Authoritarianism is taking over the world. Will it…

It would seem that many countries around the world have decided that…

Imperial Venality Defends Itself: Day Two of Julian…

On February 21, the Royal Courts of Justice hosted a second day…

I'm Not A Racist Butt...

It's interesting how quickly things change! I mean wasn't it just yesterday when…

Desperation grows in Ukraine war, two years on

Australia for UNHCR Media Release Australia for UNHCR is appealing for renewed support…

Peak housing bodies and unions urge end to…

Leading homelessness advocates and unions have united in a joint push for…

Israel/oPt: UN experts appalled by reported human rights…

United Nations Media Release UN experts* today expressed alarm over credible allegations of…

Identifying Imperial Venality: Day One of Julian Assange’s…

On February 20, it was clear that things were not going to…

Urgent call for Australian Centre for Disease Control…

Public Health Association of Australia Media Release Public health experts are calling for…


Turnbull tidbits

It is reasonable to accept that, as we grow older, our experience broadens and we modify our views about things. Whilst we should not necessarily be held to previously expressed opinions, it is nevertheless instructive to follow this evolution, particularly when it comes from the man who now leads our country.

School days

A letter published in the school magazine, the Sydneian, by a 13-year-old Malcolm Turnbull gives us our first insight:

I have been concerned in recent months at the general feeling that ‘football is all that matters and when it’s over, rowing is next best… Colours, blazers and other gaudy paraphernalia are awarded to the muscle-bound types who can play in the First XV, row in the VIII, or do other such duties, but what glory is showered on the debaters and chess players and other such bastions of true culture?

Four years later, Malcolm was undemocratically appointed as head prefect and joint school captain despite a deputation to the headmaster pleading “anyone but Turnbull” because he was too domineering. This is somewhat ironic since his current popularity stems largely from the “anyone but Abbott” camp.

Schoolmate Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst said Turnbull had a “dearth of people skills”, describing him as a “plummy brew of eloquence, imperiousness and un-humble pie, plus a kind of sighing, saturnine resignation that his job necessarily involves being constantly surrounded by cretins.”

Sydney University

Writing in the Sydney University newsletter, Honi Soit, Turnbull 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”.

Speaking of this time, Bob Ellis described Turnbull as “Ardent, ambitious, promiscuous and old beyond his years.”

In his second year and studying constitutional law, Turnbull was outraged to find the population of country electorates was smaller than city electorates. Through the help of maverick businessman Gordon Barton, a High Court challenge was mounted, but lost. The Constitution did not guarantee ‘one vote, one value’, as evinced by the number of National Party representatives in Parliament.

Still at university, Turnbull became a correspondent for Nation Review, a now-defunct weekly. When, in 1976, prime minister Malcolm Fraser unveiled a proposal to return some income-taxing power to the states, the young Turnbull wrote of Fraser’s plan: “It is nothing more than a cunning attempt to offload millions of dollars’ worth of government expenditure back on to the states without giving them any means, other than imposing an income tax, of raising the extra revenue needed.”

States were not so much being sold a pup, Turnbull ­argued, as being given “a large, extremely hungry and undoubtedly treacherous hound.”

Writing for the Bulletin about the Queen’s 1977 tour of Australia, Turnbull wrote:

So long as we can stomach the fact that we have a woman who heads the most bankrupt state in Europe on our coins and banknotes, and so long as we can still appreciate the irony of hard-headed conservatives taking honours from a woman in whose name an enormous socialist bureaucracy regulates the lives and livings of a nation, then we will probably remain a monarchy.

Still an undergraduate, Turnbull started writing a legal column, The Officious Bystander, in which he called for the Chief Justice of the High Court to step down.

I have never respected the notion that judges should be treated as though they were a combination of Buddha and a vestal virgin. Their names have been noted and their performances will come under even closer scrutiny.

After some complaints about his style, he wrote “There’s nothing the matter with being vicious, in fact there is not nearly enough venom and malice in this pussy-footing society of ours.”


“I felt superior to them really. There are a couple of good things about being an Australian in England. For one, you don’t fit into that class structure, so you’re not restricted by it. England never felt like home to me.”

The Warden of Rhodes House reported back to the NSW trustees “He is less of a know-all than when he arrived, but he is always going to enter life’s rooms without knocking.”

