Home > Oz Politics > For his own self-respect, Turnbull should quit

For his own self-respect, Turnbull should quit

July 29th, 2016

As I mentioned in my last post, Turnbull’s narrow win has left us with a government standing for nothing but delaying various inevitable outcomes, including
* equal marriage;
* participation in global action on climate change; and, most notably
* Turnbull’s removal from office, whether by voters or, more likely, by his own colleagues.

The “economic plan” on which the government was supposedly elected consists of a single element, a cut in company taxes mostly deferred far enough beyond the forward estimates to dodge the question of how it will be paid for. In any case, it’s dead in the water, as, in all likelihood is the pretext for the double dissolution, the ABCC bill.

Turnbull’s lame duck status was made farcically clear by Cabinet’s non-decision on Kevin Rudd’s proposed nomination as UN Secretary General. The Right-dominated party didn’t even bother to overrule Julie Bishop (and, pretty obviously, Turnbull’s own inclination). Instead, they told Turnbull to make a “captain’s call”, while making it clear that the wrong call would be fatal.

If Turnbull had any self-respect left, he’d resign and let this crew sort out their own mess. Instead, he gets to hang on in office, at the price of being made a fool of on a daily basis.

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  1. paul walter
    July 29th, 2016 at 20:20 | #1

    My challenge to John Quiggin is this: after all these years, finally put up a comment starter that I can even remotely disagree with.

    Perhaps I am just biased. To me, Turnbull is even worse than Abbott. He is an ice cold, back stabbing neo liberal.

  2. John Chapman
    July 29th, 2016 at 20:26 | #2

    Thanks John. Noted ! 🙂 John

  3. Lyn Gain
    July 29th, 2016 at 20:31 | #3

    Couldn’t agree more John. Self-respect – how can he even look at himself in a mirror. And now he’s fully exposed himself to public gaze, not able to hide behind Cabinet. This must be a blow to those people, and I’m sure there are a number, who keep thinking that Turnbull will pull off his ugly sister mask and turn out to be Cinderella. And this immediately on top of his appointing a racist judge with close links to the NT government to the job of Royal Commissioner into children’s detention in the NT, in the face of expressed dismay of indigenous people. The whole thing beggars belief.

  4. Moz of Yarramulla
    July 29th, 2016 at 21:56 | #4

    I don’t see it. The point is that he is Prime Minister. PRIME MINISTER. Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia. If you think of some pubescent schoolgirl using a glitter pen to write “Mrs Myname Boyband Heartthrob” on her schoolbooks, I think you have an accurate view of how Malcolm sees the current situation.

    At the point where he compromised everything to replace Tony Abbott, it became clear that he’s less interested in power and more interested in being seen as Prime Minister. He’s got the title, that’s what matters. The fact that his “legacy” will be the cementing in place of Abbotts initiatives and likely a few disasters all his own (appointing that particular Royal Commissioner seems likely to be the first for this sitting)

  5. Paul Foord
    July 29th, 2016 at 22:39 | #5

    I gather Scott Morrison is the likely replacement for Malcolm Turnbull, with Peter Dutton angling for the Deputy role. If we thought Tony Abbott was a wrecker I expect that pair would make him look good.

  6. Ikonoclast
    July 29th, 2016 at 23:16 | #6

    Ah, but there is your mistake, J.Q. I mean the assumption that Turnbull has any self-respect. Solipsistic narcissism is not self-respect. Self-respect requires other-respect and Turnbull displays none of that.

    So far as being a do-nothing government goes, this is now the neoliberal managerialist method par excellence. Once the gravy train is rattling along nicely with the silvertails in the dining car then there IS nothing else to do but let the good times roll… for them.

  7. Historyintime
    July 29th, 2016 at 23:38 | #7

    He is now owned by Arthur Sinodinos.

  8. GrueBleen
    July 30th, 2016 at 02:43 | #8

    C’mon, ProfQ, in the election campaign Turnbull promised to make protecting the role of CFA volunteers in Victoria the “first item of business” if the Coalition was re-elected. And I think JulieB went along with that too.

    So surely we’re about to see a flurry of activity to achieve that objective ?

    But if Ikono’s description of Turnbull as a “solipsistic narcissist” is correct, then what meaning does “respect” have for a solipsist ? And therefore what meaning can the idea of “self respect” have for Turnbull ?

  9. bjb
    July 30th, 2016 at 06:52 | #9

    Moz above is on the money. For most of his life MT has thought he was destined for great things, and now he has the top job, I suspect he’ll do anything t keep it.

