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The real Malcolm

Since Malcolm Turnbull’s elevation to the role of Prime Minister, there has been consistent reference to his stated ideals and beliefs last time he was the Leader of the Liberal Party plus his public comments on ‘social issues’ such as same sex marriage, internet connectivity, climate change, the republic and so on versus his actions as Prime Minister. For a member of the same party as Abbott and Bernardi, he was really quite ‘small L’ liberal. At times he was more ‘liberal’ that the ALP.

All the issues above have not been converted into action by Turnbull since Abbott lost power in 2015, which has disappointed many people. There have been calls for ‘the real Malcolm’ to surface, shake off the conservative elements of the Coalition Government and show a sign that his personal statements actually mean anything. So far there has been little evidence of social change, which commentators have suggested is due to the ‘hold’ the conservative elements of his party have over him or his desire to obtain a thumping majority at an election and then implement what he actually believes in.

Let’s throw a third option into the mix. Let’s suggest that you are seeing ‘the real Malcolm’. Turnbull’s proud of the fact that he was raised by his father as the sole parent from the age of 9 and at times it was hard on him and his father. Without minimising the effects of the dislocation he endured while growing up, he certainly wasn’t on the same struggle street as a multitude of other children growing up with single parents endure.

Turnbull started school in Vaucluse (not a poor area by any means), then a preparatory school, which was a campus of Sydney Grammar School, as a boarder before moving to the Randwick campus to board while attending the main campus of Sydney Grammar School on a partial scholarship. He was a school captain.

After school he was lucky enough to go to University during the mid 1970s, when Whitlam’s ALP Government introduced free university courses and to his credit he won a Rhodes Scholarship. Turnbull attended Oxford University and on his return to Australia became a barrister. He then worked for Australian Consolidated Press – owned by the Packer family at the time before setting up his own law firm with a partner. Later he established an investment banking firm with some well known partners and became a partner in Goldman Sachs.

It is well known that Turnbull was involved in one of Australia’s internet service providers, Ozemail, and had other commercial interests. Certainly, Turnbull has done well and his ability to adapt, change and demonstrate more than a passing level of competency in a number of different fields is a credit to him. It also demonstrates a level of determination as well as a degree of self-belief.

However, where is the understanding, knowledge and empathy with those who don’t have the good fortune (or financial backing) to be able to be sent to one of Australia’s most expensive schools, obtain a University degree, be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and be the Managing Director of a number of companies? While Turnbull can clearly read a balance sheet and legal brief, does he have any comprehension or understanding a family budget where the decision has to be made if another 2 litres of milk (even at $1 a litre) can be purchased before payday? Has Turnbull ever faced the prospect of having his basic wage hours reduced because the company’s management is going to miss their profit projection – causing the loss of 1 cent per share to the dividend payment? Turnbull certainly doesn’t need to worry about retiring and being forced to live on the current age pension and other government subsidies that are reducing in comparison to costs in the future.

While it could be argued that Shorten isn’t much better – at least he has almost certainly heard first hand accounts of those who really do have to wonder if they can buy the milk. Shorten also seems to have the ability to empathise with those who haven’t had the skills, knowledge or ability to become a lawyer, as both Turnbull and Shorten have done.

So while Turnbull may have been the public face of the Republic Campaign in the late 90s, supported action on climate change in the late 00s while Opposition Leader and came out in support of same sex marriage and climate change mitigation more recently, that doesn’t necessarily mean he has the courage of his convictions to prosecute the argument should the going get tough (as it apparently did when he lost the Liberal Party leadership to Abbott). Neither has he had the lived or learnt experience of those who haven’t had the opportunities that Turnbull has been given.

Turnbull has lost significant political capital since his elevation to the Prime Ministership. You’d have to ask if it’s because the Turnbull who spoke out on the republic, same sex marriage and climate change has been consumed by the Turnbull who understands he only retains the ‘top job’ if he doesn’t rock the boat. If so, is ‘the real Malcolm’ the one who will say or do what is necessary to retain position and some power.

With half of the election campaign to go, the Turnbull we see on TV each night more often than not looks tired and irritated with having to deal nicely with people while on the hustings. Shorten seems to be enjoying the interaction. So the proposition is – have we seen ‘the real Malcolm’ for the last 9 or so months hidden in plain sight?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on TPS Extra.


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  1. helvityni

    Not interested in the real or the un-real Malcolm. I was pleased (for one day) when he ousted Abbott, now I can’t wait for him disappear…

  2. etnorb

    Great article, & I think it sums up Talkbull to a tee! All too happy to jump on the “bandwagon” when it suited him, he (I reckon) now shows his “true” colors. It is pointedly obvious–despite his “poor” (?) upbringing–that Talkbull has little or no real idea just what it is like to have to live from week-to-week, or hand-to-mouth as a great percentage of “ordinary” Australians do! He appears to have no empathy towards anyone less fortunate or wealthy than himself! And, of course, when he “retires” (?), he will naturally gladly accept ALL the perks etc that come from being in Parliament, his “pension” alone could probably keep a “real” pensioner in gravy for years! And he has to “live” on a lousy couple of hundred million or so, poor lamb!

  3. z

    it is a matter of whether Mr. Turnbull leads the Liberal or Liberal led him

  4. kerri

    Can’t resisit captioning that photo!
    “I love the smell of struggle in the morning!”
    Yet another right wing politician quiet about their free education under Gough and determined to disallow anyone else to further their life in the same way

  5. vixstar

    Watching him waffle on and on and on spewing out the same slogans with that dreadful Scott Morrison is like a watching a bad SBS film they both rave on like Italian dictators waving their hands around.
    Turdball never answers questions succint always verbose and speaks down to women like he did to our dear Laura Tingle in the ABC debate.
    He is no primeminister material and the rest of his team are hypocrites they are just suits filled with manure.

    loved Bill Shorten today with his team excellent policies and looking forward to a future with Labor, Windsor and Oakey.

  6. Anon E Mouse

    This is the real Turnbull.
    I first knew of him during the FAI HIH insurance scandal. Many struggling families lost money out of that dodgy deal that Turnbull made a heap from.
    Turnbull is purely self-interested.

  7. jane

    Great summation of Turnbull’s character. He, along with the entire Liars Party, seems quite incapable of standing in other peoples’ shoes and understanding their problems. Or even worse he really doesn’t care about the other peoples’ problems.

    Shorten and Labor, it seems are able to make that leap and understand how difficult it can be for the low paid and disadvantaged to make ends meet. People who meet him talk about his warmth and that he really listens to what they have to say.

    Turnbull on the other hand avoids contact with ordinary people.

  8. Kronomex

    Kerri, all I could think of while looking at the photo of Turnbull was that he was waiting for his serf to clean the tiny bits of double brie and salmon from between his teeth with the family gold toothpick.

  9. Jaquix

    We just press the “mute” button whenever Turnbull, Morrison, Cormann, Cash and Co appear on screen, because we’ve heard it all before. Luckily we caught the beautiful sight and sound of robot Cormann intoning that “Bill Shorten is a very caring person …. and Bill Shorten is focused on our economic plan for jobs and growth”.

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