I once worked for Malcolm Turnbull’s government, now it is almost a mark of shame to even bring that fact up.
After leaving the government in 2016 for the warm embrace of the IPA, a friend said to me, ‘Just wait, when Turnbull is no longer prime minister, and there will come a day hopefully soon, he will be ten times worse than Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson’. A reference to their criticism of the Liberal party long after having squandered their own opportunities to lead it.
That quote has always stuck with me. And was a prophecy that came true.
Mainstream Australians can pick a fake. They can pick someone who is not on their side and who is not genuine in their beliefs. Despite being cheered on by the out-of-touch Canberra press gallery, the Australian people saw through this empty vessel of a man.
Just like people say there is an old tweet from Donald Trump contradicting everything he did as President, there are old Malcolm Turnbull comments that contradict everything he says and believes since being thrown out of office by his party room.
The most appalling behaviour of all has been his condemnation of the Attorney General Christian Porter.
He said recently to Patricia Karvelas on ABC RN Drive, ‘You can say everyone is innocent until proven guilty for as long as you like, but at a political level the problem is not going to go away’.
At every step in this so-called scandal, the former prime minister has sought to trash the rule of law by calling for an independent investigation to a decades- old alleged rape, a case that has already been closed by the independent investigators by the NSW police.
Which is seemingly at odds with Turnbull’s opinion of Bill Shorten’s case in 2014, which was closed by police. He said that the then Opposition leader did the right thing in coming forward and sympathised with how terrible it must have been to face an unjust allegation.
But more recently he appeared to go as far as musing to a compliant ABC that the inquiry should investigate the circumstances of the women’s suicide, a truly abhorrent House of Cards-inspired conspiracy theory.
But it wasn’t too long ago that Malcolm Turnbull was a fierce defender of the rule of law, in a speech to the Sydney Institute in 2015 titled ‘Magna Carta and the Rule of Law in the Digital Age’, the then communications minister said:
‘We should never forget the value of the principles of Magna Carta. And they must live in our hearts as well as on the pages of statutes and constitutions. I hope we will always believe, as a core political value, that no one should be punished without a fair trial and that a true democracy constrains the majority even as it empowers it. We should always shudder a little, perhaps a lot, when cynics sneer at courts and laws as just troublesome obstacles standing in the way of justice.’
Mr Turnbull seems to have cast these core political values out the window for shallow political revenge. His hypocrisies since leaving office are endless.
In 2017 Prime Minister Turnbull said freedom of speech was fundamental to the Australian way of life while defending a Christian teenager who had been fired for expressing her views during the same-sex marriage plebiscite. Yet on 12 January this year Mr Turnbull opined in Crikey that ‘freedom of speech must never mean freedom from responsibility’ in regard to Fox News and its more positive support of Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Turnbull rightly liberalised the media market from archaic rules which prevented media organisations from growing or merging. Now Mr Turnbull is supporting a ‘Murdoch Royal Commission’, effectively calling for a reregulation of the media market that he himself deregulated.
In January this year, Mr Turnbull jumped on the bandwagon to condemn Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not taking action against Craig Kelly, who he maligned as a ‘crackpot’. However, in 2016 Prime Minister Turnbull endorsed and helped save Craig Kelly from a preselection challenge, something the media failed to notice. In fact, Sunrise host David Koch asked Prime Minister Turnbull about comments Mr Kelly made about the possibility that if power prices kept going up, and we kept closing down coal-fired power stations, there was a real possibility that pensioners might die.
Prime Minister Turnbull said ‘Look, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Clearly people who cannot afford to keep themselves warm, particularly if they are old during the winter, obviously face real challenges’.
It seems that now that Mr Turnbull is no longer prime minister, not everyone is entitled to their opinion.
During the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, Mr Turnbull was fiercest in his criticism of the Morrison government for not acting on climate change.
Turnbull wrote in Time magazine, ‘Australia’s fires this summer — unprecedented in the scale of their destruction — are the ferocious but inevitable reality of global warming’. He also offered free advice about Prime Minister Morrison’s Hawaii holiday, telling the BBC: ‘I do not know why Scott Morrison has acted the way he has. I mean to be very frank with you, I worked with him very closely, I’ve known him for 20 years at least, and I can’t explain his conduct.’
But in 2017 Prime Minister Turnbull said, ‘You can’t attribute any particular event, whether it’s a flood or a fire or a drought or a storm, to climate change’. During a visit to bushfire-affected Tathra in NSW, he was asked about the Greens arguing that the fires there were caused by climate change. Then Prime Minister Turnbull responded ‘Look, I’m disappointed that the Greens would try to politicise an event like this… this is not the time to politicise a disaster like this’.In contrast, Mr Turnbull’s commentary on climate change since leaving office is tiresome and endless. He fervently wishes that the media forget (and they do) that he completely caved and dropped the emissions mandates from his National Energy Guarantee, before being rolled for the leadership anyway.
On almost every issue, the miserable ghost has abandoned every single belief he ever held. A sad but fitting indictment on one of the worst prime ministers Australia has ever had.
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Evan Mulholland is Director of Communications at the Institute of Public Affairs.
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