Home > Environment, Oz Politics > Time for Turnbull …

Time for Turnbull …

January 1st, 2014

… to speak up in defence of climate science, or give up any pretense of being better than the rest.

If there is one prominent figure on the right of Australian politics[1] who could plausibly claim to be both sane (on issues such as climate change) and honest, it’s Turnbull. He has stood up in the past, notably against Abbott, but has said nothing (AFAICT). Until relatively recently, he could reasonably claim that the government’s policy was based on acceptance of mainstream climate science, and that, even if he disagreed with Direct Action, he was bound by the principle of cabinet solidarity. But a string of events, culminating in Maurice Newman’s latest idiocy have made this position untenable. If Turnbull remains silent, he is tacitly accepting denialism as the view of the government of which he is part.

It’s possible that speaking up could cost him his ministerial view. But, as Tony Abbott observed recently, that might be a liberating experience. And, unlike the GMH workers to whom Abbott was referring, it’s not as if Malcolm needs the money.

fn1. Two former leaders of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson, have taken a strong stand on climate change. But Fraser has quit the party, and Hewson was threatened with expulsion over this and similar remarks.

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  1. Neil Hanrahan
    January 1st, 2014 at 21:31 | #1

    As one who was horrified at the prospect of Abbott defeating Turnbull I still would like a clear answer as to what Turnbull should advocate as a policy towards CO2 emissions which was capable of advancing Australia’s interests and in what way it would advance those interests. Rudd proved that claims for Australia’s influence as advocate were nonsense and the idea that the world’s major emitters are much likely to be influenced by anything Australia does doesn’t give a lot of credibility to Australia’s hopes to be an example. The logic of those who would cut off our exports of coal seems clear but serves only to highlight what is and what is not within the realms of possibility. It seems equally unlikely that China is going to take punitive action against us while we are the source of so much coal for it to burn and it is the only country that matters in the sense that its imports of coal are large and it can afford to be unpleasant to us. (Of course Japan is, wrt whales, and the US wrt to IP but such trivial frictions only serve to make the point).

  2. Jack
    January 1st, 2014 at 21:44 | #2

    There is nobody more pathetic on the liberal side than turnbull. The man has 100 mill (earnt through wheeler dealing, mind you) yet he hangs around in parly to do Tony’s biddiing. Like i said, pathetic.

  3. January 1st, 2014 at 22:02 | #3

    I dont like making political leadership, as opposed to partisan alignment, predictions. Too much inside knowledge, too much game theoretic, asymmetric information so the analyst can’t plug the relevant data into any kind of formula.

    I have a strong gut feeling that Abbott will be another one term PM. Waleed Aly is right, the leadership cycle is speeding up. Abbot was elected because people could not stand the ALPs personal corruption, policy back-flips and political division. There is not a great deal of warm feeling towards the L/NPs positive agenda.

    The logical alternative leader is, of course, Turnbull. And the beauty of the L/NP having Turnbull as alternative leader is that a) he is popular in the general public and b) he would returning to a job he lost on an issue of principle, namely climate change policy. That gives him more moral credibility than either Rudd or Gillard.

    My prediction is that Turnbull will resign from the Abbot Ministry at some stage in the first L/NP term of office, probably on the issue of carbon pricing/taxing. He will in effect do a Keating and then be able to fashion a critique of the Abbott ministries climate change policy failures.

    There would be a nice symmetry in this turn-around and poetic justice for Turnbull if he could return to the leadership of L/NP on the very issue that caused him to lose it. This would also return the L/NP to the side of reason and common sense.

    As Pr Q points out, denialism and delusionism in one area – whether it be anthropology or ecology – has an intellectually corrupting effect on all other areas. Fortunately I dont think the L/NP is too far down the road that the REPs have gone. The good old AUS public will rise out of its cranky mood and pull them back into line, probably within one term.

  4. Hermit
    January 1st, 2014 at 22:05 | #4

    @Neil Hanrahan
    Dieter Helm of Oxford suggests we should tax by proxy the emissions China and India cause on our behalf making the goods we import
    These carbon tariffs would share the pain as we pay more they sell less. There’s no point China and India switching coal purchases from Australia to the US or Africa since they get slugged if they burn anybody’s coal; ours, theirs or someone elses.

