A list of failed predictions made by Malcolm Turnbull

Originally published on 28th September, 2015

  • UPDATE [30th Oct, 2016]: Added 11th failed prediction.
  • UPDATE [28th Dec, 2016]: Added 12th failed prediction.
  • UPDATE [16th Jan, 2017]: Added 13th failed prediction.
  • UPDATE [22nd June, 2018]: Added 14th failed prediction.

1. John Howard will be despised by posterity

In 1999, Turnbull predicted that history would remember John Howard for only one thing, that he “broke the nation’s heart” for opposing a republic.

“Whatever else John Howard achieves, history will remember him for only one thing. He was the Prime Minister who broke this nation’s heart

15 years later, polling shows that 39% of Australians consider John Howard to be the best Prime Minister of the past 40 years, which was, by far, the best result of any PM. The next best was Bob Hawke, at 14%.


2. Tony Abbott will lose in a landslide

In December 2009, when Turnbull was ousted as Liberal leader over the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), he predicted that ETS opponents would lead the Liberal party to “electoral catastrophe”.

“If this issue is not resolved, the climate change war that Nick Minchin and his wreckers have started will continue to destroy the Liberal Party until such time as we are destroyed by Kevin Rudd in an election….These men are leading us into an electoral catastrophe.”

Just 8 months later, new leader Tony Abbott (supported by Nick Minchin) took the Liberal-National coalition to an unprecedented result for a first term Opposition, winning an equal number of seats to the Labor government. Only the treachery of two country independents prevented Abbott forming government.

3. ‘Direct Action’ won’t work

In 2010, Turnbull, now a backbencher, predicted that new Liberal leader Tony Abbott’s ‘Direct Action’ global warming policy would not be effective in cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

“It certainly will not be effective for meeting the target of a 5% cut in emissions by 2020…it’s been widely criticised.”

In 2015, Environment Minister Greg Hunt says Australia is on track to “more than meet” the 5% reduction target by 2020.

4. NBN will only cost $28 billion

Before the 2013 election, Turnbull predicted the NBN would cost $28.5 billion. Under his leadership as Communications Minister, the cost blew-out, and it is now estimated the final product will end up costing taxpayers anywhere between $46 billion and $56 billion.

5. Whitlam won’t be dismissed

In his 1993 book, “The Reluctant Republic”, Turnbull recounts the Whitlam dismissal of the 11th of November 1975:

“…[I] was writing about politics for the Nation Review. The previous week I had sagely assured my readers that those people who were predicting the Governor-General would sack the Government were reckless alarmists and that a dismissal of that kind was unthinkable!”

6. Conscience vote on homosexual so-called “marriage”

In December 2013, Turnbull said:

“I think it is likely that we will [have a free vote], but as Tony Abbott has said, it is a decision for the party room, not for him,”

In August 2015, a two-thirds majority of the Coalition party room rejected a conscience vote on homosexual so-called “marriage“.

7. John Howard will become a republican

In 1998, Turnbull predicted Prime Minister John Howard would become a republican before the 1999 referendum. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald [19th Oct], Turnbull said:

“A sense of history and a pragmatic conservatism coupled with a desire to bring final closure to the debate will lead the Prime Minister, in my view, to reluctant, even unenthusiastic, republicanism.”

8. Toowoomba will vote for recycled water

In 2006, Turnbull predicted Toowoomba ratepayers would vote in favour of putting recycled water (i.e. treated sewage) in the area’s water supply:

“I expect Toowoomba to vote yes. So I’m looking forward to a strong yes vote in Toowoomba.”

A plebiscite was held and 62% of Toowoomba voted ‘NO‘.

9. Republicans will easily win referendum

In early 1999, Turnbull was asked to predict the outcome of the republic referendum. He said:

“We are going to win the referendum and we are going to win it well.”

Later that year the referendum was soundly defeated, both nationally and in every state.

10. John Howard will retain Bennelong in 2007

Shortly before the 2007 federal election Turnbull said:

“I’m sure John Howard will be returned in Bennelong…I’m very confident he’ll be returned.”

John Howard subsequently lost his seat of Bennelong to Labor’s Maxine McKew, thus proving it is possible to unseat a sitting Prime Minister.

11. The Liberal Party is “finished” in 1994

In August of 1994 there was speculation that Turnbull was scheming to form a new party to take seats from the Liberal Party, in order to co-operate with Labor on the republic and shut out conservatives.

The following month, the then Democrats Senator and future Labor MP Cheryl Kernot confirmed that Malcolm Turnbull had discussed with her the possibility of forming a new party together that would split the Liberal Party. Turnbull followed up with a public attack on the party, saying:

“…our political system needs a viable opposition and we don’t have one at the moment…. The Liberal Party, as currently structured, is basically finished at a federal level…. The reason there is not more activity to form a new party is that the business community is basically comfortable with the present [Labor] Government.”

Turnbull’s prediction is proven severely erroneous when, less than 18 months later, the Liberal-National coalition wins a federal election in a landslide, and goes on to govern for nearly 12 years.

12. Homosexual “marriage” plebiscite will easily pass Senate

On the 8th of June 2016 Turnbull went on the ABC’s 7.30 program and predicted that the homosexual “marriage” plebiscite would easily pass the Senate. The relevant legislation has now been rejected by the Senate and taken off the agenda.

13. The Liberals will have a “big defeat” in the 1996 election

On the 8th of August 1993 Turnbull was quoted in The Age newspaper saying:

“…the Libs will suffer a big defeat if they stick with the monarchy in the 1996 election. If the Liberal Party makes itself an enemy of the republic, it makes itself an enemy of republicans. And there are more republicans than people who vote Liberal…I mean, the Liberals’ whole strategy is to frighten old women.” 1

The Liberal Party maintained a pro-monarchy policy for the 1996 election, and the Liberal-National coalition won that election in a landslide (94 seats to Labor’s 49).

14. The High Court will rule that Barnaby Joyce is eligible to sit in parliament

On the 14th of August 2017, in parliament, Turnbull said the following:

“The leader of the National Party, the Deputy Prime Minister, is qualified to sit in this House, and the High Court will so hold.”

On the 27th of October 2017, the High Court of Australia ruled that Barnaby Joyce is ineligible to sit in parliament as a result of his New Zealand citizenship.


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1. Aiton, D. (1993, Aug 8). On monarchists, mates and mum. The Sunday Age, p. 3.