17th January, 2017
1. Whether the opinion polls matter
In September 2015 Malcolm Turnbull, then Communications Minister, launched a coup d’état against Tony Abbott for the Prime Ministership. He justified the overthrow based on a long series of poor Newspoll results.
Showing extraordinary gumption, Turnbull now conveniently claims that the polls aren’t accurate, and therefore don’t matter:
“It’s a corny thing to say but the only poll that matters is on polling day and I have to say that in recent times the opinion polls have not proved a great indication of what finally happens,”
Note that if Turnbull’s new standard is that “the only poll that matters is on polling day” then he would have to conclude that Tony Abbott is a superior politician, because Tony Abbott won the 2013 election in a landslide, whereas Turnbull scraped over the line in 2016, saved by the National Party.
2. Whether politicians should intervene in the ABC & SBS
In an radio interview on the 29th of January 2014, then Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded to the ABC’s attacks on Royal Australian Navy personnel, and its left-wing bias more generally, saying:
“…a lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s… you shouldn’t leap to be critical of your own country and you certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian Navy and its hardworking personnel the benefit of the doubt.”
Turnbull, despite being a cabinet minister and subject to cabinet solidarity, responded the following day via the Sydney Morning Herald, contradicting his leader:
“What’s the alternative? The [ABC] editor-in-chief becomes the Prime Minister? Politicians, whether Prime Ministers or Communications Ministers, will often be unhappy with the ABC … but you can’t tell them what to write.”
Well it seems that politicians can, in fact, tell government-owned broadcasters what to do, and there have since been at least two examples of Malcolm Turnbull doing exactly that.
The first occurred on ANZAC Day in April of 2015. An SBS reporter named Scott McIntyre posted a series ‘tweets’ attacking the ANZACs as war criminals, and crudely stereotyping those who mark the day. After pressure from Liberal MPs Turnbull – then Communications Minister and thus the minister responsible for both SBS and the ABC – publicly criticised the remarks, and made a late night phone call to SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid. The reporter was sacked the following morning (26th April).
The second occurred in June 2015, following an episode of the ABC’s Q&A program in which a Muslim terrorist sympathiser (and former terror suspect) named Zaky Mallah was given a national platform. Turnbull phoned ABC Managing Director Mark Scott and Chairman Jim Spigelman to complain. Turnbull said the broadcaster had made a “very grave error of judgment”.
3. Whether he is a “libertarian”
In November 2010, speaking on a panel at the Woollahra Festival, Turnbull said:
“I use a lot of online media. The one I use the most is Twitter. I like that because it’s very immediate, and quite anarchic, and that appeals to me. I’m a libertarian after all.”
Just two years later though, in an interview with GQ magazine, he flip-flops saying:
“When you boil it down to your gut political philosophy — and all political parties will frustrate and disappoint from time to time — I wouldn’t say I’m a libertarian, I’m not one of those people, I’m not an anarchist…”
4. Whether terrorists are weak
In November of 2015 Turnbull said the Islamic terrorists are weak:
“By most measures, however, ISIL is in a fundamentally weak position. We must not be fooled by its hype. Its ideology is archaic, but its use of the Internet is very modern. ISIL has many more smartphones than guns, more twitter accounts than fighters. It does not command broad-based legitimacy even in those areas under its direct control.”
The very next month the Turnbull government floated cancelling the ANZAC Day ceremony at Lone Pine, for fear of a terrorist attack. They went through with the cancellation in February 2016. A compromise proposal was later agreed upon after a wave of criticism from the public and the Returned Services League (RSL).
5. Whether Malcolm Fraser was a good Prime Minister
In Turnbull’s 1988 book The Spycatcher Trial, he praises former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as a “living legend” and “much-loved elder statesman” who “…compares so favourably to his drab successor, the Liberal Malcolm Fraser…”1. Turnbull thought Fraser was “the personification of conservatism”2, and despised him.
Following the death of Fraser in March 2015, Turnbull changed his tune, praising him as a “remarkable progressive liberal”.
It was only when Turnbull got to know Fraser in the lead up to the republic referendum in 1999, that he realised Fraser was, in fact, an ideological fellow traveler, and thus changed his view.
6. Whether Australia should be giving border control advice to other countries
In October 2015 Tony Abbott delivered the Second Annual Margaret Thatcther Lecture at Guildhall in London. He warned that European countries were making a “catastrophic error” in allowing massive migratory inflows, and that Australia’s successful border security policies should be studied. He said people who passed through many countries before seeking asylum were not genuine refugees, but rather were economic migrants.
Turnbull briefed the media against Abbott prior to his November 2015 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is the prime facilitator of the massive migratory waves into Europe. At a press conference after the meeting Turnbull was questioned about Abbott’s prescriptions, and offered this rebuke:
“We had a very good discussion but I have no intention or desire to give advice on these matters to the German Chancellor. Each country faces very different circumstances, not least of which are geographic. I think this is a matter for the German Government as it is for the Australian Government to manage these challenges in their own way.”
Turnbull stunningly reversed his position after the March 2016 Islamist terrorist bombings in Brussels, Belgium, saying:
“I can assure Australians that our security system, our border protection, our domestic security arrangements, are much stronger than they are in Europe where regrettably they allowed security to slip… That weakness in European security is not unrelated to the problems they’ve been having in recent times.”
The Belgian Ambassador was offended:
7. Whether the republic is a ‘generational issue’
On the 18th of March 1992, Malcolm Turnbull gave a speech at the Canberra Press Club and said the following:
“My impression is that support for the monarchy, amongst thinking Australians, is almost entirely a generational issue. I think there are very few Australians, who think about the issue, who are under the age of 50, who do not support the republic.”
In May 2000 Turnbull presented a “republican certificate” to Mr Allen Joseph McKay, who had just turned 100 years old. McKay, a staunch republican since the 1930s, turned down the customary congratulatory telegram from the Queen and instead requested one from Malcolm Turnbull, who had just led the republican movement to defeat at the 1999 referendum. Turnbull said:
“It’s great, and it gives the lie to the suggestion that older Australians support the status quo.” 3
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1. Turnbull, M. (1988). The Spycatcher Trial. (p. 149). London: Heinemann.
2. Turnbull, M. (1999). Fighting for the Republic. (p. 237). Australia: Hardie Grant Books.
3. 16. Banham, C. (2000, May 18). No, Ma’am: Joe shows a ton of republican spirit. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 2.