    The border carbon adjustments BCAs get lifted when China and India agree to comparable carbon constraints to the importing country. However as the good book says let he who is without sin cast the first stone. All the programs of the countries or regions that might impose carbon tariffs are riddled with enormous loopholes. Compliance costs could also be steep. In our case carbon pricing is like Schrodinger’s cat in that we’re not really sure if it is there or not. Prof. Helm’s views are supported by some eminent economists. The day must come when we actually do something non-trivial about emissions.

  5. January 1st, 2014 at 23:19 | #5

    You are kidding yourself if you think Turnbull is honest. If he was, there is no way he would continue to spruik direct action or his ridiculous fraudband when he has previously mentioned that both an ETS and FTTH are cheaper and more efficient. He has also made claims on ABC radio that there are “only 1 or 2” climate change deniers in the coalition. More recently he claimed that Labor had wasted $20B on the broadband roll out when NBN had mentioned in their estimates report that they had only spent $5.5B. These are just the tip of Malcolm’s iceberg. After knowing the full extent of his backflips and misrepresentations there are only two conclusions you can make. He is either dishonest or inept. Either are not the kinds of qualities a representative of the people should aspire to. What concerns me is that Malcolm, should he challengefor and gain the leadership, is just smart enough to con enough people into voting for him at the next election resulting in another 3 years of rampant fossil fuel burning, environmental degradation, international embarrassment and class warfare.

  6. rog
    January 2nd, 2014 at 04:17 | #6

    Turnbull has turned out to be your rolled gold hollow man. Like Hewson he is a blow in liberal, not liked by the true blue crowd and I doubt without much support in cabinet. His performance with the NBN has been dreadful.

  7. David Allen
    January 2nd, 2014 at 06:26 | #7

    John, like many people you start your criticism of M Turnbull by saying he’s a “sane” guy. I suggest, looking at his actual recent track record, that you need to reexamine your starting premise. After that your whole post will show itself to be a waste of time.

  8. Garis
    January 2nd, 2014 at 07:10 | #8

    And there was a time when “they” said the Liberal Party was a broad church. But as Tony continues to move their language into a deceitful or cryptic form we have no idea what they believe or are doing. Malcolm appears weak and trapped in the dogma of this new Abbott church.

  9. Ken Fabian
    January 2nd, 2014 at 07:35 | #9

    I don’t know about Turnbull and suspect he may be much less attractive to the Liberals than to the wider public; perhaps like Labor with Rudd, maybe they know him better than we do?

    I find it hard to believe that Turnbull is the only Lib that accepts the reality of climate change, but if Turnbull is keeping head down on the issue the others must be hunkered down under the tables. Or, more correctly, meekly going along with the Abbott line and avoiding any indication that they have issues with it. They do need someone to rise to leadership who brave enough to say no to the rich and self interested powerful and reverse the opposition to action on climate that two decades of effort has entrenched in Conservative Right politics. I don’t see anyone within the current LNP who is statesmanlike enough to rise above political expediency. To be fair I don’t see any in Labor who gives climate the attentive seriousness it deserves either – they just aren’t quite as obstructionist, giving lip service but not real commitment.

    And it’s always been a mainstream issue, not a fringe green one; that may be the most damaging choice that mainstream politics made – to frame climate change as a fringe issue and spend their efforts denigrating solutions proposed by The Greens whilst having none themselves. Or none that they are prepared to fight for like it really matters.

  10. January 2nd, 2014 at 09:24 | #10

    Basing on his appalling decision on the NBN I find it hard to believe he is a sane and honest rightwing conservative.

  11. Michael
    January 2nd, 2014 at 11:05 | #11

    rog :
    Like Hewson he is a blow in liberal, not liked by the true blue crowd and I doubt without much support in cabinet.

    Being a “blow in liberal” these day is probably essential for any long term success in the leadership. The reality that hasn’t yet dawned on most of the media commentators is that both parties have lost their relevance and support with the wider public and are operating more or less in a vacuum of no mainstream alternatives.

    Abbott is popular with the true believers and that is precisely why he is becoming a liability. What excites the tiny hardcore base of the liberal party is exactly what middle Australia isn’t interested in. Lets hope more of the old culture warriors mistake the last election as an endorsement of their right wing fantasies and get on their soapboxes like Newman.

