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Pragmatist or weathervane?

“You’ve got to be true to yourself, Neil. I am who I am. I’m a practical, pragmatic leader. I’m not an ideological leader.”

So said Malcolm Turnbull when asked if he would be changing his leadership style in the aftermath of Trump’s victory.

True to yourself? Which self would that be? Would it be the self who, in 2009, said

“Now politics is about conviction and a commitment to carry out those convictions. The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is “crap” and you don’t need to do anything about it. Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental figleaf to cover a determination to do nothing.”

Would it be the self who ridiculed Abbott for changing his mind on an ETS?

His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this, but…..”

At the time, Turnbull said “I am not a barrister any more. I am not going to go out there and make a case for something I don’t believe in.”

But just as Abbott did, Turnbull has shown that, in return for the crown of leadership, he is more than happy to throw away his convictions and to make the case for all sorts of rubbish that he does not believe in like the marriage equality plebiscite, the attacks on renewable energy, the expansion of coal mining and the trashing of the NBN.

He sounds more like he is back at Sydney Grammar, the second speaker in the debate presenting minor arguments whilst ignoring the big issues.

All of a sudden, being a weathervane has morphed into being a pragmatist.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pragmatic means “relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters: practical as opposed to idealistic <pragmatic men of power have had no time or inclination to deal with … social morality — K. B. Clark>

Malcolm’s pragmatism has absolutely nothing to do with the most practical course of action and everything to do with what he has to say and do to retain the leadership of a party whose values are worlds away from his own.

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  1. Jeanette

    A do nothing Prime Minister. He acts more like he was a king without powers letting others speak for him. Trump will be the same, the prize is the fight to get there, once achieved boredom. These type of people are thrill seekers of a different kind. There is no real interest in the job the interest is the fight to get there and to placate egospeak in future years. Heralded among the ex prime ministers, dragged out for interviews in latter years. The enormity of the job is of no interest to them, they don’t need the money, success in business legal or illegal is irrelevant to them and has been achieved. No real conviction to the lesser masses. For Trump though who is an advocate for guns for which if fails or even looks like failing a bad ending could be his final thrill. Malcolm is a hollow man, it would have been better if he and Lucy had taken up cruising like so many rich people do. Bored with life, contribute nothing so cruise continually having people bow and scrape to them.
    Australia is going nowhere. For those inmovative people with new ideas that could benefit all in this country, not to sell out to foreign entities must be extremely difficult.

  2. Pappinbarra Fox

    I don’t know but maybe someone has already said this: The Trump presidency will be a 4 year long reality game show with spectacular prizes and massive penalties for the losers. Only it will be less real than most confected game shows. People will watch the show and its star with agape awed jaws or enthusiastic cheers as the unscripted fairy floss rides the waves of viewer numbers. The question is: can the star keep the audience enthralled for 18 hours a day for 4 years or will the producers pull the show because of audience decline? We art critics wait the verdict with debated breath.

  3. Kaye Lee

    I think Trump will get sick of it before the producers or audience. I truly cannot see him wanting to put in the hours involved let alone read all the briefings and go to all the meetings – there is no non-ratings period to kick back and party.

    As for Turnbull, even Abbott is pointing to his backflips and lack of conviction…

    Mr Abbott suggested Mr Turnbull had transformed into such a centre-right leader since the election.

    “It’s quite interesting … that if you actually listen to the Prime Minister, there’s been a lot less talk about innovation and agility and the new economy, a lot more talk about national security and border security.

    “A lot more talk about cost of living and the need to reject Labor’s 50 per cent renewable energy target, which will result in a $50 billion overbuild of surplus power capacity and everyone will be paying that through their power bills,” Mr Abbott said.

  4. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good analysis on Trump, Pappinbarra Fox.

    As for Trumbull oops Turnbull, he is a failure whatever way we view him.

    He failed at keeping his convictions and he fails at finding pragmatic solutions for all the big issues of climate action, marriage equality, innovation, which he purported to support (not to mention other seriously important issues such as fair income distribution, micro-finance incentives for unemployed and under-employed people who want to develop their own meaningful, self-employment and so on.)

    Now that he has ticked off becoming PM on his bucket list, he should feel free to sail off with Lucy to the Cayman Islands in the sunset.

  5. Terry2

    Turnbull has said that marriage equality is off the table following the failure of Tony Abbott’s plebsicite to get of the ground. Previously he said that Abbott’s push for revisions to 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was off the table.

