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Power and revenge

When John Howard lost his seat in 2007 and Peter Costello decided to move to the backbench, Malcolm Turnbull, despite having been in cabinet for less than a year, was the first to put his hand up for the leadership of the Liberal Party.  Tony Abbott was also in the running until he pulled out the day before the vote leaving Turnbull to fight it out with Brendan Nelson.

Paddy Manning, in his book Born to Rule, gave an interesting insight into how the party felt about Turnbull at the time.

As Nelson rang around, he encountered a surprising number of MPs who wanted to get Turnbull over and done with: “Look, we’ve got to get rid of Malcolm, but the only way to get rid of him is to make him the leader. Whoever’s going to be the leader now will not be our next prime minister. Brendan, you just need to serve on the frontbench and let nature take its course.”

As it turned out, Nelson won narrowly, 45 votes to 42, and he appointed Turnbull to be his shadow treasurer.

Turnbull pledged his loyalty to Nelson but gave him absolutely none: he simply refused to accept the decision of the party room, and the undermining began immediately.

When an early poll showed the electorate would have preferred Turnbull, he called Nelson’s chief of staff, Peter Hendy, telling him that his job was to get Brendan to resign in the next few weeks because Brendan was hopeless and he would damage the Liberal brand so much that by the time, he, Turnbull, took over, the next election would be unwinnable.

“I told him his suggestion was ridiculous, but he was absolutely serious and he kept calling and making it again, and on occasions he called Brendan and made the same suggestion,” Hendy said.

(This is the same Peter Hendy who, in 2015, as member for Eden-Monaro, hosted the dinner where the move for Turnbull to roll Abbott was put in play.)

In his relentless campaign against Nelson, Manning says that Turnbull took disloyalty to extremes, launching a tax review without telling his leader, constant leaking to the press, and even resorting to having private polling done on Nelson’s popularity.

After the Gippsland by-election showed a significant swing against the Labor government, John Howard contacted Brendan Nelson and, in what was perhaps the beginning of the end for any sensible discussion on climate change and energy policy, convinced him to abandon support for an ETS despite them having promised at the election to introduce one by 2012.

Bizarrely, Nelson was rolled on the policy backflip in shadow cabinet – at the time, Minchin was still supporting an ETS – and the leadership instability worsened.

When Turnbull took off for a week at the Venice Biennale with Lucy without telling his leader, Nelson, in a pre-emptive strike, called a spill which Turnbull won 45 to 41.

Nelson went to the backbench and soon quit politics altogether – ousted within nine months, and never given clear air, he could have been forgiven for wondering what had hit him. A doctor by profession, Nelson told journalist Peter Hartcher he genuinely believed Turnbull had a “narcissistic personality disorder … He says the most appalling things and can’t understand why people get upset. He has no empathy.”

Turnbull initially appointed Peta Credlin as his chief of staff before demoting her to deputy and appointing Chris Kenny.  These choices show that he wasn’t really interested about advice on what would be best for the country, and Credlin was particularly galled by her demotion which no doubt adds to the loathing she expresses for Turnbull now.

Turnbull’s “ruthless white-anting” was “an act of bastardry that left a lot of bad blood. The party knew the Turnbull experiment was high-risk, but, as Costello later observed, it was something the party had to get out of its system.”

Thinking he had the support of the party, Malcolm continued negotiations on an ETS, something that many believe was the reason for his demise, but that was just the lever that was pulled to eject a leader whose approval rating had suffered the greatest single fall in Newspoll’s 25-year history and delivered an 8% boost to his opponent. 

Why?

Because Turnbull and Eric Abetz, in the debacle that became known as Utegate, used a forged email to accuse Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan of using OzCar, a scheme to help distressed car dealers after the GFC, to help out mates.

In the week after the incident, Newspoll showed a large drop in the number of voters who thought Turnbull trustworthy, and an increase in those who thought him arrogant.

The Treasury official who eventually admitted to forging the email was Godwin Grech. A report into Utegate shows he had extensive links with Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard’s former chief of staff Arthur Sinodinos.

In emails to Mr Turnbull and Mr Sinodinos, Mr Grech suggests neutralising the emissions trading system as an issue, for example, by suggesting amendments, passing it, and then attacking the Government once it is in place.