    I think a bit too much hope is being pinned on Turnbull being uncharacteristically honest, but he does seem to be sane.

  12. Jon W
    January 2nd, 2014 at 13:46 | #12

    Just because Turnbull is socially liberal on one or two issues (same sex marriage and doesn’t make him the progressive liberal every-one dreams he is. He’s far more to the right of his party on non-social issues and his appalling decision-making on the NBN just show how willing he is is to ‘tacitly accept’ bad policy in the name of ideology.

    As much as I can’t stand the man, I believe the country is far better off with Abbott than Turnbull. The progressive and compassionate Turnbull is a myth. Fauxgressive Turnbull would move Australia to a Rayndian utopia before we know it.

  13. John
    January 2nd, 2014 at 13:46 | #13


    “Wheeler dealing”, that’s a bit soft, it was organising tax avoidance schemes.

  14. January 2nd, 2014 at 22:31 | #14


    The problem with “acceptance of mainstream climate science”, is that it conflicts with the fact that mainstream science also accepts the Dalton Minimum, a period of low solar activity.

    Like the Maunder Minimum and Spörer Minimum, the Dalton Minimum coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures and unfortunately for the AGW fraudsters sun spot activity is rapidly decreasing as we blog and there is a high probability we could be on the verge of a new Little Ice Age, no matter how much crap we spew into the atmosphere.

    Kind regards and keep warm,


  15. John Quiggin
    January 3rd, 2014 at 06:41 | #15


    Gee Phoenix, you’ve managed to set those silly scientists straight. Thousands of PhDs and tens of thousands of years of research and they never noticed a basic contradiction that you, phoenix, a pseudonymous blog commenter have discovered with nothing more than a Google scan of some delusionist websites.

    What’s next? Your discovery that Darwinism is circular reasoning? A refutation of relativity theory? AIDS reappraisal (you can find these and more on the same websites – check for example The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science by Tom Bethell).

  16. Ludwig Heinrich
    January 3rd, 2014 at 07:15 | #16

    Hi Prof. Q, you say: “If there is one prominent figure on the right of Australian politics who could plausibly claim to be both sane (on issues such as climate change) and honest, it’s Turnbull.”
    I don’t think this is plausible. Leaving aside issues outside of climate change, such as the Utegate affair (Godwin Grech etc 2009), and his cognitive dissonance in relation to the NBN etc., his sanity has been in doubt, in my mind, since his role in the events that preceded the change from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. At those events he believed that talking AT people was consultation. (I’m sure there is a name for that condition but I don’t have my textbooks on psychopathology handy.)
    More recently you may have observed him supporting the LNP’s Direct Action silliness?
    I understand you are desperate to find someone sane in the LNP, particularly on the issue of climate change, but I don’t think Turnbull qualifies and I doubt that anyone on their front bench would either. Perhaps there is someone on the back-bench?

  17. Charles
    January 3rd, 2014 at 08:00 | #17

    Engineering depends on science, I don’t claim to be a scientist but I do claim to be an engineer. What pisses me off is arguing with relatives that put more weight on what they saw looking over the back fence 60,50,40,30 years ago, than results obtained using very expensive instruments and skill.

    If you look over the back fence the world is flat.

    That anyone would take more seriously a bunch of kooks on the internet than well thought out research is incomprehensible, but then so is not have a minister for science.

    Christmas present for all next year “climate change for dummies”, if I can find a version that explains why CO2 is a green-house gas, why CO2 absorption in the ocean is a problem and that historic records show that CO2 and planet temperature are closely linked ( http://scholar.google.com/scholar_url?hl=en&q=http://www.daycreek.com/dc/images/1999.pdf&sa=X&scisig=AAGBfm0OzogaPIrEDLQqP79jTaF8tMdKvA&oi=scholarr ).

    Absolutely fed up with this denigration of science.

  18. Charles
    January 3rd, 2014 at 08:05 | #18


    And Austrlalia thinks they are going to stop the flow by being a little but nasty?