Malcolm and Lucy decided to marry while he was studying in England. The Anglican vicar they had approached told them that Lucy, as a Catholic, and he, as a Presbyterian, were not part of his flock. “Your petty sectarian approach is unconstitutional,” Turnbull retorted. “The Church of England is the religion of the State. You are a servant of the Crown, not materially different from an ambassador or an admiral. It is your constitutional duty to prevent fornication in your parish.” The vicar finally relented and married them. Perhaps the marriage equality advocates should employ the same argument.

Law, Business and Politics

“In this economic environment, things are so hard that unless people are prepared to act aggressively they will not be able to protect their rights. This is a time for bold action.”

In the vicious in-fighting around the bid by the Tourang syndicate for Fairfax in 1991, Turnbull leaked a key document to the Chairman of the Broadcasting Tribunal (which was holding an enquiry to see cross-media rules weren’t breached.) It showed that Kerry Packer was aiming to control Fairfax, and had lied to a Senate inquiry into the matter, forcing Packer to pull out of the Tourang syndicate. Turnbull collected a fee of $6 million, and showed he was prepared to use leaking to win.

In an interview that same year, during a discussion about the appalling record of Australia’s regulatory bodies in prosecuting corporate crooks, Turnbull declared, “lf I were Director of Public Prosecutions, I’d have them all behind bars.”

During the republican debate, there were flirtations with the Labor Party. Graham Richardson said he was asked for a safe spot on Labor’s Senate ticket:

I told him if he wanted to be a Labor senator, the first thing he might like to do is join the party. After that little detail had been taken care of, he would have to spend around a decade attending meetings in draughty School of Arts halls all around the state.

In 2007, after Brendan Nelson defeated Turnbull for leadership of the Liberal Party, Malcolm burst in on a meeting. Nelson, a doctor, was not impressed:

[Turnbull] has a narcissistic personality disorder. He says the most appalling things and can’t understand why people get upset.

When Turnbull reversed that defeat the next year, Nelson said:

‘Malcolm has an intellect that you can’t jump over, that would be the envy of any one of us. But while the world loves talent, it pays off on character.‘

Keating’s assessment: ‘Turnbull is brilliant. He is utterly fearless. But he has no judgement.’

Excerpt from Honi Soit

Excerpt from Honi Soit


Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button


Login here Register here
  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    True, we all grow up and probably evolve into more circumspect versions of our younger selves. Although Malcolm Muck however, may not be as publicly obnoxious as he has been reported to be behind closed doors, his lack of personal insight, makes him vulnerable to his enemies and opponents for not changing his ways.

  2. flohri1754

    It would seem that the planks in the ship of LNP state are shifting around under Malcolm’s burning deck (i.e., see Kevin Andrews, always seemingly the harbinger of ill omens, offering to take on the burden of leadership from somewhere out in the back paddock). Pardon the mixed metaphors all around ….

  3. Douglas Pye

    A revealing and on point article – thank you Kaye ! The ‘ Packer Job ‘ and the $6 million fee ! …. well it Was Kerry who made the comment about NOT standing between Turnbull and a bag of $ Money $.

    The rebuttal would be along the lines of …. ‘ well that was Then & this is Now ‘ …. of course, circumstances change by the day ! …..

    Well, Character is formed over time and has the ‘ Enduring Quality ‘ which will constantly apply … IT will colour the changing picture in IT’S Constant hues !

    The story about the Leopard endures !…… 😉 …..

  4. Klaus

    I still believe the guy is overrated. In almost aspects of his profession. He has 0 social intelligence, almost no comprehension of a developing situation (I guess because he feels he is above all that) and as far as rational intelligence is concerned I have not yet seen where he applies that or where he uses that. What I have seen a lot of, is lying blatantly, accusing points of view as being false, misunderstood etc., for which he once stood. He is a turn coat interested in but 1 thing, being Prim Minister. At all costs. If that means driving Australia against the wall or off a cliff, he will do so in the interest of retaining power. The mean does not deserve a single commendation for a single thing he did as Prime Minister. There was nothing bold, incledible, witty, far thinking. There was nothing. Just as the Queensland Premier showed us all, an empty page, nothing on it. On the back “I want to be Prime Minister, get it you people”.

  5. Barry Thompson.

    I enjoy your work Kaye but most of what you wrote appeared in Paddy Manning’s unauthorised biography of Turnbull.
    You might least have given him credit.

  6. susan

    It’s a big call when Sydney Grammar people say you are arrogant. As for intelligence, I don’t see it and who can point to one positive achievement in his whole political career? He just looks and sounds like a loud bully to me. Totally unimpressive.

