Unlike Harold Holt, Malcolm Turnbull couldn’t part the waves at Cheviot Beach, though I’d like to see him try when the seas are pounding the rocks.
Over the years Barnaby has said many funny things, he has backed to the hilt Gina and her mining friends in their racist attacks on Aboriginal ownership of land. In the face of climate change, ocean acidification, the devastating build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere, the ongoing destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the increasing impact of global warming on the driest populated continent on earth he has backed the irrigators right to steal environmental water from the Murray Darling system and promoted coal mining. I have never before been tempted to quote Barnaby but he is on the money when he describes the current fraud of a prime miniscule when he describes Malcolm as “inept”.
In this country, we have had some weird people holding the offices of prime minister and leader of the opposition. But we have also had some very competent ones. Early in the 20th century Billy Hughes, was asked by a chap who sidled up to him at a public meeting “Can you spare ten quid for an old Digger mate?” To which he replied “I’m deaf in that ear come around to the other side and ask me for a fiver.” Doc Evatt was a great statesman on the world stage, and made a huge contribution to the establishment of the United Nations, he led the fight to defeat Menzies’ attempts to outlaw the Communist Party of Australia but was unsuccessful in deposing Pig Iron Bob at elections.
Nearly everyone accepts that Gough Whitlam had great wit and did more than any other politician of his day to improve social security, health, education, equity and advance Indigenous rights. Fraser, for all his ruthless deviousness, enhanced anti-racism. Hawke had the capacity to manage the affairs of the day and Keating was a great parliamentary performer with a devastating tongue. Howard was a destructive little racist shit who despised poor people yet was capable of convincing the bulk of people to support his continuation in office from 1996-2007.
Latham was a plagiarising incompetent thug – a leftover extra from Clockwork Orange. Rudd a supreme egotist was tricky enough to defeat Howard before defeating himself and then Gillard before losing to the big eared, budgie smuggling, George Pell admiring Abbott. A bitter and twisted man who with Joe Hockey, the worse treasurer in living memory, brought down the 2014 “End of the age of entitlement” budget which continues to haunt the Coalition side of the House. Abbott’s style of ruthless conservatism has an absence of grace, decency and charm. He is homophobic, racist and despicable. There can’t be any mirrors in his house or he’d never get up of a morning. If this is not the case then he must have an exceedingly strong stomach because I can’t understand how he manages to look at his own reflection after day break.
But, this brings us back to Turnbull. The lawyer of Spycatcher fame, the man who was the legal advisor to the corrupt “Goanna” Kerry Packer, the leader of the pro-Republican Referendum, the leader of the Liberal opposition who lost that position by one vote when he declared he would not lead a party which was not as committed to the environment as he was, and finally the man who seized the leadership from Tony Abbott following 30 Newspolls which had the Coalition losing. At that time, he appeared to be an urbane charming man, determined and moderate – what promise. Then came an 8-week election campaign, with Abbott’s relentless undermining, resulting in a near death experience for the Coalition.
Turnbull now stands naked, hoisted on his own petard, by a Faustian bargain with the conservative rump in his own party and an ignorant conservative miner-employer-farmer-friendly organisation misleadingly titled the “National Party” led by the Barnaby. The Coalition has, as I write, been behind Labor in 27 Newspolls in a row and currently stand at 47% to 53% two party preferred. His party is constantly removing civil liberties allegedly to “protect us from terrorism”. They are attacking social security recipients to help balance the budget. They are wanting to lower company taxes in a nation where one in five of the largest companies have paid no tax for at least the last three years; Qantas the flying kangaroo has paid no tax for a decade. The Coalition is trying to muzzle unions, social advocacy groups, charities and environmental organisations.
I was happy when Turnbull rolled Abbott, I thought we were heading for happier less vicious times where decency and moderation would return – I was wrong. Now I am left to ponder, who, prior to Malcolm, was a more incompetent prime minister than he has proved to be. I have gone back to William McMahon but despite his losing Office and having be roundly criticised by many of his ministers he did not compromise himself to the same extent as Malcolm. I’ll end by saying the Malcolm Turnbull is the most inept prime minister since our most inadequate skindiving prime minister, Harold Holt. Turnbull himself must have had a premonition of this when he agreed, in December 2015, that his government would upgrade, to the tune of $50,000, the Harold Holt memorial overlooking Cheviot Beach.
Copyright © 2020 John Tomlinson