  19. Alan
    January 3rd, 2014 at 09:00 | #19

    Turnbull has bad form and can be credited with destroying the republic by refusing to accommodate even the slightest hint of direct election and destroying the ETS by demanding ever greater concessions for big business as the price of passage and then being unable to deliver Coalition support anyway. His performance on the NBN has been equally disastrous.

    The Godwin Grech incident was not the act of a reasonable politician ready to put the national interest before party advantage.

    That is not a happy record to build a future as the great white hope of rational governance in Australia.

  20. Donald Oats
    January 3rd, 2014 at 09:56 | #20

    I’m afraid Turnbull doesn’t look like much of a choice. If he does stand up (soon) and say to the party, look: you have got this climate change stuff completely backwards and Newman is speaking out of his hat, then his recent past behaviour with respect to both the NBN architecture and the entire notion of direct action in the Abbottian mould puts his credibility in some serious doubt. He does come across as the reluctant dude doing the party bidding, but that is not a good excuse for accepting the party’s anti-science policies. You either accept the science or you don’t, and if you don’t, you are in the minority opinion of the climate scientist community—by a long shot (ie around 3% only, as several peer-reviewed studies have amply demonstrated).

    In short, he is damaged goods. Further more, I don’t see a strong indication that the Liberal party would adopt a wide-ranging view of issues that is anything to the left of extremely conservative; perhaps the party would agree to soften a few minor policies, but that is about it. Therefore, even if Turnbull replaced Abbott, I doubt we’d get much of a shift in the political spectrum of the Liberal party. I could be wrong though, and it wouldn’t be the first time 😛

  21. Donald Oats
    January 3rd, 2014 at 10:20 | #21

    While we are on the topic of arguing for behavioural change (ie policies) based upon significant evidence, on the ABC Breakfast Show this morning, they interviewed Neil Plummer from the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology, Australia), and as recorded in this news item, we had the hottest year on record for Australia. Let’s see how the individual Liberals, and the party as a whole, respond to this. I can guess at how a certain paper will respond.

  22. Nearly Normal
    January 3rd, 2014 at 11:58 | #22

    We have seen enough of Turnbull and his is ilk. He definitely didn’t inhale and he is still nearly a virgin.

  23. bjb
    January 3rd, 2014 at 16:17 | #23

    uknowispeaksense :
    <pWhat concerns me is that Malcolm, should he challengefor and gain the leadership, is just smart enough to con enough people into voting for him at the next election resulting in another 3 years of rampant fossil fuel burning, environmental degradation, international embarrassment and class warfare.

    The way the LNP are travelling, I suspect even MT will have trouble getting them a second term (all though, as you say, there’s no accounting for the gullibility stupidity of the sheeple).

  24. Nathan
    January 3rd, 2014 at 21:15 | #24

    Not really much point since I imagine everyone already knows, but phoenix is, unsurprisingly, completely wrong on the facts. Solar irradiance has been trending steadily down ever since the 1980’s while the temperature has been trending steadily up.

  25. faust
    January 4th, 2014 at 05:11 | #25

    Turnbull will not be the next leader if he follows your path, my dear Professor!

    Understanding the Coalition is not the forte of many of the people who post on this blog so let me explain to you… the Coalition is sceptical but that does not mean that it is all like Andrew Bolt. However, speaking out and attempting to sink a first term PM means that other MPs will turn on him. They will see that he is the problem and he will quickly find himself on the backbench without much support from those who would normally support him. Nothing sinks Turnbull more than appearing to be out for himself. Say what you will about Abbott by the end of Turnbull’s reign, but Abbott took the Coalition to a near-victory in 2010 and a thumping win in 2013, and he has a much longer history and deeper roots in the party.

    That being said, if Hockey continues the way he has been going then he’ll usurp Turnbull as the next logical leader for the Coalition.

  26. Julie Thomas
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:15 | #26


    Have read Andrew Elder? Politically Homeless blog.

    Do you think he understands the Coalition?

  27. faust
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:25 | #27

    Haven’t read him. I shall do so now.

    I should have mentioned earlier that I pray everyone has had a thoroughly enjoyable New Year’s and that the hangovers are well and truly over!

  28. Ken Fabian
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:35 | #28

    Should Abbott be replaced with an LNP leader that is not a climate science denier we could end up with a bipartisan parliament! Both sides will be saying it’s real and serious whilst developing and enacting token measures that don’t upset the mining industry or BAU.

