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Right back at ya Malcolm

In August 2010, in response to the knifing of Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull wrote a piece for the ABC titled Politics and moral courage. The following is an extract from his article.

“We are all faced with occasions when we are put to the test, and face a choice between doing the easy thing which is wrong, and the hard thing which is right. And that is what requires true moral courage. Examples of this choice abound in every stage of life.

You might be a legal adviser who is asked to give advice to a client, and tells the client what he wants to hear rather than what you know to be the truth.

You might be an investment banker who is asked to give a valuation of a company that is about to be floated, and you might be persuaded to give it a higher valuation than it deserves. (HIH and FAI ring a bell?)

You might, for example, be a politician who knows what is right but is presented with opinion polls that suggest you ought to do something differently simply because it will be popular.

The temptations abound.

But it seems to me that moral courage derives from strength of character. It comes from a kind of moral core within you. It requires that you believe in yourself, for if you do not belief in yourself you cannot ask others to believe in you.

courage, in the truest sense of standing up for one’s convictions is a vital element of one’s character.

And it is something that ought never be neglected. I have formed the view over the years that character is like a muscle. If you neglect it, if you allow yourself to take the soft option again and again, all the while justifying these actions to yourself as being “just little things” or “not really a big deal” – then, I guarantee, the time will come and you will be faced with something important where you are called upon to be strong, but you will find yourself weak.

It was an horrifying thing to see a Prime Minister in his first term in office poleaxed by his own party. I understood how he felt at the time! But the difference between my situation and that of Kevin Rudd was the events that led to my very narrow demise as Leader of the Opposition were built around a matter of principle.

I believed then, and I believe today that Australia must take effective action on climate change, effective action to reduce our emissions. And I felt that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) was a good way of working towards that goal. It wasn’t perfect – mind you, nothing emerges from Parliament that is perfect. But we should never allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good – that, it seems to me, is an important lesson that the Greens need to learn.

But the reality of Rudd’s demise was truly a shocking one. We should recall that he enjoyed the longest political honeymoon that any of us had ever seen, and yet it came to an abrupt end. It fell off a cliff after he decided to shelve the CPRS.

Why did he do it? We are told that the hard heads in the Labor Party, including Julia Gillard, told him that there were deep political problems surrounding the scheme and that he should back away from it. They wouldn’t have done so if they didn’t think it was politically advantageous.

But what happened, of course, was a loss of faith with the Australian people who had elected him to take action on climate change, and who couldn’t understand why he didn’t call a double dissolution election – as Judith Troeth, a very courageous Liberal, and I were certain he would.

So what brought Mr Rudd undone, in my mind, was not an issue of policy but of conviction. In politics people will forgive you for incompetence – up to a point, of course, and you don’t want to test the electorate’s patience. But if they feel there is no conviction there, if they do not believe that you have the courage to fight for what you believe in, then why on earth should they vote for you?

There is simply no substitute for conviction. Leaders cannot allow themselves to get into a situation where by endeavoring to please everybody they expose themselves as truly being a “hollow man” – or woman, as the case may be.

And that, I think, is the lesson we ought to draw from the tumultuous events in Canberra over the past few months.

But let me be clear about courageous leadership. Leaders have to consult, they have to engage – leadership is not dictatorship. Leadership is about listening, it is about reaching out and drawing strength from the people you work with. But at the end of the day, those that you are seeking to lead need to know that you stand for something. They need to know your vision. And if you cannot deliver that, then you cannot be a successful leader.

It is very easy, of course, to position oneself in an environment where courage is not demanded. But let me make what I believe is an extremely important observation. Courage is not the absence of cowardice. There are many people who strive to make their lives so safe that they never are called upon to make a courageous decision.

And badly led organizations can actually encourage such timidity. Just think of the many organizations in which conventional thinking is encouraged, dissent is dangerous, and failure is punished severely. If you find yourself in a culture like that, the only rational response is to do nothing. Better to do nothing, to risk nothing, than to fail.

Ultimately, in politics, the real issue is one of character. People often talk about elections as being a conflict between policies, that different parties will take different policies to the people. And that’s true, to an extent. But policies change and new circumstances frequently demand new policies.

What people look for at election time is the candidate that has the character that will enable them to make the right decisions in new and unforeseeable circumstances.

I was genuinely horrified by the events that precipitated Kevin Rudd’s demise.

As I watched him go, and saw what replaced him, I couldn’t get out of my mind that stanza from William Butler Yeats’s haunting poem, The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; / the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.””

Right back at ya Malcolm.

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33 comments

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  1. Karl Young

    Well, Well. Well what a piece Kaye.I don;t think Turnbull could even read this as he would have tears in his eyes.

  2. vivienne29

    Which is why he is indeed the greatest hypocrite of all time.

  3. Kate Ahearne

    Thanks for alerting us to this, Kaye. Oh My Gosh! I don’t know what was most gob-smacking about it, but I couldn’t help noticing his use of the word ‘what’ rather than ‘who’ in this bit: ‘As I watched him go, and saw what replaced him… ‘ Julia Gillard was not a ‘what’, a THING. She was a ‘who’, a woman of far more courage than Turnbull could even dream of.
    And poor old W. B. would be turning in his grave.

