Malcolm Turnbull; PM at Last

FOREBEARS

Paternally

The Ebenezer Chapel was built by my forebears and their friends and neighbors in 1809, so it’s the oldest church building in Australia and the oldest school building in Australia, in fact. . . . . they came out together in a ship called and ‘Coromandel’ in 1802, and the Turnbull members of that group were led by John Turnbull and his wife Anne Waugh, so it’s quite an ancient Turnbull connection . . . . I’m directly descended from John Turnbull . . . . . from his younger son William Bligh Turnbull . . . . named after Governor Bligh . . . we’ve actually kept that tradition in our line of the family so, that’s why I’m Malcolm Turnbull and our son is Alexander Bligh Turnbull. [1]

His father, Bruce Bligh Turnbull, struggled financially most of his life… but in his late 40s started to make a few bucks, started to acquire some success in the sense that he was able to buy a flat that we could live in, ‘cause we’d always lived in rented accommodation or in the flat in Vaucluse that was basically owned by my mother. . . . . he had some investments in hotels and things started to go well for him . . . . he had this great love of the bush and horses. He loved riding . . . He used to go riding in the Snowy Mountains. He used to borrow horses, young horses from friends of his who are camp drafters and break them in, in Centennial Park, and had a few exciting accidents there as a result. But anyway, he was a little bit of a cowboy, really. Anyway, he looked around for years and years for a property to buy and he finally found this place which he bought in 1981, just between Aberdeen and Scone in the Hunter Valley. I mean, he had a great time, enjoyed all the work with the cattle and the fencing and all of it. He just loved the country life and riding around . . . . a year after he bought it he was in a light plane flying from Scone to Casino which crashed over the Barrington Tops and he was dead in December, 1982. [1]

The Rt Hon George Lansbury

The Rt Hon George Lansbury

Maternally

Coral Magnolia Lansbury

Coral Magnolia Lansbury

While it is well known that Malcolm’s mother, Coral Magnolia Lansbury, was the second cousin of Angela Lansbury the well known (Murder She Wrote) actress there were other famous members in her family. The family connection goes back to a railway worker in Suffolk. Her great uncle George Lansbury was a British Cabinet Minister in MacDonald’s Government and leader of the British Labour Party during the depression and until succeeded by Attlee. He had been a Communist, a supporter of the Suffragettes and a Pacifist. He also tried the Australian way of life in Queensland in 1884/5 but returned to England. [2]

Coral’s father was an opera singer and broadcaster. He ended up in his later life doing the sound effects at the ABC and then at Macquarie for all the radio serials. She married three times and Malcolm was the child from her second marriage. She left the family when Malcolm was nine and went, firstly to New Zealand and then to America where she became a respected academic at Rutgers University as well as a radio actor and writer, dying in 1991.

In 1948, her verse play Krubi of the Illawarra won the Henry Lawson Prize for poetry, a feat to be repeated by her son in 1974. [3]

Yes, a long introduction yet necessary in any attempt to make sense of the philosophical and moral drivers to this man.

EDUCATION

turnbull2Turnbull spent his first three years of school at Vaucluse Public School before he continued his primary education at the former Randwick campus of Sydney Grammar Prep. (This would seem to be after his mother left the family home.) He seems to have suffered from a culture of bullying within this school and he certainly did not enjoy being away from home when at boarding school.

He then attended Sydney Grammar School’s senior school at College Street in Sydney on a partial scholarship. He was senior school co-captain in 1972, as well as winning the Lawrence Campbell Oratory Competition. Contrary to certain sources, although certainly a formidable student, particularly in the literary subjects such as English and history, Turnbull was not the dux of his graduating year at Sydney Grammar; instead, the dux of the class of 1972 was Prof. James Colebatch, the Head of Neurology at Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney. In 1987, in memory of his late father, he set up the Bruce Turnbull means-tested scholarship at Sydney Grammar, which offers full remission of fees to a student unable to afford them. [8] and [4]