    Not needing The Greens to get such measures through parliament will mean Labor’s negotiations and compromises will cover the ground between Labor’s need to appear to be doing enough to fool the public and the LNP’s need to be appearing to do somewhat less to please the climate obstructionists within, whilst fooling the public. As long as both sides continue to think the expansion of coal and gas mining must not be impeded it will be inadequate. There will remain some minor hope that renewables will continue to do better than either major party thinks and the bipartisan ‘let’s not rush into things’ approach will – like rooftop solar has done – actually make a difference despite their expectations.

  29. Julie Thomas
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:41 | #29


    Thank you for those good wishes. 🙂

    Can I tell you how Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt do affect political, economic and social outcomes, for the negative, just in my very small neck of the woods us here on the Downs, a long way from anywhere?

    I will anyway. There is a neighbour of mine – a retired man – who every so often gets very upset and angry. He ceases to make the wooden toys that he usually makes for the local craft co-op and his health deteriorates and he does things like writing letters to the editor about how atrocious and awful it is that the supermarket in town sells halal meat.

    It turns out that every one of these ‘episodes’ is the direct result of listening to those shock jocks; my neighbour gets scared that these men are right about how horrible the world will be if we don’t do something, blame somebody, hate somebody make war on somebody. Who? Well, the left of course.

    There are no muslims in our little town and the migrant and refugee community are very integrated in the area. And here we see LNP people hypocritically taking credit for this state of affairs.


    But these things are not known to my neighbour. Jones and Bolt have an active interest – financial? Idological? Psychosis? – in not letting him know about what is really going on – and his life is negatively impacted by these type of people who take advantage of his fears and worries.

    The whole community is then negatively impacted by these sort of people who make money from making people angry about ‘the left’.

    Should you take some responsibility for those who speak in your name?

  30. Julie Thomas
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:42 | #30

    Whoops comment to Faust in moderation. 🙁

  31. faust
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:47 | #31

    Just had a quick glance through the blog and it appears a bit too repetitive. Some of the posts have inside goss but as anyone would say, gossip is in very large supply in politics.

  32. Fran Barlow
    January 4th, 2014 at 06:58 | #32


    Re Phoenix

    Isn’t it time you added climate science denialism to the snip list on this blog?

  33. Julie Thomas
    January 4th, 2014 at 07:19 | #33


    But of course you didn’t find any original ‘analysis’ that would add to your understanding of the political situation, cos you already know it all. 🙂

    Love you Mr Faust. You have again confirmed my analysis of the personality type and/or cognitive style that underpins right wing attitudes.

    The thing is, that what you think of as ‘the left’ is growing and we are diverse. You right wingers are small and powerful and united, but you do not have any truth that makes sense and more and more people are seeing this.

  34. faust
    January 4th, 2014 at 08:53 | #34

    It is not that I didn’t find “original” analysis but rather than it was repetitive. He was saying the same things over and over again. Some of them were dead right like Barnaby Joyce being a bit of a bozo idiot who would implode (we all know he did) but on Abbott I think he was a bit too blinded in his dislike for the man.

    Given the centre ground is politics always shifts, what is “right” and “left” and the relative size is rather irrelevant. In this context today the right is in the ascendancy. This can be seen with Coalition Gov’ts in most States and the Commonwealth. Eventually the pendulum will swing to a different place.

  35. Julie Thomas
    January 4th, 2014 at 09:41 | #35


    Fair enough, I guess he has to repeat things to get the message out to as many people as possible and it is so hard not to ‘hate’ that man Abbott. Takes all my psychological training to get over that emotional trauma. He is such an inferior person compared to so many other people who coulda been contenders. So unfair.

    The old pendulum idea huh? I used to think that also but I don’t now.

  36. January 4th, 2014 at 11:33 | #36

    Hi Nathan and other posters,

    Thank you Professor for letting my post through moderation. Yes I do use a pseudonym as I have previously been banned on this site for calling on the climate alarmists to back up their ludicrous assertions and diatribes with scientific facts.

    Nathan re post 24, you are “completely wrong on the facts Solar irradiance has [NOT] been trending steadily down ever since the 1980?s while the temperature has been trending steadily up”.