He says the Liberal Party would not start to improve in the polling until the ”Punter Pain Profile” changes.

”Thanks for giving me some time on Friday,” Mr Grech wrote to Mr Turnbull in mid-June 2009.  ”You looked really good. As I was trying to say on Friday – and this is not a negative reflection on you – I … don’t believe our polling will improve until the punters start to feel a bit of pain.”

Mr Grech also offered repeat praise and suggests column topics for Janet Albrechtsen through her then husband, John O’Sullivan, the head of investment banking at Credit Suisse who had been appointed by Treasury to handle financing arrangements for OzCar.

”VG piece today by JA on Obama. He is the Kevin Rudd of US politics – a pure fake. Let’s see the ‘Black Jesus’ deal with the feral North Koreans and a hyped up Israel and Iran.”

In other emails to Mr O’Sullivan, Mr Grech appears to encourage Albrechtsen to attack the Government on its spending.

”JA and MS may wish to pick up a point re the debt numbers,” Mr Grech writes in one.

”Treasury is as left wing loony as the Government it serves,” he writes in another, even though he was a principal adviser in its financial systems division at the time.

This public servant who caused so much damage with his interference won an undisclosed government payout for his ill health after three cases lodged against the government’s workplace insurer were settled out of court in June 2013.

In a 2009 statement to the Auditor-General, who was tasked with investigating the allegations, Mr Grech said he had been suffering chronic kidney, bowel and bone disease, as well as clinical depression, in the eight months he worked to implement the OzCar scheme.

”Given this complex medical condition, and the stark reminder of my vulnerability following my hospitalisation in both February and March 2009, senior Treasury management could – and I say should – have taken action to ensure that I got the support that I needed. This did not happen,” Mr Grech’s statement said.

”Essentially, they expected me, largely on my own in both a physically and mentally impaired state – to land a major public policy initiative as well as to deal with sensitive and challenging dealer representations – such as those relating to John Grant (the dealer about whom he faked the email).

”It is unfair for senior Treasury management … to simply seek to wash their hands of their responsibilities.”

”But the reality is that, in 2008 and 2009, I lacked the energy, strength, stamina and overall capacity to function as I had prior to late 2006.”

One might ask why he accepted the job.

A few months after Utegate, the Liberal Party decided to change its mind about an ETS, got rid of Turnbull, and installed Tony Abbott…and the cycle of backstabbing and undermining has continued ever since

Whilst ever dishonesty and disloyalty reap such high rewards, the best interests of the country will be subjugated to the Punch and Judy show of those who seek power and revenge at any cost.


19 comments

  1. townsvilleblog

    That whole era was an insult or should have been to the Australian voter. We are paying through the nose to have these tory bastards lump us with ever increasing costs of living whilst doing their level best to contain wages for we wage slaves. They take pure delight in our suffering, however the Australian Apathy (AA) plays a huge role, the average Aussie thinks to themselves “well I can’t change anything” but they can. What is required is strong leadership. I’m afraid Billy doesn’t cut the mustard, even if he is the lesser of two evils. We need another Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn a bloke who will stand and fight for ordinary Aussies * see wage slaves We have needed an industrial combatant for decades, and we now have Sally McManus, we need a political champion to work hand in glove with Sally to better the average Australian’s life.

  2. diannaart

    “Utegate” (which stunned me in that visceral appalling way that is endemic to “those born to rule”) was never an aberration or mistake on the part of Turnbull – it was and remains a symptom of a man more concerned about power than politics (yes, there is a difference) – many people go into politics thinking they can make a difference for the betterment of people, many people become corrupted along the way, Malcolm was corrupted from the start.

    This singular trait actually distinguishes him from Tony Abbott. Abbott actually believes he knows what is good for everyone else, he probably thinks he is misunderstood. This means Abbott (repulsive lizard-man that he is) is actually more human than Turnbull.

    Ain’t truth grand?

  3. Kaye Lee

    When Peter Hendy lost his seat in the last election, Malcolm Turnbull appointed him as his senior economic adviser (cough – thanks – cough). Presumably having made sufficient contacts, Hendy quit in May to start his own consultancy.

    It’s amazing how often Arthur Sinodinis pops up behind questionable scenes yet he always seems to come out fine and dandy.