Turnbull had a turbulent childhood. Alistair Mackerras, headmaster of Sydney Grammar for 20 years, recalls a yonng Malcolm coming as a boarder, having been abandoned by his mother, Coral Lansbury, a radio scriptwriter who went on to become a distinguished feminist and writer in America after her divorce. She died 10 days ago, aged 61. His father, Bruce Bligh Tumbull, a hotel broker, found it difficult bringing up Malcolm full-time. “It had a profound influence on me. It was a terrible, terrible thing.” He and his mother would communicate by sending tapes to each other, but it was no substitute for his mother’s presence. Even when they spent time together later in life, by some accounts they had a tempestuous relationship. When asked once by a British journalist how she felt about her son being dubbed Wonder Boy during the Spycatcher trial, Lansbury reportedly said, “At home I call him the Messiah.” Mackerras remembers Malcolm at 12 or 13 as something of a loner, unpopular because of his intolerance of his peers’ “silly and immature” behaviour. “He was born middle-aged,” says Mackerras who, over 10 years, grew to know Turnbull probably better than his parents. “I don’t think he ever got any pleasure out of youthful things.” [5]

turnbull3In 1973 Turnbull attended the University of Sydney and subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1977 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1978. During his studies, he worked as a political journalist for Nation Review, Radio 2SM and Channel 9 covering state politics. Asked about marijuana he once said, “You could inhale it involuntarily at Sydney University in my day. But I wasn’t a smoker of tobacco, so I didn’t smoke a lot of marijuana. I didn’t have a kind of ‘lost years’ if that’s what you’re asking.” [8] and [4]

Even in the early days, he had the fire of ambition in his breast. In the mid-1970s, Turnbull, then 21, and radio broadcaster David Dale were seeing two women from the same house. This led to a fascinating exchange in the early hours. Both men, with towels around them, found themselves tiptoeing to the bathroom at the same time. Turnbull, whom Dale knew only as “Malcolm the Footballer” because of his solid frame, announced to Dale he wanted to be Prime Minister by the time he was 40. “For which party?” asked Dale. “It doesn’t matter,” responded Malcolm the Footballer. [5]

In 1978, Turnbull won the Rhodes Scholarship and attended Brasenose College, Oxford, where he studied for a Bachelor of Civil Law between 1978 and 1980. While at Oxford, he worked for The Sunday Times as well as contributing to newspapers and magazines in the United States and Australia. [8] and [4]

Those who know Turnbull well detect a certain shyness and loneliness beneath the self-assured public persona, remnants of the uncertain years of his childhood. The writer Bob Ellis, with whom Turnbull had a precarious relationship during Sydney University years (they pursued the same women, Ellis says, and tells a story of Turnbull once smashing down the door of Ellis’s flat), is convinced that Turnbull suffers from something called ”close exile” from being confined to boarding school almost within sight of his loved father’s home and longing for the mother who had taken herself off to America. [6]

MARRIAGE

turnbull4Turnbull married Lucinda Mary Hughes. Lucy Turnbull is the daughter of prominent Sydney Queen’s Counsel, Tom Hughes, a former Australian Attorney-General of Australia. Her great grandfather was Sir Thomas Hughes, the first Lord Mayor of Sydney. She was educated at the Frensham School in Mittagong, New South Wales and the University of Sydney, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (in 1982). Turnbull also holds a Master of Business Administration from the Australian Graduate School of Management of the University of New South Wales. [8]

Malcolm recalled, I fell in love with Lucy the moment I met her. Really. I know that sounds very corny, but she was you know beautiful, clever and calm and funny, I was just drawn to her. Really, really drawn to her and I remember long before I ever suggested anything like marriage to Lucy. Lucy is very grounded, sensible but she’s never boring, she’s always funny, she’s great company, so I was just incredibly drawn to her. I feel we were destined to be together, put it that way. I have a much stronger sense of Lucy and me than I have of me and Lucy as separate entities. Obviously we are individuals in our own right and so forth but I see I feel as though being with Lucy completed us, you know, man and woman made one flesh as the Bible says and that’s basically is what we I feel as though we were destined for each other.turnbull3

I’d won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford and I’d gone there in 1978 and I’d been there for two years. Lucy and I had met in ’77, and we had basically been, you know, dating or an item pretty much since from after we met, and then I went to Oxford and Lucy and I stayed in touch and she came over to England and I came back to Australia, and finally I persuaded her to come over to England at the end of 1979 and then I persuaded her to stay and marry me.