    Have a look at this SBS program and enlighten yourself about sunlight.


    There is a strong and rising ‘consensus’ among real scientists (as opposed to climate scientists) that we are indeed heading for a prolonged period of very low sunspot activity and these periods of low sunspot activity correlate with considerably lower average global temperatures (mini ice ages) i.e the Dalton, Maunder and Spörer Minimums.

    BTW How come the mainstream Australian media is misrepresenting the storey about the climate scientists stuck in the ice;

    “A group of climate change scientists were rescued by helicopter Jan. 2, after being stranded in the ice since Christmas morning. But the majority of the broadcast networks’ reports about the ice-locked climate researchers never mentioned climate change.

    The Russian ship, Akademic Shokalskiy, was stranded in the ice while on a climate change research expedition, yet nearly 98 percent of network news reports about the stranded researchers failed to mention their mission at all. Forty out of 41 stories (97.5 percent) on the network morning and evening news shows since Dec. 25 failed to mention climate change had anything to do with the expedition.

    In fact, rather than point out the mission was to find evidence of climate change, the networks often referred to the stranded people as “passengers,” “trackers” and even “tourists,” without a word about climate change or global warming.

    Chris Turney, the expedition’s leader, is a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales. According to Turney’s personal website, the purpose of the expedition is to “discover and communicate the environmental changes taking place in the south.”

    Can someone tell UNSW Climate Scientist Chris Turney and his other publicly funded mates that the ice they got stuck in is not a delusion it is real. Obviously his climate modelling regarding polar ice in summer is highly inaccurate.

    Warmest regards to all especially to any climate scientists stuck in ice….


  37. Nick
    January 4th, 2014 at 12:24 | #37

    Time for Turnbull to speak in defense of the local and international scientific community? Yes, of course…always.

    Really, it’s time for other voices in the LNP to break free of their stifling self-imposed uncommunicativeness on just about any issue you care to name. I cannot remember a more colorless, joyless, timid bunch. Cowed by ‘party discipline’, woodenly-scripted ‘crisis’ talk, and a lack of confidence…and the likely need to not draw repeated attention to Abbott’s shortcomings as a communicator.

  38. Faust
    January 5th, 2014 at 03:26 | #38

    @Julie Thomas I think on the pendulum we shouldn’t look at it as ‘left’ or ‘right’ as there are many shades and complexities. I personally think over the next ten years we’ll shift in a liberal direction. The Coalition is behind the curve in public sector reform but if they apply a reformist mindset to education, health and social care, and welfare as has been seen in other countries I think it will shift the debate. Regardless of what you think of Christopher Pyne, he is prepared to reform education more than any other Coalition education minister in the Howard era.

  39. Julie Thomas
    January 5th, 2014 at 06:28 | #39


    I think that the Asian way of seeing that things swing around in a more complex way than the swinging pendulum does. would be an improvement to ‘our’ western point of view.

    And Christopher Pyne… yep another I have difficulty not hating and being able to ‘see’ and ‘trust’ that he does have any real interest in the education of people like me who was unlucky enough to be born to parents who had no way of giving me any sort of education except what was easily available and compulsory.

    The idea of ‘free’ schools horrifies me, the idea that we need to concentrate on those who are already doing well enough to know that a private school ‘could’ help their kids get ahead is just plain wrong and shows that people who come from his – Pynes – background cannot understand what is needed down here where I live among the post-modern ‘lower’ tribe.

    He has never lived among us and has no idea what abilities and capacities there are that could be nurtured and add value to our society.

    He hasn’t read Gonski and has no respect for all the work that went into the document.

    What is to be admired about that? Your attitude seems to be that you respect the man and his intentions just because he is one of yours – and this faith that he is a man like you overrides all your ability to critique the reality of the person.

    The dichotomising of political attitudes has created his tribal response.

  40. Julie Thomas
    January 5th, 2014 at 06:29 | #40

    ‘this tribal response’ I meant to type.

  41. faust
    January 5th, 2014 at 07:05 | #41

    Using the metaphor of a pendulum wasn’t meant to do anything other than to explain that things swing in different directions. If I were to be pedantic I would criticise your sweeping generalisation of “Asian way” of seeing things as Asia encompasses many varied cultures. I believe you mean the Confucian way of seeing things popularised by those in the North-east Asia (China, Koreas and Japan?)