    And that forged email wasn’t the only time Grech lied. When he was in Howard’s Dept of PM he facilitated a grant to his favourite football club just before the 2004 election to do up their oval. He later lied about the conditions of the grant in order to support the club’s push to build a new gaming venue near a housing estate and shopping centre, falsely claiming it was a condition of the grant that they move their poker machines.

    “IT seems implausible that a senior public servant would commit matters to writing which were not accurate.”

    So declared Victoria’s gaming authority last December, in reference to a letter from a federal public servant about a contentious plan by the Western Bulldogs for a new pokies venue.

    And the name of the public servant? Godwin Grech.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20110410023044/http://www.theage.com.au/national/investigations/godwin-grech-in-dogs-pokie-mystery-20090708-dder.html

  4. diannaart

    They really all deserve each other don’t they? Godwin Grech; Dickensian in name, Machiavellian by nature. The LNP – a fuster cluck of narcissism.

    Although, feeling sorry for my Western Bulldogs friends…

  5. Joseph Carli

    What I marvel at is the part played by the MSM. in THAT and now THIS whole charade of so-called governance. From the top of the ABC to the lowest of the Daily Terror, we had to stand by and witness the most outrageous lying and chicanery of nearly every “journalist cum commentator” who wanted a piece of the Labor carve-up action!..Even to this day there has not been ONE commentator (save Murphyroo, perhaps) who has claimed a mea culpa for their scurrilous actions..even the facile A. Crabbe joined in with her own brand of giggling slander whenever or where ever she could.
    Nick Ross was the only one at the ABC who called foul on Turnbull interference, and he got sidelined for his decency AND little sympathy or support from his fellow colleagues.

  6. Roswell

    People need to be reminded of Utegate at every possible opportunity. It told us what Turnbull is really like. Let us not forget.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Joseph,

    Paddy Manning apologised for “overselling” Malcolm in his biography….

    “Like millions of Australians, I fear I may have overestimated Malcolm Turnbull…..who could have predicted the combination of gutlessness, vacuity and incompetence that this prime minister has delivered?”

    https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2016/09/17/malcolm-turnbulls-biographer-turns-the-pm/14740344003733

    If you don’t want to use up your one article per week reading it on the Saturday Paper, Andrew Bolt, unsurprisingly, reprinted an excerpt on his blog…

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/blogs/andrew-bolt/turnbull-biographer-sorry-i-oversold-him/news-story/f88e7c068feb80f0de2b679c7b7dd263

    The spurned colleagues and shock jocks are circling…..

  8. Joseph Carli

    ” ….who could have predicted the combination of gutlessness, vacuity and incompetence that this prime minister has delivered?”…Most of social media!…That’s who!

    Joe Carli‏ @JAYSEE423

    What sort of gullible fools in their wildest dreams think that a rich man with his money in a tax haven would care for the common people?
    11:16 pm – 25 Sep 2017

    It is the gullible fools in the MSM who have swallowed the Kool-aid of the same class of education and indoctrination who could not see that such a f#cking dickhead like the silver spooner ; Turnbull was, is and foreever will be, like MOST of his class of people a useless jerkoff!…GOD! it shits me to tears that we have to forever be reliant upon a gormless MSM to deliver their same sort of gullible shite day upon day, year upon year to the same sort of “Doh!” voters just looking for another way to enact their apparent inherited stupidity!

  9. Zathras

    Keating’s assessment of Turnbull has become apparent several times – intelligent, brave but with no sense of judgement, believing totally in himself and not willing to listen to the opinions of others.

    Another factor in his removal besides Utegate was the disdain he heaped upon his political ally – The Nationals, and his ego is much larger than Rudd’s.

    However I suspect he’s being kept on a very short leash by his Party and failed to win the autonomy he craved after the last electoral disaster.

    He’s now just circling the drain, waiting for Shorten to self-destruct or a more convincing replacement leader to come along and nobody seems to be listening to the same old rhetoric he endlessly spouts.

  10. diannaart

    While Turnbull remains in politics (not just PM) he is an insidious player whether behind the scenes or blatantly:

    When Prime Minister Turnbull visited Adani CEO Gautam Adani in April 2017 he promised him he would ‘fix’ Australian Native Title law to override the rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners and ease the passage of Adani’s mine. The Native Title legislation was changed in Adani’s favour in June.

