I’m not sure that I’m really suited to the democratic process
In 1971, Malcom Turnbull was in fourth form at Sydney Grammar. Writing for the school newsletter, he said the Liberal Party was full of “men averse to change of any sort – men whose interests lie solely in the system as it is”.
He said the Liberal approach was “hardly the material needed for a progressive government, which is what Australia as a nation needs above all else”, as he called for higher taxes on the rich. “Twenty years have seen many changes in Australia and the world, but few in the Liberal Party.”
Turnbull was particularly critical of the Liberal’s foreign investment policy which he claimed enticed foreign companies to exploit and own large chunks of Australia’s mineral wealth. More taxes and tariffs would have solved that, he said.
He labelled the twenty year reign of Menzies as “an exceptionally long period in office” producing, “with a few exceptions, nothing original.”
The headmaster of Grammar said of Malcolm, “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.”
A few years later, while describing then-PM Gough Whitlam as an arrogant egomaniac in an article for the Sydney University student newspaper Honi Soit, Malcolm lauded the Labor Party as a “wealth of opinion and class…diverse and less likely than the conservatives to blindly rally behind one great leader”.
Menzies’ Liberals, on the other hand, had “warmed the treasury benches” for 23 years with “the steak-fed bottoms of the sons of Toorak and the champions of Double Bay”.
Malcolm was so busy writing that he rarely went to class, paying a friend $30 a week (plus carbon paper) to take notes for him.
In the mid-1970s, Turnbull, then 21, told radio broadcaster David Dale he wanted to be Prime Minister by the time he was 40.
“For which party?” asked Dale.
“It doesn’t matter,” responded Malcolm.
Turnbull, in a 1978 article titled “The Vicious World of Student Politics” for The Bulletin magazine, attacked a young conservative Sydney University Student Representative Council member named Tony Abbott, saying:
“The leading light of the right-wingers in NSW is twenty-year-old Tony Abbott. He has written a number of articles on AUS [The Australian Union of Students] in the Australian [newspaper] and his press coverage has accordingly given him a stature his rather boisterous and immature rhetoric doesn’t really deserve… While he can win support from students because of the shocking state of affairs in AUS, he cannot take the next step because of his conservative moral views.”
In 1991 the Good Weekend did a profile on Malcolm. In researching the article, they “encountered fear among business people” for what they say are his threats to sue them if they speak about him. Packer once quipped to a friend that Turnbull frightened even him. (He told the same person he would never stand between Turnbull and a bag of money.)
When asked about his future, Turnbull said he had given away any political ambitions: “I’m not sure that I’m really suited to the democratic process.”
We shall see.