    Regarding Pyne, he is thinking more radically than prior education ministers particularly about free/independent schools. The biggest problem the “left” have is that they view any education improvements due to either more government spending or shutting down private/selective schools to get middle class students who have a certain family background to go to public schools to improve the quality of education. Independent/free/charter schools allows individual schools to create an ethos or culture of achievement. It means that pushy parents and ambitious principles can run a school in a way that benefits the children as best as possible in line with the school community ethos/culture.

    Pyne is most likely deeply suspicious that given Labor’s track record of spending a lot of money and getting very little in return that the best thing was to scrap it. My personal view is that Gonski is a partial answer to some funding issues but does not tackle deeper issues of the “poverty of ambition” particularly in public schools with a majority of students from a lower socio-economic background. Better teachers (commanding higher salaries) and mentors, and incredible patience needs to be applied so someone who goes to a non-selective public school has just as good a chance to get into university than someone who went to a top private school.

  42. faust
    January 5th, 2014 at 07:09 | #42

    And just to illustrate my point around ethos, I have a number of friends who went to top schools (the type of Prime Minister’s waltz out of) who naturally progressed to top universities and the higher-paying professions. Admittedly they are bright people but the type of school culture that was fostered made me realise that they were trained to be successful: student elections, publicly displaying academic results so no one can hide etc… If you are brought up in that environment you can understand how freshly minted 18 year olds can come out with the mix of ambition and charisma.

  43. Julie Thomas
    January 5th, 2014 at 10:36 | #43


    If you were to criticise my sweeping generalisations you’d be here all day. I do them all time; one of my disabilities perhaps? Not to recognise someone who has a passing knowledge of things Asian. 🙂

    Thanks for the Pyney info I’ll really will try to approach it with an open mind but I think there may be an asymmetry between you and me and our experiences. I have been up there when I was young and interested in everything, with the private school boys and seen what they were like when young men.

    Some of the more adventurous ones, unlike Tony Abbott and Dennis Shannahan who were scared of lefties, were brave enough to take a girl like me home and I did okay with the social stuff that is so weird to us down here in the lower tribe. When I wanted to impress that is, as I was lucky enough to be taught how to act in polite company. 🙂 and I learned table manners somehow along the way.

    Those things really helped but I didn’t like them or their lives, the private school boys or their condescending parents. You are like that. You want us all to be like you and I don’t want to be part of your middle class or upper class tribe. You don’t have much to offer that I like or can see myself enjoying.

    All that consumption, all that insistence on material progress as the solution to the human problems. All at the expense of other types of progress. Ugly, horrible. To some of us. Not you. You like it.

  44. Alan
    January 5th, 2014 at 13:10 | #44

    @Julie Thomas

    I would not worry too much about historical correction from faust, despite his eagerness to define the Confucian area and reprove those who disagree with his definition.

    It is perhaps unfortunate he appears not to know that traditional Vietnam, in Southeast Asia, was an explicitly Confucian state, that areas of Northeast Asia such as Mongolia were not, or that the Qing dynasty rejected Japanese claims to practice Confucianism on the fairly reasonable grounds that it is hard to imagine a less Confucian institution than the shogunate.

    But don’t worry, in his next contribution faust will no doubt prove that the Great Wall of China was built entirely by Confucians and conservatives.

  45. zoot
    January 5th, 2014 at 15:12 | #45

    I’ll see your friends who went to top schools, and raise my acquaintances who went to top schools and have become total drains on society i.e. drug dealers and welfare cheats.
    I guess generalisations are never 100% accurate.

  46. Julie Thomas
    January 5th, 2014 at 15:39 | #46


    They are good at art and write poety also, as well as knowing about things Asian.

  47. Julie Thomas
    January 5th, 2014 at 15:40 | #47

    ooops poetry!

  48. January 5th, 2014 at 18:05 | #48

    Pr Q said:

    fn1. Two former leaders of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson, have taken a strong stand on climate change. But Fraser has quit the party, and Hewson was threatened with expulsion over this and similar remarks.

    I dont think former L/NP leaders make the greatest role models.