We were living in a little cottage in a place called Cumnor, which is just outside Oxford and we wanted to get married and we decided we wanted to get married in the church and the vicar who we went to see, a man called Neil Duran who was obviously a Church of England figure said to Lucy “Well, you’re a Catholic, Malcolm you’re a Presbyterian, why should I marry you?” And I said to him not trying to be a smart alec, but really just to persuade him to marry us I said “Look, you are part of an established church in the UK, so you’re like a public servant, and you have a duty to prevent fornication in your parish and we’re a young couple living together and we’re not making any admissions, but we are sorely tempted” and he thought that was so funny he agreed to marry us, so we got married in March, 22nd of March, 1980.turnbull5 [1]

Another version of this event was given by John Lyons. “Malcolm Turnbull is forever the lawyer. He even had a fight with the vicar who married him and Lucy in England. Turnbull was studying law at Oxford. 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. [5]

We decided to have a small marriage. We said no family, just a handful of friends. We just wanted to do it with like a dozen mates, and that was the plan. And then… maybe it was two days before the wedding, there was a knock on the door and there was my dad with the suitcase and he said I opened the door and I said “Oh, Bruce”. He said “I’ve only got one son, I’m not going to miss his wedding” and that was it.

Coral once said to Lucy in front of some rather conservative old aunts of Lucy’s, she said “My dear, I hope you will never change your name to Turnbull”, and Lucy said “Well, I don’t intend to, Coral, no, I’m Lucy Hughes” and my mother said “Well, that’s good my dear, because you know what happens, if you change your name once, you’ll have to change it every single time you get married”. Whereupon, the rather conservative aunts of the Hughes family nearly fainted. [1]turnbull1

Lucy herself is something of a contradiction – on the one hand disarmingly down to earth, on the other somebody with all the trappings of wealth. A lawyer with an MBA, she worked with Turnbull on the Spycatcher case and now works part-time with him in the merchant bank. She has a personal fitness trainer and is a prized client of Sydney’s leading boutiques. Politically, she describes herself as “small-l liberal” – “I was disturbed when Malcolm joined the Liberal Party” – and says she thinks she has been instrumental in her husband’s relinquishing his political ambitions (he once wanted to be Prime Minister) on the grounds that the personal costs to family life are too high. [5]

turnbull7

RELIGION

I didn’t have a particularly religious upbringing at all. When I went to boarding school, particularly when I was at the boarding school at Randwick when I was in high school,, say, from 1967 for about four years, the boys would go to their respective churches and I went to the local Presbyterian church in Randwick and that… so I regarded myself as Presbyterian, although not a particularly diligent one or only attending church occasionally. But some years later, I became a Roman Catholic which, of course, is the religion of Lucy’s family. I enjoy the liturgy; I enjoy the sacraments, the Catholic tradition. I think it’s a wonderful tradition. I’m not a sectarian person at all. I don’t imagine that the Catholic tradition has all the answers, or more answers than any other Christian, or indeed any religious tradition. I think religious is very much a mystery. It’s very hard; it’s not something that’s readily rationalized. That’s why it is correctly called a mystery in the truer sense of the word, and it’s a question of faith and I’ve been comfortable not completely comfortable but reasonably comfortable in that Catholic tradition. Most Catholics feel uncomfortable from time to time with the decisions of the hierarchy. You know, there is… there are some teachings of the church that most Catholics particularly in Australia don’t agree with . . . . one very distinguished archbishop, I said to him once “How do you think the faithful take the church’s teachings on contraception?” And he said “Almost without exception they totally ignore them”, so there it is. I’m not a particularly pious, and certainly not a sanctimonious person. [1]

PRE-POLITICS

After graduating with honours from Oxford, Turnbull returned to Australia and began working as a barrister. He left the bar in 1983 to become General Counsel and Secretary for Australian Consolidated Press Holdings Group, from 1983 to 1985. During this time he defended Kerry Packer against the “Goanna” allegations made by the Costigan Commission. [8]