  4. Ella Miller

    Kaye Lee, an extraordinarily insightful piece…as per usual.
    I agree you have to believe in something before you can stand up and be counted.
    Mr. silver spoon in the mouth has proved once again:
    he believes in nothing …stands for nothing.
    Your insights apply not only to the individual but political parties…as you stated.
    Thank you.

  5. John Lord

    The danger of self analysis.

  6. Kate Ahearne

    I think there might be some confusion about this. It’s an excerpt, as Kaye said, from a piece Malcolm Turnbull wrote for the ABC, not something Kaye made up. Malcolm really wrote this astonishing piece of crap. Maybe there needs to be quotation marks.

  7. Keitha Granville

    Why on earth do politicians ever make such profound statements ? Does it never occur at the time that it may bite them in the bum at a later stage ?
    On reflection, Mal seems at the moment to be sort of K Rudd-like. He is such a passionate believer in his own greatness that he cannot see the mess he is making. He clearly doesn’t care about the mess either, even though his own backstabbing of TA was performed wholly as a result of dreadful poll results – and look where they are now, pretty similar.
    We can only imaging where we might be as a country right now if he HAD stuck to his principles.

  8. Jaquix

    Malcolm’s character muscle has well and truly withered away since he wrote this piece. And “what” replaced Rudd was a person who got a record amount of far reaching progressive legislation through a difficult parliament, including the Royal Commission into Child Abuse. NDIS and Gonski needs based reform (the latter obstructed/stymied by recalcitrant Liberal State governnents). Tufnbull will keave no legacy, he will go down in history as a monumental failure, except in his own mind, of course.

  9. Jack Straw

    Turnball’s delusions of Grandeur have never been Grander.There were shades of Comodus from the movie The Gladiator in his rant toward Bill Shorten.

  10. Sir Scotchmistery

    Dear Malcolm

    Ain’t history and memory a pair of bitches?

  11. Ricardo29

    I agree some quotation marks would have helped but recognised it as all his own words, ah the hypocrisy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see these words published (in an ad) on the front page of every mainstream newspaper in Australia? Good job, as usual, Kaye Lee.

  12. Vikingduk

    How much further will this nation, this “democracy” sink into the slime, into the depths of bullshit, outright lies and hypocrisy? All supported by the typists that pose as journalists. No voices heard to call out this prime monster, this effing sock puppet, for his incredible hypocrisy.

    And that turnip, that overblown tomato masquerading as deputy.

    What a disgusting display, what an example to set.

    A great pity there are not more real journalists, particularly of the calibre of Kaye Lee. Can there be hope or are we destined to sink further into the muck?

  13. Kronomex

    “Do as I say, not as I do.”
    Things were different then because at that stage he was not PM and leader, whereas now he is and any principles he held went out the door to retain his tenuous hold on the position. He will not make it to the next election (which will, hopefully, be a complete wipe out for the LNP) because the chasm under his hubris is spreading apart and his legs will only widen so far before he falls.

  14. Henry Rodrigues

    Ms Kaye Lee, this is truly breathtaking stuff. The hypocrisy of a morally bankrupt human being is so stark, its unbelievable that he committed his inner most thoughts and convictions in documented form for all time, to be dredged up at the appropriate occasions, like now. Maybe we could crowd fund an ad to be placed in all newspapers, radio and TV to remind the voters of what and who this charlatan really is. I will be the first to contribute.

  15. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Again this week we saw the real Malcolm, the one we saw on election night. Spitting, venomous, angry, bullying, superior. This is the real Malcolm, not the carefully crafted persona that he has developed over the years – sauve, sophisticated, eloquent. Put him under stress, and the boy who was rejected by his mother emerges, railing against the world because we don’t love him.

    I almost feel sorry for him. I certainly pity him. But I despise that he is vengeful against those that he believes reject him.

    We don’t reject you Malcolm. Just your behaviour. So stop acting like the class bully, and go and get some help resolving your deep seated rejection issues. And let someone capable, and with some actual policy ideas, run the country.

  16. lawrencewinder

    Well, that was a nice exposition of how ethically bereft Truffles is.

  17. Red Leaf

    No John, I don’t think Turnball is in any danger of self-analysis.

  18. Graeme Henchel

    Shallow Mal has been returned
    but now more weak than ever
    The double D has shown us all
    Shallow Mal is not too clever

    Shallow Mal has had a fright
    The ego had a bruising
    A tantrum on election night
    Now a morbid fear of losing

    Shallow Mal is on the edge
    The right still have his balls
    More policy paralysis
    Avoiding party brawls

    Shallow Mal has made a call
    A dump on Kevin Rudd
    Another weak decision
    Showing Shallow Mals a dud

    Shallow Mal is trying to look
    all upbeat and excited
    But pumping fists and waving arms
    Won’t keep this mob united

    Shallow Mal can thank himself
    For a senate that is worse
    Eleven on the cross bench
    Including Howard’s curse

    Shallow Mal must watch his back
    The Thug is sure to plot
    The Delcons on the right still dream
    Of returning to the clot.