  10. David
    July 30th, 2016 at 08:08 | #10

    re Malcolm and the Coalition government abuse of institutions and a few comments.
    ABCC emergency -We had the “100 CFMEU officials before the Courts” but no names were produced – same with the 1000S of charges. We had the hyena Cash and the FWBC boss misleading a Senate Committee with these “non-facts”.
    We had the dismantling of the RTST where apparently private driver/owners wished to have a judicially-sanctioned minimum rate for their transport established – come on !
    We had the CFA [non]crisis in Vic. identified by Malcolm during the election though being substantially a state matter and then before the FWC. This apparently affected results in at least the 2 seats of Corangamite and Chisolm there. A Liberal Party group was set up to create community disharmony. There were inconsistent swings against the general Victorian trend to Labor especially in “bush booths”.
    This coalition pattern of perverting societal institutions eg. as per Slipper[Courts] and Thomson [HSU with Jackson and Lawler of FWA] apparently has been taken up by Malcolm. Perhaps in a government with a majority of 1, one of these simmering scandals will bring down at least one member and thereby the government.
    We should not forget the “Utegate” affair also.
    Remember our own Pauline was set up by Abbott against whom there is overwhelming evidence of his providing false evidence to the AEC concerning the donors to his association set up to “get” Pauline. She still claims this was the genesis of her unjust jail time when she helped Valmae Beck ! Lets hope she feels a “woman scorned” and lets fly in the Senate – she is advised apparently by Slipper’s former loyal staffer Ashby. Abbott is only a member whose conviction could bring the government down if convicted under the Criminal Code.
    The AFP’s dilatoriness is another issue perhaps for later RC.

  11. John Quiggin
    July 30th, 2016 at 08:28 | #11

    I can see why he’d sell his soul to get the top job, but now that he’s proved he can get there, why hang on. To use Moz’ analogy, isn’t the fangirl’s dream all about the wedding?

  12. David
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:06 | #12

    July 30 at 8.08 am. Sorry in para. 2 I meant not “established” BUT removed.

  13. David Allen
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:07 | #13

    Turnbull was a dud at ute-gate but the moment he should have been finally cast out was when he white-anted the NBN. I know you’ve not been interested in the NBN John but this is a vital infrastructure project that was being built by experts, was going to be a river of gold for the government and would have boosted the economy in so many ways. This issue was not a he-said she-said type. (although the Murdoch media tried to paint it so) (and the ABC were prevented from reporting) This was an issue where there was 100% binary certainty that a full fibre rollout was the only way to proceed. Turnbull has utterly stuffed the NBN now. There is no return. It’s f*cked.

    Turnbull love has always amazed me. Where did it come from. Love of the rich? The private school accent? Pheromones? He is, in the vernacular, a c*nt.

  14. rog
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:09 | #14

    For all their faults Senators such as Pauline Hanson and Jacquie Lambie appear to have far more gumption than our vapid PM. The Rudd issue is the icing on his lighter than air sponge cake.

  15. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:20 | #15

    These are amusing speculations on M.T.’s character and motivations, and I have chipped in, but I will again ask the more fundamental question. Is the personality politics game one that will really shed any light on the important issues of politics and economics? Let me illustrate my point.

    I watched a bit of the Drum on the ABC the other day. It was, as usual, completely facile being concerned only with personality politics. Hillary and Donald were being discussed. In passing, someone mentioned that there had been no real wages growth in the USA for 40 years and none in Australia for 5 years, IIRC. This sounds about right to me but I would have to go and fact check to make sure precisely. However, this fact or alleged fact immediately sank without trace in the discussion. Even the person who brought it up let it sink.

    Today, we don’t appear to want to think about the tough stuff any more or about underlying reasons for things. Nobody on the show asked questions like this. “Well, why don’t we get wages growth anymore? Why are profits growing but not wages? Is this fair? What will happen if this trend continues indefinitely? Can we do anything about it? Can Hillary or Donald do anything about it? Will Hillary or Donald do anything about it? Has either of Hillary or Donald ever made a statement recognising this and outlining what they intend to do about it? If not, are Hillary and Donald any different when it comes to questions like poverty, inequality, unemployment and helping the working poor? Why do we get no fundamental policy changes effecting positive changes on these issues even when we change governments?”

  16. Ikonoclast
  17. rog
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:27 | #17

    @Ikonoclast It’s non leaders like Turnbull that turn voters towards extremes such as Brexit and Trump. For all her perceived errors Hillary Clinton has taken notice of Bernie Sanders and has adopted some of his proposals, how they will be converted into policy remains to be seen.

    By comparison Turnbull seems to be a dead man walking.