He was also up to his neck in the convoluted battle for control of the Fairfax empire (publisher of The Age) in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

turnbull8Drama unfolded in the Fairfax matter after Packer bid for the publishing empire in 1991. To make a long and extraordinarily complicated story short, Turnbull emerged from a number of bruising conflicts having saved about $450 million worth of American-held Fairfax bonds and earned a fee of $6 million. But he spectacularly fell out with Packer when he engineered the media tycoon out of the main deal. Last year, Turnbull told journalist Annabelle Crabbe that Packer, his old boss and patron, had been so upset he threatened to kill him. In Crabbe’s marvellous Quarterly Essay, she reported Turnbull as saying to Packer in response to this threat: ”Well, you better make sure that your assassin gets me first because if he misses, you better know I won’t miss you.” He then made good his threat by leaking notes that showed Packer’s public claims to a Broadcasting Tribunal inquiry about his intentions towards Fairfax were a lie. ”My father taught me that if someone threatens you with violence, you never, ever succumb,” Turnbull told Crabbe. [6]

In 1991, John Lyons published a piece on Turnbull in the Sydney Morning Herald. This was before he made his move into politics and so any spin would be based on facts and personal opinion. Not on political expediency. Here are a few small snippets. I recommend that this article be read and digested by those who see Turnbull as a benign personage within Australian politics.

“Suddenly, he can turn. The charmer becomes the menacer, the defender of freedom of speech its most sophisticated challenger. He laughs, and disarms, but always be on guard. Remember, he can turn. Malcolm Turnbull, at 36, is one of the most powerful lawyers in Australia, and inspires a wide range of feelings among those who know him.

“He’s a prick,” says ex-business-partner Nicholas Whitlam, who says he is being restrained in what he says so as not to fuel an ongoing feud. “He’s wonderful, kind, generous, warm and friendly,” says actor Kate Fitzpatrick, a longtime friend. “He’s a turd,” says former Labor senator Jim McClelland. “He’s easy to loathe, he’s a shit, he’d devour anyone for breakfast, he’s on the make, he’s cynical, he’s offensively smug.” (Says Turnbull of McClelland, “I’m very sorry that many years of excessive consumption of alcohol and professional disappointment have reduced what was once a sharp wit into nothing better than gutter abuse. He’s a bitter old man.”)

“Malcolm doesn’t create neutral feelings,” says Trevor Sykes, editor-in-chief of Kerry Packer’s Australian Business. Kerry 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.)

Not everyone can smile while making a threat; it takes a particular personal toughness. “My tentacles spread to New York,” Turnbull says, smiling, when he finds out I am moving to New York. Almost before the threat hits its target. the charm is back on. [5]

turnbull10In partnership with Bruce McWilliam he established his own law firm, Turnbull McWilliam, in 1986. In that year Turnbull defended Peter Wright, a former MI5 agent, who authored the book Spycatcher, who successfully blocked the British Government’s attempts to suppress the book’s publication, and Turnbull later wrote a book on the trial.

Young solicitor Malcolm Turnbull.

Young solicitor Malcolm Turnbull.

In 1987, he established an investment banking firm, Whitlam Turnbull & Co Ltd, in partnership with Neville Wran (a former Labor Premier of New South Wales [who had been a University friend of his mother [1]) and the former State Bank of New South Wales chief executive, Nicholas Whitlam (son of Gough Whitlam, a former Labor Prime Minister of Australia). Whitlam parted company with the others in 1990, and, from then until 1997, when Turnbull moved to become a managing director and later a partner of Goldman Sachs, the firm operated as Turnbull & Partners Ltd.

Turnbull was also chair of a large Australian Internet Service Provider, OzEmail (1994–99), a director of FTR Holdings Ltd (1995–2004), chair and managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia (1997–2001) and a partner with Goldman Sachs and Co (1998–2001).