    Shallow Mal is getting hit
    By Ley and Centre link
    As right wing nutters move to split
    Shallow Mal is on the brink

    Shallow Mal is near the end
    His future has been Trumped
    This whole charade will fall apart
    Shallow Mal will soon be dumped

    Shallow Mal has jumped the shark
    He is going the full Tony
    A petulant tanty aimed at Bill
    The last resort of a phoney

    Shallow Mal is walking dead
    His Faustian pact is f*cked
    So break out the popcorn now
    As we watch him self destruct

  19. Henry Rodrigues

    Well composed Graeme. Never has there been a shallower, fake, rancid, useless, gutless, ballsless, spineless leader of any country including those the media refer to as third world or developing or failed nations. Even there they fight tooth and nail for what they believe in, unlike this poser with his airs and grace, living in his elitist bubble on Sydney Harbour. Anytime he’s ready to throw in the towel, we’re ready to throw him into the garbage bin of history. Bring on the elections.

  20. wam

    Trunbull:
    We spread our dreams of the republic, climate change, equality in marriage and fairness for the poor, under your feet but you have not softly tread instead trampling on them over and over.
    apologies to WBY.

  21. Kaye Lee

    Sorry for any confusion folks. My only contribution to this article was the first paragraph and the last line. All the rest is straight from the fizza’s fingers.

    I have been at a funeral in Parramatta in the western suburbs of Sydney today. When I got in the car after the funeral (it was parked in the sun), it said the outside temp was 49 degrees. Now I can understand those people who lost power in Sydney today would think energy reliability is important. Could I suggest that we better stop burning fossil fuels because temps like this for days on end will kill people, animals, plants, coral….the planet. Being able to keep the air-conditioning on is not a solution.

    There was a time when Malcolm understood the urgency. Now he is prepared to sacrifice the world to appease Joyce and Christensen – two of the most repugnant idiots in parliament. He is trying to be Malcolm the attack dog. How demeaning can it get – the man who “looks billionaires in the eye” morphing into the man he deposed. We are back to talking about the price of electricity (I thought they fixed that by getting rid of the carbon tax), lowering taxes to create jobs and investment (I thought that was why we got rid of the mining tax), a ring of steel to keep refugees out (Trump should have used the military – works a treat), and name-calling – Mr Harbourside Mansion vs Electricity Bill (when my children behaved like that I sent them to their bedrooms until they were able to rejoin civil society).

    Question Time should be taken off tv. Children who are having tantrums or being naughty to attract attention should be ignored.

  22. Rossleigh

    Sydney lost power today, Kaye Lee? But how? Have they added hundreds of windfarms overnight? Was it the solar failing because the sun didn’t shine once Turnbull pulled up his trousers?
    Oh, how can Sydney have lost power when they don’t have a ridiculous renewables target?
    Say it isn’t so!

  23. pierre wilkinson

    the hypocrisy is simply stunning, i must get my secretary to call Lucy and arrange to have the quote withdrawn

  24. Kate Ahearne

    Lovely, Kaye. Children who can’t play nicely in the sand-pit …
    And by the way, wasn’t it Ms Credlin who came up with ‘Mr Harbourside Mansion?’ Why doesn’t Turnbull give HER a roasting?

    Rossleigh, lovely.

  25. Möbius Ecko

    The aluminium smelter that uses 10% of NSW’s power has been asked to cut back on it’s energy use by AGL. The smelter has said it can’t as it would lose too much money.

  26. Kaye Lee

    The reason Pelican Point wouldn’t turn on in SA was that it wouldn’t make enough money.

    When will our politicians realise that they should NEVER have privatised electricity? You will never have energy security whilst economists who think profit is god make the decisions.

  27. Max Gross

    Malcolm Grech PM lives up to my expectations!

  28. Egalitarian

    Spot on Kaye about Electricity being privatised.

    Again Ideology, profit, self interest over the big picture; yet to be thought of outcomes regarding the supplying of stable electricity gets us into trouble.

  29. Howard Hansen

    After this week’s rant from PM Trumble, I was witnessing a bloke who is in dire straits and also fighting for he’s political life. The attack on bill shorten was disgraceful and a stunt but bill kept hammering on with policies, the msm media in our great country well what can I say!! while I’m on about the media whilst I was refueling my truck the console operator asked would I like a free copy of the daily telegraph my reaction was maaate do you want me to tell where to shove it ??

  30. Henry Rodrigues

    Howard Hansen…………. that’s the reaction of many people including myself. Best retort I remember is, Nah mate, we still use Sorbent in our house.

  31. Howard Hansen

    Henry olmate that’s a beauty hahaha

  32. king1394

    “Takes one to know one” It is common for the most egregious liars to point out the lies of others, and the most practiced hypocrites to best describe hypocrisy.

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