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Toad of Turnbull Hall

By Ad astra

During my childhood, Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows was my favourite book. A. A. Milne turned it into a play: Toad of Toad Hall.

I loved Toad. I was astounded by, and somewhat admiring, of his conceit, his vanity, his arrogance, his audacity, his entrepreneurship, his ‘innovation’ and ‘agility’, to use our former prime minster’s favourite words.

Day after day, Toad would come up with some hairbrained idea, the virtues of which he would extol extravagantly, tagging his utterances with ‘Clever Toad’, or ‘Brilliant Toad’. Of course, when as usual he made a mess of things, he would lament: ‘Poor Toad’, ‘Stupid Toad’, even ‘Miserable Toad’.

Toad was a very wealthy and kind-hearted fellow, who lived in a mansion, Toad Hall. But being aimless and conceited, he regularly became obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them abruptly. First he favoured boating, next a horse-drawn carriage, and then he developed a fixation on very fast prestige cars that he drove recklessly.

As I reflect on Toad’s bizarre behaviour, I am reminded of our very own Toad, Toad of Turnbull Hall. The similarities are striking.

His recent departure as our Prime Minister marks a fitting time to recount his times and feats.

Toad of Turnbull Hall is very wealthy. He lives in a mansion at Point Piper, and has his own boat and boatshed. He too is conceited, with an extravagant view of his own intelligence and accomplishments, which, mind you, are not insignificant. He too becomes obsessed with current fads – remember his forays into rainmaking, a project he abandoned abruptly when he realized how foolhardy it was!

Like our Toad of Toad Hall, Toad of Turnbull Hall is conceited enough to take on challenging assignments. He took on the Spycatcher case and beat the British Government. He successfully defended ‘The Goanna’.

But when he tried to upend Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan in the infamous ‘Utegate’ affair, he became badly unstuck because he failed to carry out due diligence and was duped by Treasury mole, Godwin Grech. Urged on by colleagues, notably Eric Abetz, he thought, with the arrogance of the invincible Toad, that he had Rudd and Swan on toast, and attacked them in the full view of the public in parliament, haughtily casting aside their protestations of innocence. Then, when Grech’s fake email was exposed, Toad of Turnbull Hall was left hanging precariously on a limb, which finally broke, forcing him into a humiliating public apology. Unlike Toad of Toad Hall though, we did not hear him utter ‘Stupid Toad’, ‘Foolish Toad’, ‘Careless Toad’, ‘Hapless Toad’, or even ‘Poor Toad’. His ego would have detonated had he so dishonoured himself.

Like Toad of Toad Hall, Toad of Turnbull Hall is a slow learner. One blooper, or several, does not lead to immunity. He goes on making silly mistakes. His judgement is consistently poor.

Recall how he mangled the NBN in pursuit of lower costs and a faster rollout? Reckless Toad.

I don’t need to remind you of him saying: ‘I will not lead a government that does not take climate change seriously’, only to turn turtle and joined Abbott’s ‘coal-huggers’. Stupid Toad.

Remember how joyfully he supported Abbott’s Royal Commission into Union Governance and Corruption, pointedly intended to hammer the unions and Bill Shorten. What a charade that was! Silly Toad.

Shall we ever forget his repeated rejection of a Banking Royal Commission because with ASIC we already had a ‘tough cop on the beat’ to monitor the banks? Stupid Toad.

His decision to reject outright the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, arguably one of the most important pieces of recent political writing, was yet another of Toad of Turnbull Hall’s stupid mistakes. An opportunity to engage meaningfully with our indigenous people was sacrificed to placate his Coalition conservatives.

His recent decision to call by-elections with nine weeks’ lead-time, supposedly to advance his ‘Kill Bill’ strategy, backfired. Far from the by-elections being what Toad of Turnbull Hall asserted were a ‘test of Bill Shorten’s leadership’ it turned out to be a test of his. He botched again. ‘Foolish Toad’, ‘Stupid Toad’.

Toad of Turnbull Hall continued on his arrogant way.

His chest swelled with pride when, with his mate Josh Frydenburg, he announced an unsolicited grant of almost half a billion dollars to the tiny Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which has links to big resource companies. ’Clever Toad’ was his not-too-hidden message.

But even the founder of this body, Michael Myer of the Myer dynasty, said: This is “quite shocking and almost mind-blowing” and “the Government’s judgment is really poor”, and it is “unthinkable for the Government to award the largest ever non-profit grant to an organisation with six staff members without due diligence, without a proper tender process, without a request”.

The Foundation thought it had won the lottery!