In the 1990s, Turnbull was chairman of Axiom Forest Resources, which conducted logging in the Solomon Islands under the trading name Silvania Forest Products. The latter’s work was described by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau as a “clear-felling operation”, and the then Solomon Islands Prime Minister Solomon Mamaloni reportedly threatened to close it down for “constant breaches of logging practices”, according to a critical article in the Solomon Times. [8]

I remember once years ago when I was in New York when I was a partner of Goldman Sachs, I was talking to John Corzine, who was then the chairman, and John is now the governor of New Jersey. He’s . . . . a Democrat, so he’s probably left of me politically, but we have similar values in the sense that we believe that if you’ve done well, you should be prepared to give back. Now John and I are both giving back in terms of public service. John made one point, which I slightly disagree with. He said, the partners of Goldman Sachs . . . do well because they work hard. I said “John, there are taxi drivers in New Jersey that work harder than any of us” and . . . so you’ve got to remember that you mustn’t ever think that your good fortune is something that you deserve more than somebody else, because there are other people that have worked just as hard that weren’t born with the same gifts. [1]

In 1999, Turnbull sold OzEmail to the then-telecommunications giant MCI Worldcom and his stake was reportedly worth nearly A$60 million. In the same year he used his software and investment company FTR Holdings Ltd to take positions in a number of Internet businesses including WebCentral and Chaos.com.

In May 2002, Turnbull appeared before the HIH Insurance royal commission and was questioned on Goldman Sachs’ involvement on the possible privatisation of one of the acquisitions of the collapsed insurance company. The Royal Commissioner’s Report made no adverse findings against him or Goldman Sachs. [8]

AUSTRALIA REPUBLIC MOVEMENT

turnbull9From 1993 to 2000, Turnbull was the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement. He was an elected delegate at the Australian Constitutional Convention 1998 in Canberra in February. At the Convention, Turnbull cautioned against mixing the roles of President and Prime Minister and ultimately supported the Bi-partisan appointment republican model adopted by the Convention, despite the model having little popular support in the broad electorate. For this reason, he was later considered by many to have betrayed the Australian Republican Movement he claimed to support. Turnbull was active in the unsuccessful 1999 referendum campaign to establish an Australian republic. He published a book on the subject, called Fighting for the Republic. In 2000 Turnbull retired as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement. Turnbull left the board of Ausflag in 1994 after being asked for his resignation and in 2004 joined the Australian National Flag Association. [8]

POLITICS

THE Reverend Tim Costello once described Malcolm Bligh Turnbull as ”a force of nature”, and almost no one who knows Turnbull disagreed. The description, of course, is ambiguous: here is a man who inspires at once admiration, envy, fear and detestation. His is a personality that proved a melange too rich for the parliamentary Liberal Party. Turnbull entered politics in 2004 to become prime minister of Australia, but he was judged by many of those he presumed to lead to be too complicated. One of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s close colleagues expressed it this way: ”He was bigger than all of them, and they didn’t like it. The punters might not have liked him much either, but they probably would have voted for him.” Those within the Liberal and National parties who put the sword to Turnbull’s leadership four months ago would regard an admiring comment like that from a Labor man as proof they had been right. He was, to the harder conservative elements of the Coalition, suspect. His support for Rudd’s emissions trading scheme was evidence of what some of them held against him. Years ago, he had considered a career on the Labor side of politics. Turnbull says he was approached by Paul Keating and had rejected the offer. Former Labor senator Graham Richardson has written that Turnbull asked him for a Senate seat, but had dropped it when told of the requirements to woo the grassroots ALP branches. [6]

The record shows that aged just 27 he had made his first tilt for pre-selection for the seat of Wentworth … for the Liberal Party. [6]

He is one of the few Australian public figures who might properly be called a renaissance man – a genuine intellectual with a never-ending curiosity for facts both arcane and practical, self-made millionaire, linguist, patron of the arts, significant philanthropist (he and his wife Lucy give about half a million dollars a year to charity), a barrister of famous achievement while still in his 20s, a journalist when even younger, a merchant banker … [6]

In 1991 he reportedly said he has given away any political ambitions: “I’m not sure that I’m really suited to the democratic process.” [5]

When he finally decided to run for Parliament, it was as a Liberal. He had to finance a rough, tough and expensive campaign, first toppling the sitting Liberal member Peter King for preselection, who then ran against him as an independent. The campaign cost Turnbull $600,000 and a big swing against the Liberal Party, but he won.

