In November 2007, after John Howard lost his seat, three people announced their intention to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party – Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. The position of Deputy was contested by Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne and Andrew Robb.
The day before the ballot, Abbott withdrew, and Nelson went on to defeat Turnbull 45 to 42. Biographer Paddy Manning regards Turnbull’s decision to criticise Howard over not apologising to the Stolen Generation as sending votes to Nelson.
In September the following year, Turnbull successfully challenged Nelson, winning the ballot by 45 to 41. He had been an MP for less than four years.
In an interview on the evening of the challenge, Kerry O’Brien quipped “What took you so long?”
In answer to the assertion that he was perceived as a “driven man… a man in a hurry, a man determined to get what he wants”, Malcolm said:
“Well, I’m determined to do what is right. I stand up for what I believe in. I’m prepared to take on big challenges; I’m prepared to take on powerful people and institutions, and causes which are unpopular. I think leaders have to be brave, they have to stand up for what they believe in, and they’ve got to have the courage of their convictions. And that’s how I’ve lived my life. If that makes me driven, Kerry, then, so be it.”
Nowadays that driven leader has lain down and is being towed around by the likes of George Christensen and Andrew Nikolic. His fine words are a thing of the past, replaced by slogans, fear and smear campaigns, and political imaging.
Malcolm’s release of a video about his father is a message he has used before. In the 2008 interview on 7:30 Report Kerry O’Brien asked him about it.
KERRY O’BRIEN: You sought today to downplay your position of wealth and privilege by painting your childhood as one of struggle in a rented flat, with a single parent, very short of money. I know your mother left when you were just nine, which must have been very tough – goes without saying. But it was Vaucluse and Double Bay, and it was Sydney Grammar. What’s your message: I’m not the silvertail you think I am?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Kerry, you’re right. I mean, I’ve always lived in the eastern suburbs, and the – my dad and I and, you know, after he got remarried when I was sort of well into my teens, he and my stepmother – so, the three of us always lived in flats. After my mother left, we moved out of one small flat into a much smaller one, which he rented. Money was very, very tight. I mean, I don’t want to sound mawkish about it, but dad was a battler. And he sent me to Sydney Grammar School as a boarder, because he travelled a lot as a hotel broker. And he struggled. I tell you, he struggled to pay those fees. It was not easy for him. And I – you know, the most amazing thing about him, Kerry, I mean leaving aside the financial side, was he brought me up to love and respect my mother and notwithstanding a very unhappy divorce, he never said a bad word about my mother, notwithstanding the events that had happened. And it was a – that discipline. His love for me was so great that he was disciplined enough to say, “It is in Malcolm’s interest that he always love his mother regardless of what has happened.” And he made sure that happened. He was a very strong man.
O’Brien also asked Turnbull about gay equality.
KERRY O’BRIEN: … during the last election, when you were struggling to hold your seat of Wentworth against the tide, and when the gay vote was very important to you, you promised to be a crusader for gay rights, delivering equality for same sex couples. You spoke in favour of the Government’s bill on this issue in a speech in June and you had vowed to persuade Shadow Cabinet to support you. As leader, will you undertake to take – will you take shadow cabinet along with you? Will you tell them this is not negotiable for you? You’ll tell your party that?
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, Kerry, the Coalition, you know, the shadow cabinet, the party room is opposed to – or supports ending discrimination against same sex couples.
Yup, that just about sums it up – they are either opposed to or in support of ending discrimination.
When asked “is the Liberal Party you lead ready to embrace a republic?” Turnbull responded:
MALCOLM TURNBULL: … as I said in ’99: if you vote ‘no’ in ’99 – and the nation did vote ‘no’ – it will mean ‘no’ for a very long time. I do not believe a referendum can succeed in Australia prior to the end of the Queen’s reign. And a Prime Minister that tries to run the republican issue now, during the Queen’s reign, has got motives which are not republican motives, they’re just political ones.
One conviction that Malcolm did have the courage to maintain was the urgent need for action on climate change and that an emission trading scheme was the best method to begin the fight.
A year later, that conviction cost him the leadership when Tony Abbott agreed to join the ranks of climate change deniers in return for the top job.
One thing that has become very apparent is that Malcolm does not like to lose, and any convictions that might put him on the losing side are expendable.
It is also apparent that he and his party have no idea what it is like to really struggle – to be unable to find a job, to be unable to find an affordable rental, to be unable to buy groceries, to be unable to turn the heater on, to be stricken by illness or disability, to be marginalised by location or ethnicity.
Perhaps Malcolm may have benefitted more if his father had found a job close to home and let Malcolm spend his childhood growing up in the loving safety of his family. There are more important things than accumulating money.
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