MUNGO MacCALLUM. Malcolm Turnbull’s attacks.

But the real flaw in Turnbull’s strategy is its sheer negativity. The great dominators of parliament – Menzies, Whitlam and Keating most notably – all had something to say: they were policy powerhouses, intent on changing the nation in their own images. There was plenty of attack, plenty of a invective, but it was all aimed at providing a genuine agenda. 

Paul Keating regarded parliamentary performance as a crucial part of his leadership. If you couldn’t win in the parliament, he declared, you couldn’t win in the country.

And it now appears that Malcolm Turnbull has belatedly taken the maestro’s advice. For the last fortnight our formerly urbane Prime Minister has indeed dominated the House of Representatives; indeed, he has all but blown it away.

Turnbull has raged remorselessly against Bill Shorten, calling him a hypocrite, a fake, a sycophant, a sucker up, a parasite and a man who will say anything do gain advantage – “don’t listen to what he says, look at how he acts,” our leader bellowed.

Bravura rhetoric, certainly, but not without risk. Because the biggest criticism of Turnbull since his ascension to the top chair has been that he has behaved in precisely the same way.

He is the one who has deserted all his earlier principles, caving in to the agenda of the far right to gain the vital votes that delivered him to the Liberal leadership. He is the one who has abandoned climate change policy, same sex marriage, the push for a republic. Hypocrisy? Fake?

And as for sucking up – even apart from his kowtowing to the likes of Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce and even the real fringe dwellers like Cory Bernardi and George Christensen, he is seldom seen away from the rich and famous whom he has cultivated all his adult life.

The irony is that Turnbull, in his own account of his rise, constantly tries to play down his wealth and privilege. We are constantly regaled about the stories of his upbringing in a rented home, raised by a single parent, how he made his way up by sheer grit and determination to achieve the position he now sees as his right.

As Turnbull tells it, it is a classic log cabin to White House fable, a noble saga of aspiration triumphant. But Shorten also came from humble beginnings – rather more humble than the sizeable cash inheritance that came Turnbull’s way. And he too has reached the height of leadership of the party of his choice and very nearly toppled the incumbent prime minister in his first go at it. For all Turnbull’s shouting, the comparisons are irresistible.

But the real flaw in Turnbull’s strategy is its sheer negativity. The great dominators of parliament – Menzies, Whitlam and Keating most notably – all had something to say: they were policy powerhouses, intent on changing the nation in their own images. There was plenty of attack, plenty of a invective, but it was all aimed at providing a genuine agenda.

Turnbull , so far at least, seems to be ranting simply for he sake of ranting. If he is really to listen to the wisdom of Paul Keating, it might be an idea to heed one of his other maxims – the one that made him the most audaciously successful economic reformer in recent times. “Good policy,” said the great man succinctly, “is good politics.”

This, surely, is the message that Turnbull needs, and the one he is apparently determined to ignore.

Mungo MacCallum is a veteran journalist who was a senior member of the Canberra Press Gallery.

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3 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. Malcolm Turnbull’s attacks.

  1. Jaquix says:

    Turnbull is hopeless, a total dud of a PM. After he was attacked so viciously in QT Bill Shorten said mildly later, “I think Malcolm was looking in the mirror”. He is right, and when Turnbull rants about Bill being ” a hypocrite, a fake, a sycophant, a sucker up, a parasite and a man who will say anything do gain advantage – “don’t listen to what he says, look at how he acts,” you can just the description fitting Turnbull himself. Turnbull is a fake, he sucks up to the big banks and big business, and donors left right and centre. He would do anything for advantage, look, lets face it, he has sold his soul to the devil to be PM, and he lies through his teeth on a daily basis. Yes, Malcolm, we are looking at what you say and what you do, and THEY DONT ADD UP!

  2. Jim KABLE says:

    I still cannot understand why a lout of shouting and a spray of personal attack should be regarded by the so-called mainstream press as evidence of leadership???!!! Many of us in our professional lives have seen leadership in which one is made to feel honestly and sincerely to be part of the team of positives – though many of us have also been there when the rule (not leadership) was through fear – through demeaning of one’s colleagues – not pretty. As indeed I thought Malcolm TRUMBLE’s tantrums were – not pretty – most unedifyingly TRUMP-like!

  3. John Redman says:

    Spot on Mungo, I’ve been bellowing these exact thoughts to anyone who’ll listen to no avail and I don’t know what it is…sorta like white noise. No one seems to notice what any of them say, just keep their heads down and wait for whatever the next disappointment is to become reality. Keep on keeping on, someone’s needs to.John

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