Within three years, prime minister John Howard appointed Turnbull as minister for environment and water resources, and Turnbull still counts his Murray-Darling water management reforms as his most important contribution. His approval of the pulp mill project in Tasmania, however, earned him furious condemnation by environmentalists. [6]

THE WENTWORTH FOUNDATION:was set up in 2007 when Mr Turnbull was environment minister in the Howard government. At that time, electoral boundary changes had made Wentworth a less safe seat for the Liberals. Regarded as the country’s most sophisticated political fund-raising machine, the forum offers membership packages that give the most generous supporters more opportunities to gain access to Mr Turnbull. It costs $5500 to be a “member”, $11,000 to be a “sponsor”, $16,500 to be a “patron”, $25,500 to be a “benefactor” and $55,000 to be a “governor”.

A governor can host boardroom events, and gets two tables at big functions featuring Mr Turnbull, and attendance at an exclusive dinner for supporters. Members receive one seat at a big function and three tickets to boardroom events. Disclosure of the forum’s methods has prompted charges that Mr Turnbull has put himself up for sale.” [10]

As a backbencher in 2005, Mr Turnbull proposed a ban on donations from companies, unions and foreigners. Individuals would be allowed to donate subject to an annual cap. [10]

RUSSIAN RAINMAKING and its associated support with taxpayers money was worth running with during John Howard’s last campaign.

“During the 2007 election campaign, Turnbull announced that the then Government would contribute $10 million to the investigation of an untried Russian technology that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even when there are no clouds. Literature suggests that the technology is based on bogus science. The Australian Rain Corporation presented research documents written in Russian, explained by a Russian researcher who spoke to local experts in Russian. Although Turnbull claimed that Australian Rain Corporation is Australian-based, investigations have shown that it is in fact 75 per cent Swiss-owned. It was also revealed that a prominent stakeholder in the Australian Rain Corporation, Matt Handbury, is a nephew of Rupert Murdoch. Turnbull has refused to answer questions regarding Matt Handbury’s contribution to the Wentworth Forum, the main fundraising organisation for Turnbull’s 2007 election campaign.” [11]

 

IN OPPOSITION after the 2007 election, Turnbull’s time appeared to have come. But on the eve of the vote for a new leader, Turnbull declared to the media that he would support an apology to the stolen generations. He was judged by hardliners to be getting too big for his boots, and Brendan Nelson became leader to Turnbull’s undisguised fury. (It turned out he simply had to kick his heels as shadow treasurer until Nelson’s leadership became untenable.) Turnbull’s election to opposition leader saw him hailed as a potential saviour of the Liberal brand. But a storm from his old stamping ground, finance and banking, was about to engulf federal politics. The arrival of the global financial crisis in late 2008 granted Rudd focus and purpose, and left Turnbull and his team little space but to complain about the huge debt Rudd ran up with his stimulus packages. [6]

GODWIN GRECH and “UTEGATE” By mid 2009, excited by a leaked email from Treasury official Godwin Grech, Turnbull claimed a Brisbane car dealer had received preferential treatment under the OzCar program. Turnbull declared that Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan had ”used their offices and taxpayers’ resources to seek advantage for one of their mates and then lied about it to the Parliament”. It seemed a dream opportunity to bring down the Prime Minister, but it turned into a nightmare: the email from Grech was a fake. Turnbull looked for weeks as if he had been hit between the eyes with a mallet, and Labor offered no compassion. [6]

EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME In the end, though, it was continuing low poll ratings and internal dissent at Turnbull’s insistence that the opposition support an emissions trading scheme that brought him undone. Turnbull was seen to be isolated, and enemies within the Coalition painted him as lacking the personality to understand their mood. He was not a politician, they insisted: he’d been so long in business he acted as chairman of the board, bullying his way through. Turnbull simply saw himself sticking to an important principle. [6]

Perhaps there was something to the view that Turnbull’s style was not persuasive in the political arena. His only previous public failure had been as leader of the Australian Republican Movement when Australians refused to support his call for a president in the 1999 referendum. John Howard, he railed at the time, had broken a nation’s heart. And in the end, it was Tony Abbott, Howard’s protegé, who broke Turnbull’s heart and took the leadership from him. [6]

WILDERNESS

After the leadership vote, Turnbull said he would serve out his full term as member for Wentworth. On 6 April 2010, he announced he would not seek re-election. abbott said ”The Parliament is losing a rare and remarkable talent with Malcolm Turnbull’s decision not to renominate for Wentworth.” However, on 1 May 2010 he reversed his decision.

