless, could be so caring, so giving, indeed so thoughtful as to apply himself to the streets of Canberra on a freezing June night to raise money for those less fortunate than himself, those who are homeless, those who are drug addicts and drunks, those who are meaningless to the rest of us, due to their position at the bottom of the social pecking order as we know and love it, here in Australia.
And having cried, my friends, I reached for my wallet and thought momentarily of sending a small donation to the member for Wentworth to support him in his good works.
My wife came in and noted the tears rolling down my cheeks, asked me if I was okay, handed me a Scotch (Black Douglas, $54 at Woolworths), and all was well with the world.
I dried up my tears, popped my wallet back into its place and sat down to pen this responsorial missive instead, deciding to support the Smith family by making a small donation each month to help an Australian child through school ($43 – comes out on the first of each month).
I was so touched by your lovely email of the 4th inst, describing your selfless sacrifice on behalf of those less fortunate than your good self.
I wonder, as your staff member penned it on your behalf, whether they saw the humour of the request you were making to people like me (well actually no, not people like me, people like you), when they sent out a missive such as that, asking for other members of the Liberal party to make small donations so that they could find their way to heaven by being seen to care occasionally, irrespective their number of ties to the Jesuits.
A truly lovely thought Malcolm, truly lovely. That a man of your standing within the community could reach out in such a way, risking all in a warm swag in the company of a large number of Liberals? Your selflessness is a thing of beauty.
As I think of you now on June 19 freezing your balls off, most likely around the fire, having a much better Scotch than mine, my eyes well up in recognition of your wonderful contribution to the well-being of people who make up the lower classes.
I suppose the first and most important thought I had was for those who have been put in that situation by recent changes brought in by your own party in terms of welfare cuts.
A truly shocking picture emerges Malcolm, of people that the likes of you will not employ and who have been on benefits for longer than you’ve been driving a Rolls-Royce, having $47 a week cut from their income. This of course would include those dreadful single mothers with their multiple children, spawn of multiple fathers, trying to make ends meet on $500 a week, eking out an existence in the wilds of St Mary’s. (Not the cathedral, the suburb – it’s somewhat west of you. You may have seen it on a map).
Then, my mind was drawn to the pensioners who are no longer to be given discounts on such things as heating bills, bus travel, their glasses, their hearing aids, their continence assistants and all the other things that make life far too easy for them. That one was of particular interest, simply because so many of those poor misguided souls have voted Liberal for so long they have forgotten why.
You, Malcolm, give them a truly truly wonderful reason to vote Liberal. Thoughtfully, on one night of the year you go out and do something which will attract the attention of the press (Rupert will love you for this) so that they can come and take photographs of you lying around on pieces of cardboard raising money for the people you put in a position to require that money. Truly wonderful Malcolm.
Then again as I contemplated my joy at receiving your letter, I thought of the folk on boats leaving Indonesia for a journey across a dangerous ocean trying to seek a better life, in a country which since 1951 has been a signatory to the International Treaty on refugees. What a magnanimous man you are. Putting yourself out for those who anyone else in the world would regard as “our most vulnerable”.
Then I remembered that only 92% of them are proper refugees aren’t they? It’s important that we preserve our shores from the likes of the other 8% who somehow have had enough money to be found to be financial refugees and sent back. Oh wait. They all get sent back don’t they? Thank you for saving us from the likes of those dreadful people Malcolm.
Have you ever read the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini? Perhaps you could get yourself a copy from an opportunity shop for $.50 and try and read it between scotches on the streets of Canberra on 19 June. I do not expect that it will change your persuasion, but it may give you a little picture of life outside Wentworth.
Last, though probably not least, I thought of the thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds you will be forcing into prostitution after they leave school. I’m sure some of your friends, perhaps even some at 2 GB and at the Herald Sun, will appreciate your efforts on their behalf.
After all these years Malcolm, we Australians do not expect much of our politicians. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you on behalf of those who most of us would consider our most vulnerable, for your efforts on their behalf. It takes a truly special man to be able to send an email like that and not disappear in embarrassment over the hypocrisy you display.
Now Malcolm I know you’re a very busy man, and I recognise that the independent media is not a place you spend a lot of time, (though not as some cruel folks say due to the large number of big words we tend to use), due to your incredibly busy schedule investing in France, driving expensive cars, being rich and knowing very little, trying to get rid of that snakelike apparition currently keeping warm the chair normally reserved for the Prime Minister of Australia, and his dreadful pointy nosed chief of staff, so to help you out I have included at the bottom of this posting an executive summary which can be tweeted for you.
Yours most sincerely
A voter who thinks
Thoughtful voter reminds Communications Minister of the need to read emails written by staff, before they are sent out, which may have elements of hypocrisy throughout.
And here is Malcolm’s response, which you will note is straight from the Tony Abbott Handbook, complete with the usual splashings of ‘blame Labor’:
Rather than inflict yet another torrent of numbers on you about the Budget last week, I thought I would let the dust settle a little and write to you in what I hope is a more reflective voice.