The proponents tried to justify their unilateral decision in a tortured train-wreck of a press interview. It unfolded as yet another nightmare for Toad of Turnbull Hall, who stammered and stumbled as journalists poured acid on him. Now though, we will never hear ‘Stupid Toad’, or even ‘Poor Toad’.

Last week’s events following the Dutton challenge to Turnbull’s prime ministership exposed Turnbull’s poor judgement yet again. Having made cuts to corporate tax his signature policy, he abandoned it. Although he knew that he was never likely to get it through the Senate, he persisted in promoting the policy as central to his ‘economic plan’, and even assured us he would take this policy to the next election. Now it has vanished. Likewise his NEG! But did we hear ‘Unwise Toad’, ‘Foolish Toad’, or ‘Reckless Toad’?

Aware of his fate as the Dutton/Abbott storm clouds threatened, Toad of Turnbull Hall, always confident in his own judgement, threw his last dice; it turned out to be a double six. He announced that he would call a party meeting only if his opponents produced such a request with 43 signatures on it that he could verify. It should be added in parenthesis that perhaps the most telling indictment of the Turnbull era came from Queenslander Warren Entsch, who in providing the 43rd signature, added ‘For Brendon Nelson’, the Liberal leader Turnbull tore down to seize his position. It was a reminder that those who live by the sword, die by it.

Indicating, that if a spill motion were passed he would not be a candidate, Turnbull further insisted that he receive evidence that Peter Dutton was eligible to actually sit in parliament at all. Doubts about this were bound to create a dilemma for those selecting the next PM. The Solicitor General opined that with the little evidence he had, Dutton was ‘not incapable’ of sitting in parliament, but that there was ’a risk’ that the High Court might find Dutton ineligible.

This time Toad of Turnbull Hall played his hand cleverly. His delaying tactics worked. In the end, doubts about Dutton prevailed, and he was utterly defeated, along with his Coalition backers and media spear-throwers. Toad’s candidate got up. We now have another Toad! As Toad of Toad Hall walked away, you could almost hear him chortling: ‘Clever Toad’, ‘Brilliant Toad’.

Like Toad of Toad Hall, Toad of Turnbull Hall showed throughout his time in politics that he will not learn. Now that he has retired to the back bench, will his judgement improve? Will his gambles continue even after his defeat? Will his mistakes multiply and his regrets grow? Whatever you judge to be the case, it is likely that we never hear from him a genuine mea culpa.

No doubt though, Toad of Turnbull Hall will continue to give us still more material for yet another chapter in his colourful career.

Tell us what you think of Toad of Turnbull Hall.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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  1. helvityni

    Nice one Ad Astra, love your and Rossleigh’s literary references.

    When it comes to Turnbull, I have to say that I have both liked and not liked him. What we have now is not any better, is it…?
    At least we were blessed not to get Dutton, I’m pleased with small mercies, very small indeed…

    Hubby looked a bit baffled when I told him my latest theory of Mal’s demise; the Liberals always talk about Labor siders suffering from class/ wealth envy, methinks it’s the Right wingers themselves who hated Mal because of his riches…

  2. Michael Brooke

    We’ve had ten years witnessing the knifework of the Australian political class; with knives so often sharpened they are sharpening away.

    The very latest assassination of a Caesar demands explanation, so last night the ABC made a valiant attempt by, as usual, assuming the difficult must be explained in terms of the easier, that it was behaviour illegitimate, regressive, mean, self serving, tribal — like attempting to define fog clearly when such a definition does not help those of us lost in fog — it was all really just centripetal malicious gossip that did Turnbull in.

    The ABC might usefully have explained the ‘easy’ by progressive stages in terms of the more ‘difficult’. Examining progressive stages, 4 dead Caesars in ten years, will reveal Australia’s political system (Jimmy is preschool would know it) is f#cked, but the people, the good and the bad and the ugly, are just fine. What is being thought by an intelligent few must finally be said; we need to rethink our democracy.

    I’ve remarked previously: The great weakness of our democracy is the forever emergent lowest common denominator — by which I mean, incompetent untrained leaders most often represent us, and alpha male paranoics dominate (examine the disordered delusions of persecution and grandeur of the current USA president). We have created a system of government that ensures we are governed by amateurs and self-perceived grandees. We have to change the system.

  3. Bronte ALLAN

    Very well put Ad Astra! Sadly we are now saddled with an inept, lying, obscenely over-paid so-called “liberal” who is also a religious zealot to boot! Just what this country needs, NOT! And he is keeping the Rabbott & Duston “involved” as well! WTF?? Cannot wait for the federal election when this whole sad, sorry lot will be evicted & the adults get into power & try to get this country back on its feet again & start to right ALL the wrongs of this effing liberal mob,.