At the 2010 federal election, Turnbull was re-elected with a swing of over 11% and was subsequently brought back to the front bench as shadow communications minister. At the 2012 Alfred Deakin Lecture on digital liberty he spoke out strongly against the Australian government’s proposed two-year data retention law. [8]

CIVIL UNIONS

In July 2012, Turnbull was criticised for saying that civil unions should be accepted as a first step towards full same-sex marriage rights. Turnbull also supports gay marriage and a conscience vote for Coalition MP’s on the issue. However, Tony Abbott did not allow a conscience vote on the issue. Turnbull said that countries that have legalised gay marriage such as The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom first had civil unions. [8]

BROADBAND

On Tuesday 9 April 2013 Malcolm Turnbull along with Tony Abbott announced his alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) plan. The new plan is a modified and scaled-down NBN with “fibre to the node” (FTTN) then last-mile by copper cable. The new policy developed by Turnbull reversed the previous Liberal Party position, which had called for the dismantling of the NBN should the Liberal Party win the 2013 federal election. As such, the policy will allow the NBN to continue irrespective of the result so the election, although it may do so in a different form from what is currently being built. In 2014, Turnbull announced that the Vertigan Report, a cost-benefit analysis of providing fast broadband to regional and rural Australia through wireless and satellite services, revealed that it will cost nearly A$5 billion and was expected to produce only A$600 million in economic benefits – a return of just 10 per cent. In spite of the economic cost, Turnbull stated that subsidising broadband to regional areas is “fiendishly expensive” but said there was no other option. Turnbull brokered a deal between the government, NBN Co and Telstra in December 2014 whereby NBN Co acquired Telstra’s copper network and hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) which shall be used to deliver the NBN. Further, Telstra and NBN Co are to work together on the FTTN trial which involves 200,000 premises. [8]

2015 LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE

This is very much a case of “Watch this space.”

In the Party Room, on 9th Feb, 2015 when a spill motion was put, Turnbull chose not to challenge and allowed the vote to be a choice between the Prime Minister and “an empty chair”. The vote was 39-61 for the empty chair.

While Turnbull has not succeeded at his first attempt to unseat tony abbott there seems little doubt that a second challenge, closer to the end of the Parliamentary year will see the beginning of the Turnbull Prime Ministership.

Some commentators have suggested that the only change a Turnbull Prime Ministership will bring to Australian politics will be some 300 word slogans.

A TURNBULL FUTURE

Malcolm Turnbull cast his socially aware conscience into the Liberal side of politics. It would seem that he has somehow lost his focus and, having learnt his lesson in 2009, he is currently clearing the decks of his morality.

It seems he is prepared to sell his soul for the Prime Ministership. His political position has swung alarmingly to the right in his attempts to gain credibility, and caucus votes, with the extreme right of the Liberal Party. His family connections to social justice and the advancement of the working man have been jettisoned in the cause of personal advancement.

In the past few days he has renounced his desire for an ETS; His support for Same Sex marriage has been put on the back burner for several years; He has firstly changed and now has almost destroyed the National Broadband Network; His support for a republic is now only mentioned in the media by those seeking to discredit him.

