Malcolm Turnbull always was a celebrity fraud. An expressed youthful idea that his being the PM was everything and that the actual political “party” was irrelevant for him says everything about his path through politics. And, I think, sums up his inevitable political legacy: a fraud from start to finish.
The way he went out of office seems typical of the man and many different psychological types which might relate to his underlying persona seem to present themselves for possible correlation to his actions. The viciousness with which he spat the dummy is indicative of the person he is and probably always was, his anger, aggression, threats of law suits in his early career, all could correspond with his actions after his demise.
Perhaps a repeat of his (to him) terribly depressing childhood with a single parent father bringing him up in luxury in a large eastern suburbs home, education at the prestigious Sydney Grammar, university law degree and a life of relative luxury from start to finish. The loss of a mother early in life is a huge blow to children, especially if she deserted the child, but not many have the “compensations” enjoyed by the young Malcolm. The rest of the Turnbull narrative is that he was a keen lawyer, the famous Spycatcher case where he took on the British Government, the time as the Kerry Packer representative, the massive wealth earned when he was part of the Australian internet email pioneer Ozemail. Touted as a Lion of Business and a merchant banker, this investor and deal-maker rightfully basked as a self-made multi-millionaire, associate of the rich and wealthy in politics and business. He deserves that to be recognised.
However, the real political history of Turnbull will be repeated now and that, too, deserves to be recognised. How he got into politics by branch-stacking and bringing hundreds of new members/mates in (as they famously do in the ALP – but Liberal factions do now also). Another Turnbull trait – repeated with Brendan Nelson and who knows how many others – was evident here also: abusive verbal exchanges with the man he replaced Peter King.
Cutting down Brendan Nelson as leader of the Liberal Party after the defeat of the Howard government, he was a serial leaker and underminer of Nelson until he became leader in his place. Pushing the party too far in his insistence on electoral suicide by going for the disastrous carbon tax scheme of the Labor party, he was overthrown himself and Tony Abbott became leader. Of course the undermining started again and remained constant even as Abbott cut down and destroyed the Labor leader Kevin Rudd and later Julia Gillard. Even the landslide victory gained by Abbott in 2013 didn’t stop the Turnbull sabotage in the slightest, aided at that time by others also influenced by the factions he cultivated and to which he bowed low.
Once he gained the leadership again, he did it “his way”. Super confident, he did nothing but undertake (& tried to take credit for) policies created by the Abbott team and when the many false starts (”everything is on the table” until it wasn’t at all, state taxes/no state taxes) meant that “do nothing” status became public, the open antagonism against Tony Abbott began again. A smear a few months after he took over claimed that lack of action on tax reform was because the Abbott team “had left us with nothing” done in preparation, although many voices showed clearly that, literally “tens of thousands of hours” had been prepared by the Abbott government and that a white paper was ready for presentation for a week after the overthrow
Thanks to the large majority in parliament inherited from the work by Tony Abbott, Turnbull approached the elections of 2016 super-confidently. His true policy inclinations (generally green, renewable energy, gay marriage, the ABC-set and, always, opposition to any hard-conservative policies on energy, boats or immigration) were kept in check due to the promises he had to make to the National Party and others to retain the Abbott policies on immigration and energy. He approached the forthcoming elections with what seemed to be his plan to assert control.
Calling a double dissolution on the defeated Abbott policy of a re-creation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to rein in illegal union industrial disruption, once the election was called he never relied upon it. Creating a group and a logo entitled the “Turnbull Coalition Team”, with no “Liberal Party” wording in sight, his campaigning was lethargic, to say the least. Against all advice it was a 2 month campaign, one of the longest ever, and he worked half a day at a time, if that, breaking for lunch and calling it a day after that.
He studiously and deliberately never campaigned on the winning stopping boats, immigration or cheaper energy policies which Abbott had used to destroy the opposition. They were forgotten completely. He never even campaigned on the cause for which the election was called, the ABCC until, at the last, when the forthcoming disaster was communicated to him.
And so it came about that the huge majority was reduced to only one seat and then Turnbull was reduced to doing things against his personal will – even more subservience to policies he genuinely hated and which, in my opinion he was eager to dump if only his election plan had succeeded. Of course if he had won comfortably, he could have claimed (with some credibility) that he owed the time-honoured Liberal Party polices “nothing” and was free to go on his own from then on. The horror was that the opposite had happened. He couldn’t even claim that the old policies were rejected, simply because they hadn’t even been a part of the campaign!
Incidentally, a good insight into the personality of Turnbull was when the extent of the defeat was known he could hardly be persuaded to appear before his supporters as was traditional and, when he did so, he only expressed anger, claimed illegal activity and expressed no regret for the loss of so many MPs who had been relying on him.
Once in government again he was constrained by the low majority and reliance on keeping every single MP onside and thus could not branch out with policies of his own. He was extremely frustrated by Tony Abbott, though, because as an ex-Prime Minister on the back bench, Tony Abbott was not the type of person who would allow the regular anonymous smears (obviously sourced from a small group of factional allies of Turnbull which everyone in Australia seemed to know) to go unanswered. He would call out where they came from too. He also went public in speeches laying out policy achievements of “his” government and differing views on policy directions which the Turnbull groupers would often denounce through their media mouthpieces. The polls remained universally bad for Turnbull and the rumblings about ousting Abbott remained just that. They probably knew that a second million votes would go and join the first one which Turnbull had already lost.
Reliant on a fractured party, he was a fish out of water. To hear him raising “clean coal” or criticising excessive wind power or to hear him say “Islamism” or other change of view pass his lips would lead to a Private Eye moment of pass the sick bag. This from the man who made his progressive political reputation on always sabotaging his party on behalf of climate alarmism and took a whole day before he would brand it as “terrorism” when a local Islamist terrorist assassinated CHEN outside police HQ in Parramatta in broad daylight
Of course he crashed and burned and then had to stagger on with fraud after fraud as to what his beliefs were until, at the end, he saw doom approaching and pushed just that close to locking that party in to take its policy suicide pill, that some realists ensured that his career came to its inevitable end.
By Turnbull trashing all his colleagues by resigning and Turnbull creatures in the party and media helping him try and sabotage the new government, we can see that the Turnbull persona is still going strong as we always knew that it would.
It’s future as a party far from secure, the Liberal Party itself is in danger of collapse, with two forces pulling it in directly opposite directions. However, with the insertion of a Malcolm Turnbull into that fading and rotting structure the existential crisis of the Liberal Party went into top gear. Turnbull could have been the catalyst for its creative destruction. Time will tell.Follow