This article was originally published in Independent Australia on 23 June, 2016.
With just over a week to go to the election, deputy editor Sandi Keane kicks the Turnbull tyres, sticks her head under that suave bonnet and comes up with five good reasons why he fails the prime ministerial RWC test.
1. Turnbull’s lacklustre legacy
After 12 years in parliament, Turnbull has achieved diddly-squat in either of his portfolios or as PM.
As environment minister, you have to delve deep to find anything but seems his biggest achievement was to replace incandescent light bulbs with toxic fluorescent bulbs along with their irritating light. Might save power but given the mercury content, how many people know how to dispose of them safely? A toxic legacy then.
But his worst legacy – his colossal flop with the NBN as communications minister – will see him go down in history as saddling Australia with one of the Coalition’s dumbest cluster cock-ups. It will have economic consequences for generations to come.
As Tony Windsor explained on Q&A two weeks ago, Turnbull’s decision to ditch fibre had sod all to do with cost. It was sheer political bastardry to deprive Labor of its legacy. Only a master of humbug could spin the line that mixing two different technologies could deliver “faster and cheaper broadband”. It didn’t. (Labor’s election promise is to deliver an extra 2 million homes with Fibre to the Premises or FttP).
The cost blowout and failure to deliver soon saw social media label the program #Fraudband. Under the Coaliton, our global speed ranking has dropped from 30th to 60th as other countries have rolled out high speed broadband using fibre. Australia is now doomed to have a system inferior to New Zealand with its FttP and South Korea.
Turnbull’s legacy will also turn our graceful leafy streets and boulevards into eyesores with hideous giant metal “nodes”. Wait till the matrons of Toorak and Point Piper catch their first eyeful of these ugly boxes plonked on the nature strip outside the family mansion.
As prime minister, Turnbull is an even bigger fizzer. Unlike true visionaries of the ilk of Whitlam, Keating and Hawke or Menzies and Howard, who at least had drive and substance, Turnbull is now an object of ridicule. No amount of bafflegab can hide the fact he’s wishy-washy, flaky and unfocussed.
Whitlam’s achievements were so many, they have their own webpage — Whitlam Government Achievements. Returning to Australia from Europe in 1972 I found I was unable to get a housing loan from a bank because I was a woman. The election of Whitlam was like coming out of the dark ages into the light.
But it was Hawke and Keating who cracked the big reforms – floating the dollar, deregulating the financial system, abolishing tariffs – earning them the title of Australia’s most reformist governments.
Turnbull likes to throw about words like #innovation and #ideasboom, but so far has produced zip, zilch, zero.
But then Turnbull was never an “ideas” man. His immense wealth didn’t spring from his deep well of ideas. He amassed his fortune mosly by investing in the ideas of others. OzEmail was a classic example. Turnbull likes to claim he “started OzEmail” but in a scathing letter to The Australian, founder Sean Howard said it was up and running for two years as Australia’s largest ISP before Turnbull was invited to invest.
As to Turnbull’s big ticket item – his economic plan – he’s resorted to corporate tax cuts — an outdated 1980’s fiscal policy based on the discredited “trickle down” theory rubbished by the Grattan Institute, The Australia Institute, Goldman Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz and even the International Monetary Fund, which calls the theory “dead wrong”.
As Australia’s third oldest Prime Minister, Turnbull is simply too old and too full of his own self-importance to be bothered with the daily mindnumbing grind of a PM and leader.
He can’t even be bothered giving interviews during the election campaign. Barrie Cassidy commented last week that he’d given the least number of interviews of any PM in living history. And as for the door stops, these were staged with no follow up questions allowed.
Turnbull’s legacy = Verdict: #Fail.
2. Turnbull the vengeful: “charming but chilling” (as described by Phillip Adams)
The story of the hapless moggie, Nessie, has been told many times over 40 years and was the subject of two defamation cases brought by Malcolm Turnbull.
As to the story:
In his Sydney Uni days, Turnbull was desperately in love with Nessie’s owner, Fiona Watson, stepdaughter of Labor senator “Diamond Jim” McLelland.
But Turnbull’s ego suffered a king hit when Fiona dumped him.
(Photo via giffy.com)
Bizarrely, Turnbull penned a letter to Nessie in 1977 to intervene with her mistress on his behalf (see below) — alas, to no avail. Shortly after, the poor little moggie was found dead under some bushes at Fiona’s home. Neighbours reported seeing Turnbull “loitering” and acting strangely at the time.
Malcolm Turnbull’s handwritten letter to Fiona Watson’s cat, Nessie, asking her to intervene on his behalf.
Stepdad, Jim, did Turnbull no favours with a character reference describing him as
“… 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.”
In an article in the SMH back in 2004 entitled ‘Raging Turnbull’, celebrating Good Weekend’s 30th anniversary with a selection of its best features, John Lyons echoed Diamond Jim, describing Turnbull’s reputation as inspiring
“… a mix of awe, fear and, among some, downright loathing.”
The article starts:
‘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.’
It continues with a comment from Turnbull’s ex-business-partner Nick Whitlam describing him as a “prick”.
And even this from the affable Phillip Adams:
‘I have never sat in a studio with anyone quite as charming – and chilling – as Malcolm Turnbull.’
Expressing surprise that Good Weekend was profiling Turnbull, Adams warns:
‘You’re brave! Watch out that you don’t get kneecapped. He’s very litigious.’
Turnbull poses for the Good Weekend. (Photo courtesy Sydney Morning Herald)
Also in Good Weekend was Annabel Crabb’s story of Turnbull’s spectacular “pistols at dawn” parting of the ways with Kerry Packer — each threatening to kill the other. “I’ll kill you!”,“Not if I get you first!” — or words to that effect. Charming, no. Chilling, yes.