    The willingness of state and federal governments to make Adani exempt from rules, and change laws to their benefit, is a serious concern for our democracy.

    As we speak, the Turnbull government is deciding whether to hand over $1 billion of the Australian taxpayer funds to Adani through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF). The loan is integral to the Carmichael Mine succeeding.

    https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/great-barrier-reef–3/adani-files-new-dirt-share/the-adani-files-2-0?t=X9xjSEX7&utm_content=23479&utm_campaign=No_rest_for_the_wicked__Especially_Adani

  11. Joseph Carli

    I apologise for the length of this piece, and I know not if any of it was published here before, but it is a piece I wrote after the LNP gained office after the most malign period of journalistic integrity ever witnessed.

    “While one must fully agree with the debate within many articles, the point must be raised that the timing is all wrong…the “horse has bolted”…too late to close the barn door…likewise for Mr. Elder’s, Mr. Green’s and other worthy writers railings at journalistic ethics…..those who are partisan have no regrets and will not change, those who were “bought off” may have regrets, but will salve their conscience with some gadget or other..those who were fooled will never admit it and will go on fooling themselves till their stupidity is slap-stick-flung, pie like into their faces!

    What happened to get us all riled?….There was the Labor Govt’, led by a woman Prime Minister ( a fault in itself, evidently!) ticking along steadily with a AAA. credit rating…decent employment figures, damn decent social and infrustructure policies, small treasury debt…and a few , now settled, internal leadership squabbles…I think that covers it..what happened?

    Accusations..endless, unrelenting accusations against almost everything the govt’ had working policy toward resolution. Accusations against any minister that could be found, their sexual orientation, past suspicions, even before they entered office. against the speaker of The House, against the Prime Minister’s past relationships, against the Prime Minister’s person and her relationship with her partner, her parent, even her dress style, body shape and shoes!…an endless panoply of accusation and complaint to one end, one objective…: To undermine public confidence in both the Prime Minister and the democratically elected govt’ of the day.

    Murdoch even imported from America, his favoured provocateur to edit and ensure the result of the upcoming election would put in office, the most indolent opposition in Aust’ history..an opposition that spent the last three years not just being idle in their duty as an opposition, but deliberately avoiding ANY semblance of policy development, ANY sort of legitimate debate of Govt’ policies, ANY appearance of polite procedure that would reflect well on our democratic Parliament…in short..an absolute disgrace!

    And where were those “Upholders of the free, democratic process”?….The Fourth Estate jury that dissects and delivers the “context”, the ” deconstructed analysis” of policy, of parties, of parliamentary procedures?….where were they?….I’ll tell you where..in the pocket of the conservative conspiracy to destabilise and demoralise and destroy both the reputation and the actualisation of Parliament and Democratic Governance of our nation.

    Of those who were in the Murdoch camp, who, unlike their employer, were Australian citizens, the most abominable moniker of traitors would be barely sufficient to name them….for in following the instructions of a foreign national, hell-bent on profiteering from the bringing down of the govt’, they have betrayed their duty toward their homeland…by accepting payment from a foreign national to assist that person or corporation to undermine the morale and the structure of good governance, even if they disapproved of the political sway of that govt’, they colluded with, accepted payment from and delivered to ; a foreign national or corporation a service that diminished the capacity of their fellow citizens a degree of social and financial security of necessity to maintain stable democracy.

    Of those others in the MSM. who may first have seen opportunity, then kudos and finally reward to slight and slander the govt’ of the day , to assist in the weakening and destruction of the national economy, national infrastructure, indigenous equality, gender equality, communications technology, environmental and water systems and finally social cohesion to end up with such a divided community with hate as the main driving force of political policy in their choice of government….and it was all there for even the most obtuse to see and be warned….the title of fool is forever prefixed to their names.