A shadow minister nominated Mr Turnbull’s Achilles heel as simply: “His big f–king ego.” “He convinces himself that he is the smartest person in the room in every situation – and sometimes he is. But when you believe you are the only one who truly understands an issue it is pretty hard to listen to anyone else around you,” said the source. “His big ego killed him before. What will his ego be like if he believes he is being called to the country’s top job?” But the shadow minister also conceded Labor would have a tougher time opposing a Turnbull-led Coalition. “He’s smarter than Abbott, more grounded than Abbott and he’s an adult, unlike Abbott.” [7]

John Lyons reported that, when asked, “Mr Turnbull, what’s your definition of humility?” There was a long pause then Turnbull replied. “Don’t think I’d have anything original to contribute on that. I mean, I think I’d have to look up a dictionary to see what it means. I guess humility is being suitably modest about yourself and your attainments.” Then, almost as if he felt like a wimp, even if only for a moment, he added, “Humility is for saints.” [5]

Little seems to be left of the man who entered politics to “give back in terms of public service”. Now it is all about his own ambitions.

PRIME MINISTER AT LAST

On 14 September 2015, Turnbull announced he would challenge Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party, and hence as leader of the Liberal–National Coalition and prime minister. He resigned from Cabinet soon afterward. Turnbull stated that Abbott “was not capable of providing the economic leadership we need” and that the Liberal Party needs a “style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence.” In the leadership ballot of Liberal MPs, Turnbull won, by 54 votes to 44. He was sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia on 15 September. [8]

On 20 September 2015, Turnbull announced an extensive reshuffle for what would be the Turnbull Ministry. Notably, he increased the number of female cabinet ministers from two to five and appointed Marise Payne as Australia’s first female Minister for Defence. The number of cabinet ministers rose from 19 to 21. On Turnbull’s key policy differences with Abbott, climate change, republicanism and same-sex marriage, as well as wider policy generally, he stated his government would continue to follow the same policies of the Abbott Government. The Nationals successfully negotiated a total of $4 billion worth of deals from Turnbull, as well as control of the water portfolio, in exchange for a continued Coalition agreement. [8]

Within a week of his election to the role of Prime Minister, wrote in the Herald Sun, “Turnbull inspires neither sympathy nor fidelity from colleagues and the party faithful. It’s one thing to stick by a struggling PM who is well liked and whose ideology you share but another to support a contrary politician who was donating money to the Labor Party a mere three years before seeking preselection in a safe Liberal seat. But I guess it can be argued that Turnbull was a naive 45-year-old when he donated $25,000 to Labor. Our new PM has always been most admired by those who’d sooner sell their soul than vote for the Coalition. As Labor’s Anthony Albanese observed last Friday morning: “Abbott divided the nation, Malcolm Turnbull divides the Coalition.” [9]

[This is now a fifth draft and changes consequent on his promotion will be made soon. Other additions will be made as more is discovered, unearthed, exposed and happens. Ed]

RERERENCES

[1] ABC Australian Story

[2] Wikipedia 7th Feb 2015

[3] Obituaries Australia

[4] GQ Australia

[5] SMH “Raging Turnbull” John Lyons Apr 13th, 1991.

[6] SMH Rich Man, Poor Man

[7] SMH The battler of Point Piper

[8] Wikipedia 27th Sept 2015

[9] Coalition leadership is the same old circus

[10] SMH July 15, 2009 Millionaires oiling Turnbull machine

 

3 responses to “Malcolm Turnbull; PM at Last

  1. Thanks for the heads up Archie. A complicated man? or would like others to think him arcane perhaps. A force of nature certainly, blows up suddenly and then goes away until the next blow up. Inconsistent, partial and accommodating to what he sees as the “right” ting to do for himself.

    His greatest and worst blunders have been the Utegate debacle, which showed he has no judgment and the destruction of the NBN which shows he has no vision and little understanding of Technology and how it could benefit Australia socially, but more importantly economically..

    He likes to quote great authors all the time for his own self promoting, rarely do his quotes have anything to say about what really matters to Australians. He is the complete legend in his own bubble.

    I doubt he has the intellect to be Prime Minister of Australia. but he does have a lot of people fooled.

    Like

    • He may not have the intelligence to be PM but he certainly has more than our current train wreck! Having said that, every party room meeting he does not challenge strengthens Morrison’s chance around September/October. The circuit breaker could be a poor Baird showing in a couple of weeks.but without that, morrison will sit in his corner gathering votes in May – – – Oops, literary reference 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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