  4. Phil

    I read Tod of Toad Hall as a child. Now I will have to read it again. Well written Ad Astra.

  5. New England Cocky

    Excellent piece and a fitting comparison … sadly.

    Perhaps Turdball would have benefitted from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”; “To thine own self be true, then thou canst be false to any man”.

  6. Ad Astra

    Thank you for the compliment.

    I do understand your feelings about Turnbull. You may be right about the ‘class warfare’ within Liberal ranks. Wealth is very important to them. All except radical conservatives are breathing a sigh of relief that Dutton was rejected.

    Michael Brooke
    There is much wisdom in what you write. The political system here and overseas is broken, but can Humpty Dumpty be put together again?

    Bronte ALLAN
    Thank you for your kind remark. I too am appalled that Dutton still has a post, and that Abbott is to become ‘an envoy’, whatever that means. Perhaps Lewis Carroll’s has the answer in ‘Through the Looking-Glass’: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Let’s see what Humpty Scomo has to say.

    Thank you for the compliment. You’ll enjoy re-reading ‘Wind in the Willows’.

    New England Cocky
    Thank you too for your kind remark.

    Your quote from Hamlet is so apt.

  7. Pilot

    Poor ol’ Toad of Toad Hall being compared to Trumbles!! Toad has a personality, charisma and drive. Trumbles has….. well, nah, he’s a wanker, always has been, always will be.

    As for 4 Corners last night, stone the bloody crows!! They lined all those poor suffering liberals for them to have a good cry and moan. The ABC portrayed them as victims!! Jesus H Christ!! Victims of their own crimes, lies and misdeeds. I’d have to rate that bloody program 1/5. We all knew the stuff they broadcast, nothing new, nothing explosive, just sanitised drivel.

    The sooner this mob of ratbags have been removed from power the better off we will be. They are a disgraceful bunch of liars and self-centred scumbags.

    Great piece Ad Astra, well done, enjoyed it immensely

  8. Ad Astra

    Thank you too for the compliment.

    Yes, Toad was, in his own way, a delightful personality. Turnbull was not. Apologies to the real Toad of Toad Hall!

    With Turnbull’s decision to leave parliament, we may not have to wait all that long before this ‘mob of ratbags’ is removed from power

  9. Pilot

    Compliment given where compliment due Ad Astra 🙂

    Always thought of Toad as a knockabout sort of fellow, bit of a larrikin, and adventurous lad. And Trumbles, well, he’s just a turd wrapped up in silk PJs.

    As for Morrison…… A couple of thousands years ago, didn’t a very nice fellow do his nut and throw the traders out of a place of Worship? Basically saying it was a house of worship not a market place? Isn’t religion about faith not profit? Isn’t one of the tenets of Christianity charity? Hillsong is all about profits and prestige? I’ve read the “Book” a couple of times and I’ll be blowed if I can remember any verse to justify Hillsong’s position. And for that matter, these clowns of the LNP come out and quote from the old “Book”, not the new. Any true christian should be quoting from the New “Book”, teachings and words of Jesus, words of hope, charity and forgiveness. All those village idiots in the LNP can come up with are quotes relating to threats and intimidation from the old “Book”. Hell fire & brimstone!!! It’s about time our so-called Christian Churches called these bastards out as well, imho. Way too much for one Church to tackle (Gosford Anglican).

    The LNP pollies really are a mob of hypocites, thugs and liars. Hopefully the Labor mob are learning how NOT to do things. We will have to wait & see.

    Morrison – wicker-man wanking………..

    Have faith people 🙂 but not in our political system.

  10. pierre wilkinson

    Great article, Toad to a tee!
    But now we have a new generational change government, with all your old favourites still there plus a surprise return of such popular crowd teasers as Baaarnaby “what water?” the bonker and Tony “all hail the magnificent coal” Abscess.
    Meanwhile, where did our outrage over the almost half a billion to rich mates go?
    What are we to do with this climate change thingie and by the way, allow fracking or there will be GST carve up consequences.
    At least for a little while none of them are blaming Labor.

  11. Diannaart

    Ad Astra

    An excellent potted history of Toad I mean Turnbull.

    If only he had been deposed for all the many reasons, you have so eloquently described … but no … our farcical far-right in the Libs, knifed Turnbull for being “too much of a leftie”. I cannot get my head around how Turnbull, he of the Cayman Island bank accounts and Uber-wealthy lifestyle, could be construed as leftist. Of course, my frame of reference is completely divergent from Abbott’s goons – no doubt Turnbull is a lefty from their warped corner of the universe.