    I have been mocked before for calling the behaviour of our “esteemed MSM.” traitorous..for the reason that ; in law, the term in this current situation cannot be legally applied. So sure…let the semantics prevail..let us not un-legally arraign such scum unfairly before the beak and scream obscenities at their pusillanimous perfidy..let us make debate on polite presumption for a future situation…but then again, as I stated in the opening of this piece..it is too late..; the “horse has bolted”…Murdoch et all ARE profiteering, all the above structures ARE being dismantled…we HAVE been done over..” it is too late!” she cried….so let’s call the MSM. tune for what it is : We can call it ; foolishness..we can call it stupidity…we can call it blind hate….but even without the protective jargon of legal framework, without the sly sideways glances of the shamed, without the pathetic pleading of lame excuses, the miserable pettiness of personal vindictiveness, the endless worming and sliding-out of professional responsibility…..you look at the pitiable personalities of these people and you can damn well only call it one thing…: MOST FOUL TREASON ! “

  12. stephengb2014

    How hard would it be to have a really democratic parliament- no Parties, no Left or Right factions.

    Just a parliament of electorated representives, who every year must elect a prime minister and ministerial cabinet, the same group if they like.

    The Constitution allows for this, yes some MPs would be Left leaning and some would be Right leaning but all must only be elected as independents from any political party.

    No MP or potential MP would be allowed any sponsorship of any kind. Election costs would come from public purse, a grant could be given for potential MPs who collect 1000 signatures of citizens in their electorate.

    All MPs seats up for re-election every 4 years from their date of first election and each MP must be elected in the same week and month of the original election.

    All votes on any Bill are free votes. Full stop.

    Hmmm Oh well, one can only dream.

    S G B

  13. James Cook

    Thanks again Kaye for a great, but depressing, reminder of the history of Turnbull and his band of clowns. And Joseph, I haven’t seen your thoughts on the MSM before, but you have articulated so well what I’ve been trying to say [so badly] for a long time. Many thanks to you both. I only wish your work was compulsory reading for all Australian voters!

  14. helvityni

    I remember Dr Nelson, he wasn’t a bad bloke, definitely not nasty enough for the Liberals.

    I agree with his assessment of Turnbull, of course Keating too got him right…and Paddy Manning apologised for “overselling” him… 🙂
    Not knowing him too well, I expected he would at least make a better leader than Abbott, hopeless both of them…

  15. Jaquix

    Thanks Kaye Lee for highlighting the background to Turnbull’s political career, much of which I missed by being out of the country. Definitely needs to be brought to everyones attention again. The media definitely helped him squeak back into power last year, but I doubt thats going to happen next time. Or at least its not going to work! Increasingly people get their news direct from other sources, which is a very good thing. But you cant undo 50 years worth of propaganda in one swoop. To those calling for Bill Shorten to become more “left” and outspoken, I would say that Australians would not be impressed. Or rather not enough of them. He is better to stick to the middle of the road approach. As it is, he doesnt really engage with Turnbull and that drives them mad, and is partly why they come up with their childish namecalling – its all they can come up with. We still have the High Court decisions to come, and when the next election is called, the Bill Bus will be all set and ready to go. When you think they got 14 seats off them last time, and only need another 10 to topple them. with 10 very marginal seats, including Dutton on 1.6%, with the way the polls have run so consistently in Labors favour, and with GetUp and Sally McManus all doing their bit, its hard to believe Labor wont be striding into The Lodge soon after (striding, not slithering as all the snivelling RWNJs describe it).

  16. Kaye Lee

    Keating thought Nelson was better when he wore an earring and Abbott was a “young fogey”. Abbott was approaching 50 at the time. I knew him when he actually WAS a young fogey and he never changed.

  17. Zathras

    It was Rudd who appointed Nelson to the position of Director of the Australian War Memorial and he seems to be doing an excellent job.

    Funny how the ALP can recognise the potential of Liberals better than the Liberals themselves and can be more magnanamous in victory than their small-minded opponents.

    stephengb2014,
    I agree with your view. What we need is Government but what we have is just Politics.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Zathras,

    Judi Moylan was a Liberal that I respected. Needless to say, her party did not appreciate a female small l liberal speaking up. After significant service, her stance on compassion for asylum seekers saw her overlooked by her party so she chose not to contest the 2013 election. I think Sharman Stone quit for the same reason – the lunatics are running the show so what’s the point.

  19. wam

    A great read, Kaye.
    As part of a crowd I met the first of a long line of liberal catholics in the alice where he showed himself every bit of the arrogant arsehole required to be the leader of the liberals.
    Judi was exceptional in the libs but not like sophie or michaelia who are rabbottian ‘exceptions’

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