    Fraser and Hewson are very good at striking moralistic poses when they are well out of the fray and when it comes at no cost to themselves. Being a former branch member of the L/NP is not exactly hell on earth.

    When they were leaders they did everything possible to undermine good public policy: Fraser undermined Medicare. Hewson was the author of “Fightback” which would have been a disaster had not Keating “done him slowly”.

    And of course both of them were more than forthcoming on dispensing advice on the subject of NESB immigration and asylum-seekers. Which was well-heeded by the ALP and GRNs, with results that speak for themselves.

    What we do know about Turnbull is that his stand on climate change did cost him the top job in the L/NP. We know nothing else about his leadership ambitions or lack of them. My reading of him FWIW is that he is playing a long game. He seem prepared to sit tight and wait things out whilst others – such as Rudd/Gillard, Abbot et al – make the running.

    The Steven Bradbury strategy has much to recommend it.

  49. alfred venison
    January 5th, 2014 at 20:24 | #49

    faust :
    Eventually the pendulum will swing to a different place.

    maybe its not a pendulum any more, maybe its more like a markov chain today. -a.v.

  50. Megan
    January 5th, 2014 at 22:41 | #50


    I see that you made and earlier comment:

    Some of them were dead right like Barnaby Joyce being a bit of a bozo idiot who would implode

    followed by a later comment:

    I have a number of friends who went to top schools (the type of Prime Minister’s waltz out of) who naturally progressed to top universities and the higher-paying professions. Admittedly they are bright people but the type of school culture that was fostered made me realise that they were trained to be successful: student elections, publicly displaying academic results so no one can hide etc… If you are brought up in that environment you can understand how freshly minted 18 year olds can come out with the mix of ambition and charisma.

    And I was just wondering whether you are aware that the PM and Barnaby Joyce were both students at St. Ignatius’ College, Riverview – and only a few years apart?

    So it seems they “naturally” produce “bozo idiots”, if we are to use sweeping generalisations.

  51. Alan
    January 6th, 2014 at 14:35 | #51


    To be fair, the faustian proclamation was:

    …freshly minted 18 year olds can come out with the mix of ambition and charisma…

    Both Abbot and Joyce arguably have the right mix of charisma and ambition if you disregard the moral vacuity of their charisma and the policy impact of their ambitions.

  52. CJD
    January 8th, 2014 at 01:43 | #52

    Julie Thomas, your experiences among the upper crust seem very similar to my own, as a younger woman.

    Nice place to visit, sort of. Wouldn’t want to live there. Stuff of neurotic nightmares. And Zoot, I also know of plenty of elite children who went on to become some of the most dedicated junkies, dealers and con-artists you’d ever hope not to meet. All the money and prestige in the world won’t fix sick, broken minds. That’s the stuff of character money doesn’t buy.

  53. Julie Thomas
    January 8th, 2014 at 06:37 | #53


    But there were a few really nice boys who went to private schoos though. I took one of them to the Aquarius Festival.

    And I knew – not very well – two med students who were making acid to sell, in the uni labs.

    But with the parents, it was their bad taste I think, that was the turn off at the time; me being an art student and very avant garde. I really didn’t like the decor or style of the richer more conservative types; so stultifying. But the more ‘liberal’ ones who had come across the Japanese aesthetic I found a more worthy of some admiration.

  54. CJD
    January 8th, 2014 at 14:30 | #54

    Being an avant garde art student doesn’t tend to go down well in conservative circles nor the working class (generally speaking of course).

    Being green…same.

  55. Julie Thomas
    January 8th, 2014 at 15:16 | #55


    I think that might have been the point of being ‘avant garde’, for many art students lol – freedom from any rules. And then the hippies were like that too, when I became one of them. They were supposed to be for ‘freedom’ too.

    But the avant garde art students were so critical – and cruel in that critique – of the traditional artists and the hippies were so critical of the straights they were equally authoritarian.

    Human nature eh?

    It isn’t easy being Green as Kermit says. I’ve been called a watermelon too. 🙂 But even out here in regional conservative land where I live, I think it feels a bit more friendly to greenies like me, now that they have become used to us.

  56. CJD
    January 9th, 2014 at 08:49 | #56

    Well anyway. Life. Stuff. 🙂

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