In Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate, we have had a media blitz on behalf of his son-in-law, James Brown. Could it mean that James Brown is readying himself to take the seat of Wentworth, perhaps before or after the next election?
It was quite a PR blitz we saw in the Wentworth Courier of April 19, 2017. The front page was in full colour, featuring James Brown with his medals, his wife Daisy Turnbull and their two young and sweet children, Jack and Alice. The caption read ‘Decorated former military commander James Brown – son-in-law of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – is making Anzac day a family tradition, taking son Jack, 3, to his first dawn service next week’.
That was just the beginning. Turning to the spread on pages 10 and 11, we saw James brown in full colour again with his military medals that would have made Russian Generals proud. This was followed by photos of his immediate family again , together with Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull. There were also photos of James Brown with village children while he was serving in Iraq. And more photos of James and Daisy.
This story, written by Shaya Laughlin pulled out all the stops, although it is unlikely to win a Walkley award. At great length, she told us about James’ record in the army and his plans for Anzac day. She noted that he was Vice President of the North Bondi RSL sub branch.
But Shaya Laughlin gave the real game away by reminding long-suffering readers of the Wentworth Courier that James Brown was Paddington branch president of the Liberal Party. The real story was not Anzac day – but local politics.
I have no idea how the Liberal pre-selectors of Wentworth will react to this media blitz. Will the numbers that Malcolm Turnbull organized so thoroughly to defeat Peter King in 2003 stand up for James Brown?.
But James Brown has more on his plate with his day job. He is Director of Research at the University of Sydney’s US Studies Centre where he has had some problems. The Melbourne Age of March 27, 2017, carried the following story
On one side of the argument is Brown, a former army captain and international affairs specialist who is married to the Turnbulls’ daughter, Daisy.
On the other is conservative commentator, Radio National host and Fairfax Media columnist Tom Switzer. Switzer this week resigned as a senior fellow at the centre in a blaze of acrimony.
The disagreement flared after Brown published a Quarterly Essay, called “Firing Line”, last June.
The essay, published just prior to the federal election, reported that staff in former prime minister Tony Abbott’s office had considered deploying a brigade comprising up to 3000 Australian and Dutch soldiers to Ukraine after the shooting down of MH17.
Switzer, a one-time adviser to former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson, called the story “crap”.
“For the record, the James brown [sic] scoop is no such thing,” he wrote in emails to a group of former diplomats in January.
“The story is crap and is widely debunked by the people in the know, and not just Abbott and his former [chief of staff]. The reality is that Abbott never committed troops. Even if he harboured such ambitions, he never did it.
Switzer’s most damaging claim, though, was the last: “The consensus was brown [sic] was doing his father in law’s bidding,” Switzer wrote.
“James is not a historian or journalist; he’s a former army captain who I believe is carrying a brief for the prime minister.”
It may be a difficult for the Liberal pre-selectors of Wentworth to weigh up the Wentworth Courier’s fulsome encouragement alongside Tom Switzer’s and others’ comments about James Brown’s role in the dispute within the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Was he doing Malcolm Turnbull’s bidding against Tony Abbott?
What does all this also tell us about Malcolm Turnbull’s plans?