    Strange times.

  12. Vikingduk

    Perhaps the sock puppet more resembles the cane toad, a noxious pest intent on destruction. Unfortunately, he probably wouldn’t shrivel and die when squirted with a dettol solution.

    I prefer to recall toad and his mates, Ratty and Mole as they are in Wind in the Willows, with no connection to the fizza. Though good to be reminded of this excellent book. Cheers.

  13. vicki

    Haha very clever, but the only difference is WE have a WHOLE Parliament full of TOADS, the irony is We can relate that story to anyone of our current Politicians, irony or bloody sad that WE have let it get this far!

  14. Ad Astra

    May I thank you all for your kind words.

    You are right vicki: sadly we have a plague of toads in our federal parliament.

    But as you suggest Vikingduk, they are behaving like the noxious old cane toads they have always been.

    No Diannaart, it doesn’t make sense – facts and logic don’t count.

    Sadly, as you indicate pierre wilkinson, the same old crowd is back in positions of power, so nothing will change. Already Mathias Cormann is back, belligerently bullying Shorten as if nothing happened throughout this awful week. There’ll be more about that fellow tomorrow.

  15. Rusty

    Mr Malcolm Toad, or as one should proper-like dub him, Lord Toad of Harbourwealth, has always been a perceived enigma, which I suspect is a lifelong smart tactic to continuously bamboozle his opponents – whether it was in his incarnation as a businessman, or lawyer or servant of the Packer mob, or most of all, between 2004 and last week. As to whether the deliberate dissembling, posturing and blowhard speechifying which are hallmarks of Turnbull’s style, reveal a serious moral and personality deficit, is a psychologist’s nightmare. I wager he does, like the Thing from Warringah and the Darkness from Dickson, share their ruthless Darwinian-cum-Benthamite ideas of how humanity works best. It must be clear to any saner, wiser adult that to thrive in the upper reaches of the turbo-capitalist world that has been here since globalised finance,trade etc took off, a person must, perforce, engage in much bullying, hounding, prosecuting, colouring the truth and out-foxing rivals. There is serious pathology in that sad behaviour, mostly to wipe away an essential inferiority complex rooted in childhood experiences of rejection or severe hardship. Or parental loss, often. In a sense, Abbott and Toad of Point Pip-pipper are child victims of the above who have never resolved it within. Thus they display feats of self-promotion and inflated ego, hiding that insecurity that accompany a spiritually empty narcissism. If we want to see a divided/fragmented self in action, we only have to read how our latest crop of so-called “smart” pollie leaders and ministers grew up and made careers. They seriously needed therapy of a deep kind before being let loose on the national stage to play out fantasies of grandeur and Napoleonish (in Dutton’s case Adolfish) personality schemas. Politics so often attracts rather broken, unstable men (and women sometimes – Thatcher!!). Yet, our real need is for rounded, empathetic, morally decent and very intellectually sound people in government, not pathology-ridden mediocrities and brutal power addicts. Will we ever get the former good people, except in tragically small numbers who so rarely get a mention in all our pathological, crude media (e.g. Sky-Fox TV, Alan Jones) bellowing Duttonish propaganda across the nation?

  16. Ad Astra

    You are right; “…our real need is for rounded, empathetic, morally decent and very intellectually sound people in government, not pathology-ridden mediocrities and brutal power addicts”. Where are they?

  17. Rusty

    Diannaart, your concise comment is so true about Turnbull. Although parading as a Liberal wet (or should I say a bit “damp”?) back before he became PM, as soon as he realised how influential the far right pack was, he went off in their direction. It’s called “getting the lay of the land”! His best plan in 2010 and after, as his ambition to be PM rose sharply, was to wait until Gillard imploded from massive misogynist harassment by his party, then Rudd was rejected. Abbott got the Liberal leadership by a mere hair’s breadth, and proceeded in 2014 like a maniac; a slash-and-burn PM who offended almost every voter, even Liberal support, in some fashion. As is the talent of that hopeless, self-obsessed man. Turnbull’s ship came in, and he moved on Abbott. Mal had already by then shown he was quite able to change his colour from slightly green to dark blue. Thus we had three years of the Turncoat Bull, who finally, “honestly” displayed what a totally false position his commitment to climate action had become. Being the arch-opportunist all his working life, should any of us have been silly enough to think that Lord Toad of Harbourwealth was anything but a paid-up right wing and top-end-of-town promoter?

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