    This, based on past performance, probably means that 18C will be the subject of amendment or repeal very soon – maybe even a plebiscite. And a parliamentary vote on marriage equality can’t be far off either.

  6. Wayne Turner

    He’s a GUTLESS turd.The no point PM.

  7. jim

    As Australia becomes a leader in solar and battery power, our electricity bills will continue to skyrocket thanks to a massive over-investment in the network that we didn’t ask for and will never need.

    This incentive to spend $45 Billion on our poles and wireswas supercharged in 2006 by state governments: they wrote the rules for the regulator to enforce, thanks to a deal with former prime minister Johnny f*cking Howard, who gave them rule making authority in exchange for their blessing to replace state-based regulators with one new federal body.

    How this went under the MSM I mean a Fn very huge investment of tax payer money (45 BILLION) the MSM the right wing- Murdoch majority owned news paper is an arm of the Lying ….Lying ….lying Liberal party.

  8. townsvilleblog

    Turnbull has more faces than a hexagon however the only priority that his and Abbott before him have had is going along beautifully, and of course that is to “punish the people” for not being multimillionaires, they have now taken $4.8 bn in the past 3 years out of aged care, abolished family tax benefit ‘b’ and most of the remaining benefits top the “people” and continue to privatize State and Federal govt services and sell them to the global 1% who own 50%+ of the global economy.

    This has been their aim from day1, and people are too apathetic to realize that it is happening, soon the only federal govt service left will be Medicare, and that will disappear overnight when the LNP allow private health insurance corporations to infiltrate our local GP Clinics, Medicare will be obsolete and the “people” will look around the government landscape and wonder where everything went?

  9. Andreas Bimba

    Yes townsvilleblog, behind the diversionary political melodrama the neoliberal agenda of serving the capital controlling elite and the fossil fuel sector, both foreign and local, is proceeding nicely. Malcolm will be well rewarded for his services to the elite.

  10. Noel

    Turnbull is pragmatic. He has turned his back on his long help principles to cosy up to the right wingers in the LNP so that he can be Prime Minister. He wont do anything worthwhile or in line with his pre 2015 thinking but he will be PM. For him that is everything. For Australia it is a disaster.

  11. metadatalata

    Nice work Kaye. It seems that most people don’t yet realise which is the real lie. That Turnbull’s original position on climate change and asylum seeker protections was confected to give him support among progressive voters. Just has his opposite views now are also confected to appease the RW neocons in his own party now. Turnbull has never had an opinion about anything of substantive issues. He only has his greed for something and then makes his story fit the narrative that will get him the result. How long will it take for everyone to wake up?

  12. Garth

    Thanks Metadatalata…. I was going to say something along the same lines but, no need. You hit the nail on the head!

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    If Turnbull was prepared to work as an expensive barrister for Packer in his hayday of tax avoidance while shovelling his own money into the Cayman Islands tax havens, it is no surprise that Turnbull blows with the breeze.

    The challenge is to pin him down so he can receive the ramifications of his own debauchery.

  14. Andreas Bimba

    I’m going to say two good things about John Howard so maybe take a Bex, lie back and grit your teeth.

    1. When the FTA between the U.S. and Australia (AUSFTA) was being negotiated, G W Bush wanted to put in an ISDS protocol just like what is currently in the TPP but Howard refused and it was not included.

    2. Howard by successfully fighting against the move to become a republic which is what most Australians wanted and which Turnbull also wanted, he also saved our current constitution. Now although our constitution was drafted and passed in Whitehall, is heavily royalist, is generally defied by our political class and ignores Australia’s Aboriginal people it is however a very democratic document that defines the people as sovereign and at the top of the power pyramid with parliament and government subordinate. Politicians are actually not allowed to pass any legislation without the prior informed consent of the people. Even political parties have doubtful constitutional legitimacy. Imagine what constitution we would now have if it was drafted by the likes of Malcolm Turnbull or other neoliberal hacks that are currently servile to the capital controlling elite? The fast track to corporate feudalism would probably have been a certainty.

    Maybe an invalid appraisal or maybe not?

  15. Florence nee Fedup

    if Turnbull isn’t ideologist, why doesn’t he drop the neoliberal agenda from Abbott’s day he is trying to put in place.

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    your points 1 and 2 are salient, particularly 2. That is why I am dubious about the current Republic push by the likes of FitzSimons. His bookwriting abilities are commendable but not his political allegiances to the Turnbull LNP Degenerates.

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