Of course, there is no evidence that Turnbull did strangle poor Nessie nor has anyone accused him of such, but what we do know is that no other PM has wielded such a big stick over his detractors. Try criticising him and you’ll pay for it, as ABC journalists like Nick Ross found out (story below).
More recently, the raid on Stephen Conroy’s residence in the middle of an election campaign was further evidence that Turnbull is still as vengeful these days to his critics.
As The Age editorial reported on Monday this week:
‘The leaks apparently revealed, for example, cost blowouts, delays and inefficiencies in the NBN rollout – the rollout that was supposed to be so much cheaper and faster than Labor’s proposal.’
Turnbull refuses to be held to account for his disasters. Could it be he’s an autocratic, egotistic control freak? Not hard to understand why he’s so disliked by so many in his own Party.
Do we want a vengeful PM? = Verdict: #Fail.
3. Coalition’s plan to sell off the ABC unleashes the inner Turnbull — the dictator
It was lawyer/commentator Josh Bornstein who first nailed the ABC’s relationship with the Coalition as
‘… like a victim trapped in an abusive relationship.’
In an opinion piece back in December, Bornstein takes aim at the Coalition’s bullyboy behaviour:
‘The impact of the anti-ABC crusade over the years permeates the organisation… The cumulative effect of such attacks can be likened to that inflicted on employees by a relentless workplace bully. After a time hyper-vigilance, paranoia and a pronounced instinct for self-preservation become the new norm, whether conscious or not.’
Turnbull’s interference in ABC editorial matters is unprecedented by a minister or prime minister. Threats by the Coalition work because the ABC knows the alternative is “death by a thousand cuts”.
Nick Ross, ABC’s Technology and Games Editor, set off a storm of protest on social media by revealing he’d been “gagged” by Malcolm Turnbull from reporting on the NBN’s “cluster cock-up”.
Responding to a question in the House the next day by Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, Turnbull admitted he had spoken privately with ABC management about the national broadcaster’s coverage of the NBN.
“Did I complain about this to the ABC? The answer is yes, I did complain.”
New Matilda went in hard on the story obtaining a secret tape of an explosive conversation between Nick Ross and his superior, head of the ABC current affairs division, Bruce Belsham, confirming the “abusive” relationship between victim, the ABC, and the abuser, Malcolm Turnbull.
Bruce Belsham repeatedly states he’s under “internal and external” pressure and, despite “having no problems” with Ross’s specific story, he can’t publish it because
“… the Turnbull camp and my superiors will come down on me like a ton of bricks.”
Ross resigned shortly after.
Are Australians really willing to sacrifice the ABC as the only truly independent media voice? There is no doubt our ABC is seriously under threat from the neoliberal ningnongs in the Coalition. The SMH didn’t mince words when itdescribed the ABC as ‘suffering a slow death by a thousand cuts’:
‘Cuts to its funding have continued. One media analyst calculates that by the election on July 2, the ABC will have lost more than $100 million a year in base funding, tied funding and other government contracts for services since the Coalition came to power.’
Following Abbott’s massive cuts, Turnbull disgracefully oversaw the axing of ABC’s Fact Check unit after It presented evidence saying his comments about Labor’s negative gearing didn’t “stack up”.
For further evidence of this dictatorial behaviour, check out the clash between the PM and Tony Jones on Q&A on Monday night.
Jones’ attempt to interrupt Turnbull on the subject of Labor’s surplus provoked a this menacing rebuke:
“You have to defend the Labor Party, Tony ….. You’re a very good spokesman for the ALP.”
I doubt the threat was missed by ABC management.
It’s the same story with SBS. Turnbull’s controversial role in the sacking of SBS’s Scott McIntyre over a Tweet about Anzac Day was actually used as evidence in court in April.
In a report by news.com.au, McIntyre’s lawyer, Josh Bornstein (again!), blasted the prime minister and former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson in court, calling them “vigilantes and hypocrites”, adding:
“These are people who speak loftily about freedom of speech and when it is inconvenient to them ditch it and try and crush someone whose views they disagree with…”
Double whammy? Do we want ABC cuts + administered by dictator? = Verdict: #Fail.
4. Do we still need reminding how little we liked Malcolm Turnbull?
It wasn’t so long ago that we disliked Turnbull so much we put him in fourth place on Zoo Weekly’s “50 People We Hate” list between the notorious Austrian rapist Joseph Fritzl and North Korean dictator Kim Jong iI.
Zoo Weekly’s 50 People We Hate List – the top 6 with Malcolm in 4th place (note: Kevin Rudd didn’t make the list!)
He did no better in the polls in the same year coming second to Labor on 30 Newspolls out of 30 before losing leadership to Tony Abbott on 1 December 2009.
So let’s not forget Turnbull’s history and why we never liked him.
Do we really find Malcolm Turnbull likeable? = Verdict: #Fail.
5. Turnbull at the mercy of the “right” after the swing
If, despite my ability to persuade you otherwise, you’re still intent on voting for Turnbull believing he’ll deliver a return to small “l” liberalism, forget it. The seats most likely to go in the swing are those of the Turnbull loyalists. As The New Daily reported, Turnbull could win the election but still lose by finding himself
“… at the mercy of the Abbott loyalists.”
And it’s now a lay down misère that Abbott will be back on the front bench with the defence ministry should Turnbull win on July 2, with Crikey also reporting on this badly kept Canberra secret.
If Turnbull wins, will we see a move to small ‘l’ liberalism? = Verdict: #Fail.
In this event, I suggest you read my earlier article ‘WTF! A secret deal that could see Abbott replace Turnbull in the Lodge’. …and the first step is Abbott back on the front bench with a ministry.]