  7. Kaye Lee

    All of the quotes come from elsewhere. I link to my sources but perhaps I should have mentioned them as well. Much came from the Quadrant article ByB mentioned. Also…..

    The more things change, the more they stay the same

    Peculiar Turnbullisms: Malcolm At Sydney Uni

  8. Michael Taylor

    Unless you’d read the book it’d be pretty hard to know that those very same things were mentioned in it.

  9. Kaye Lee

    I accept the criticism. The Quadrant article does mention Manning’s book and I should have too when quoting so extensively from it even if unclear as to how much came from the book.

  10. Barry Thompson.

    Thank you Kaye, you are a class act.

  11. Kaye Lee

    I am just a middle aged woman in jammies who reads a lot and has a good memory. I am usually just passing on edited and collated things I have accumulated joined together with a bit of commentary. Sometimes I do articles that are original thought but my predeliction is for verifiable facts and so I tend to quote with linked sources. Honesty is important to me and I have to get better at attribution.

    I remember some graffiti in the toilet at Forest Lodge Hotel where we drank when I was at uni which said “Knowledge isn’t private property” underneath which someone had scrawled “Does that mean we can stop putting footnotes on our essays?” It made me laugh as did much of the toilet graffiti there.

  12. lawrencesroberts

    Turnbull’s main problem is that he is surrounded by cretins. His judgment is suspect and we tentatively await the next Godwin Grech moment.

  13. Phil

    Thanks for a brilliant dispatch Kaye Lee. From what you present and from what I hear from the mouth of Turnbull today, he seems to me to have a most conflicted personality and a hopelessly inconsistent character. Not someone I’d trust or put any faith in. So many contradictory positions on so many issues that he seems to stand for nothing other than one up-manship, and for no-one but himself. His presence in parliament is divisive and untenable.

  14. Matters Not

    Noticed today that Abbott, Andrews et al were again on a bike ride and possibly at our expense. While I know a review of Parliamentary ‘entitlements’ (now called ‘expenses’) reported recently (and sunk beneath the political waves with undue haste and not subject to any analysis of note), does anyone know whether Tone, Kevin (and their bikes) will get compensated for these expenses which seem very far from work related expenditure? ?

    Not sure whether Kevin was counselling Tone or Tone was counselling Kevin re his challenge to Malware. ?

    As for ” I have to get better at attribution”.


  15. wam

    where is david? empty has a slogan – ‘live within your means’ – pure rabbottian anti-labor economic strategy and unanswerable by labor because the lie is rendered true by the media and the conbtra argument is difficult there may have been a chance if labor had been sniping the robb efforts but he is sick so off limits they could have highlighted hockey’s tax rorts but too many colleagues are in the same pot perhaps no labor pollies are in the carribean but I doubt it so the vulture man is safe.
    Workers who are struggling because of this government will be influenced by these fear mongering lying turds into thinking labor will be worse.
    sadly labor is too clean to get dirty enough to hit the air with viral stuff eg by tricking up the packer photo and use quotes like ‘head prefect and joint school captain despite a deputation to the headmaster pleading “anyone but Turnbull” because he was too domineering. This is somewhat ironic since his current popularity stems largely from the “anyone but Abbott” camp.’

  16. Fiona

    It’s worth noting that as a youth and a young man, turnbull had an eidetic memory. A very useful thing as a barrister and, indeed, as an entrepreneur.

    Can be dangerous, however, if unaccompanied by emotional intelligence.

    Also problematic if it (as it usually does) declines with age but its (former) possessor doesn’t realise . . .

  17. helvityni

    Fiona, you said what I was going to say, indeed he lacks emotional intelligence. As for charm, many conmen can be very charming. I also do not find him very confident, still now a mother-less little boy is lurking under all that cockiness.

  18. Pilot

    Mal Content can be summed up in a few words, “intelligent but as dumb as dog shit”.

    Trouble is though, dumb people believe him……. That’s sad.

  19. SGB

    I always like these background articles about our political class. It provides an insight to their motivations, their view about themselves and their place in humanity.

    In this case the article leaves me with a cold forboding about this man as it did when a similar background article was written about Abbott.

    Perhaps its time that we have a similar background article published about every would be elected representative. I would like to see one about the other current political players on both sides of politics.

    well done Kaye Lee


  20. Roger

    Thank you for “eidetic”, Fiona.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page