The 2014-15 Budget is a tough one (although not the toughest we have seen), but with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases it does improve the Budget outcomes by $43.8 billion through to 2017-18. Looking further ahead it will reduce gross government debt in 2023-24 from the $667 billion it would have been had Labor’s strategy continued to a still formidable $389 billion.
While some economists have argued that the budget is not tough enough and that it should cut spending by more, they have been more than drowned out by people unhappy with the numerous cuts in spending programmes not to speak of the Medicare $7 copayment, the 2 per cent increase on the top tax bracket and the re-indexation of the fuel excise.
But the starting point for this debate surely must be the budgetary situation which we inherited from Labor.
Labor left our nation’s finances in an unsustainable state in that too much spending was locked in without the revenues to cover it. It is commonplace to say that Australia’s national debt to GDP is not as high as many other countries, but that is only because when Labor took over in 2007 we had no net debt at all, in fact there was $45 billion of cash at the bank.
The melancholy truth of the matter is that Labor ran up larger and larger deficits and thus higher and higher debt in the midst of the biggest mining boom in our nation’s history. According to the IMF, the rate of increase of Australian Government spending between 2012 and 2018 was forecast to be the highest in the developed world and the rate of increase in net debt over that period was the third highest in the world. So while most countries were cutting debt and restraining spending once the worst of the GFC was over, if Labor’s plans had been left in place we would have been charging ahead spending and borrowing more and more.
So clearly something had to be done. And our Budget has proposed a set of measures to repair the budget and return, over time, to a surplus. Now I can well understand, and respect, different views about each of the measures we have proposed.
It is reasonable to question whether this or that should be cut, or indeed whether less spending should be cut and instead more raised by increasing taxes. All of that is the legitimate grist of political debate. Or you could argue that we can take a more leisurely path to return to surplus and seek to justify imposing a heavier burden on our children and grandchildren to pay for our expenditures.
But what we have seen from Labor does not engage on any of those points. Mr Shorten simply complains – he doesn’t like any of the cuts in expenditure or any of the increases in tax or charges either. Is he in denial? Refusing to accept what is obvious to everyone else, namely that something has to be done. What sort of la-la land is he inhabiting? Are we just to keep on spending more than we receive, borrowing more and more billions, kicking the fiscal can further down the road in the expectation that somebody else will deal with it?
A responsible Opposition Leader would set out an alternative plan, one which adds up, which includes different measures, perhaps cuts less or different expenditure and raises more or different additional revenues. In contrast, I recall very well in 2009 I proposed unpopular measures (increase the tobacco excise in fact) as an alternative to Labor’s proposal to cut back on the tax rebate for private health insurance.
Treasury analysis after last year’s change of government (in the 2013-14 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, or MYEFO) showed that Labor’s legacy was debt of more than $34,000 per household.
As Treasurer Joe Hockey said in his budget night speech, prosperity is earned not inherited.
The first Coalition Budget since 2007 re-directs spending to more productive areas. Investments in our future include:
- An infrastructure growth package of $11.6 billion – which in our city includes including spending on WestConnex, NorthConnex and new roads in Western Sydney.
- A $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund, which will grow to be the largest endowment for medical research of its kind in the world.
- $820 million to expand access to higher education by providing direct financial support to students studying diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degrees.
- A loan scheme providing loans of up to $20,000 to trades apprentices over the four years of their apprenticeship.
In my own portfolio, there will be continuing and indeed accelerated investment by the Government in the National Broadband Network, bringing total Government equity investment to $29.5 billion by 2017-18. As you know we are committed to completing the NBN sooner, at less cost to the taxpayer and consequently more affordably for consumers. And at the risk of repeating myself, we are NOT completing the NBN with “old technology”; the multi-technology design we are using is consistent with the current approach taken by leading telcos around the world including AT&T, BT in the UK, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Swisscom in Switzerland and many, many others.
The Budget also includes $100 million of Government money which will be augmented by co-investment from carriers, States, councils and others to increase mobile coverage in remote Australia – it is worth noting here that in six years of Government and $6.5 billion of investment in the NBN Co, Labor spent not one cent on eliminating mobile black spots in regional Australia.
There are cuts to the budgets of the ABC and SBS, but they should not result in any curtailment of services or programming. We have undertaken a very thorough analysis of both the public broadcasters and are satisfied that there is plenty of potential for substantial savings from eliminating administrative and other back office waste without impacting on the quality of the programming services to the public.
I should note that in the lead up to the Election and the Budget I made it clear on many occasions that we would endeavour to improve operational efficiencies at both broadcasters – to deliver the maximum broadcasting bang for the least taxpayer buck – and that if there were to be savings across the board, ABC and SBS could not expect to be exempt.
Is it just me, or did Malcolm miss the point.