  18. Latebowl
    July 30th, 2016 at 09:34 | #18

    Just a cut in the corporate tax rate? “Starving the beast” has always been the Liberal’s number one goal. Everything is about cutting taxes, the rest is just a sideshow. Viewed through this lens and all of what appear to be stupid policies suddenly make perfect sense. Hockey’s first budget being the most obvious example.

  19. Ernestine Gross
    July 30th, 2016 at 11:49 | #19

    I agree with Ikonoclast regarding too much emphasis being placed on personalities (and celebrities) in the media. There is also too much emphasis for my liking on who will win and too many guesses as to the strategies of the players.

    From my perspective, the Coalition doesn’t have the ‘core property’ (see game theory) in the policy area. (The ALP didn’t have it during the Rudd-Gillard era.)

    On the corporate tax rate policy, the Mr Turnbull once provided the following reasoning. Investment decisions are made at time t (say now) on the basis of future expected after tax returns. (This is Finance, taught by accountants.) Large investments (by large corporations) will take the future tax cuts into account (because it enters NPV calculations as taught by accountants). So far so good as far as corporate finance (as taught by accountants) is concerned. But Turnbull, possibly inadvertently, gave a perfect counterargument by noting that future governments can change these policies. Finance people call this an element of ‘country risk’.

    There are multiple interpretations of Turnbull’s statements. One of them is, it is an atempt to attract foreign investors on dubious grounds. Another one is, any multinational properly schooled in corporate finance would seek some other assurances (say via state governments) that the foreshadowed tax rate cuts will be cashed in via some contract. Etc, etc.

    It is not good policy. Full stop.

  20. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2016 at 11:52 | #20


    Well, you see, I do not buy into this particular “leadership” myth of contemporary society. Once again, that is part of personality politics and the cult of personality. The “leadership” myth of contemporary society holds that only a special few, the “leaders”, can actually come up with new, better ideas and lead. This myth holds that the entirety of the people do not have, even in the aggregate as a community with combined, distributed intelligence, the competence and foresight of a single, elite-skilled leader. I just don’t buy that myth. Wide ranges of individual competence and intelligence certainly do exist. But the idea that one “leader” can lead better than the complete distributed intelligence, of which he/she is inescapably a part, has a number of problems attached to it.

    Of course, the realisation, harnessing and “cooperativeising” of group intelligence also has many problems. Therein lies the whole dilemma of political direction in terms of mass will versus executive command. I should either write very little or very much on this topic. I better stick with very little in this thread. Suffice it to say, we need to look at coalescing around agreed leading principles much more than around selected leading humans. That’s what we do for example when we value democracy over Malcolm Turnbull. It’s a mode of thinking we need to make much more explicit in our political theory and practice than it currently is. Heavens, I wish we could rise above mere personality politics and the cult of personality in general. Of course, this system loves personality politics. It is a great smokescreen for hiding what the real power relations are.

  21. Ernestine Gross
    July 30th, 2016 at 11:53 | #21

    Having reading glasses doesn’t seem to eliminate my typos. Attempt (rather than atempt), the ‘the’ in front of Mr Turnbull is a mistake, too. Sorry.

  22. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2016 at 12:12 | #22

    @Ernestine Gross

    “Core property”. This is another one of those concepts I am not equipped to understand because of my lack of education in such a field.

    From what I see on Wikipedia, there is “the core” in general equilibrium theory (which I can’t grasp at all) and then there is “the core” in voting theory. I’ll make a wild guess and assume you mean the latter in this case.

    “When alternatives are allocations (list of consumption bundles), it is natural to assume that any nonempty subsets of individuals can block a given allocation. When alternatives are public (such as the amount of a certain public good), however, it is more appropriate to assume that only the coalitions that are large enough can block a given alternative. The collection of such large (“winning”) coalitions is called a simple game. The core of a simple game with respect to a profile of preferences is based on the idea that only winning coalitions can reject an alternative “x” in favor of another alternative “y”. A necessary and sufficient condition for the core to be nonempty for all profile of preferences, is provided in terms of the Nakamura number for the simple game.” – Wikipedia.

    I assume from context and hints that you mean Rudd-Gillard did not control the Senate and neither does Turnbull. Is this right?

  23. Moz of Yarramulla
    July 30th, 2016 at 13:01 | #23

    I suspect Turnbull is also now wondering what he’s supposed to do. Ideally he’d step down gracefully without seeming to be pushed, then live happily ever after. The trick is to do just enough now to endear himself to the granters of knighthoods later. The tax cut seems to be his chosen vehicle – it’ll kick in just at the right time.

    Not that I am accusing him of having any grand strategy, it’s clear now that his forte is tactics. If he had strategic nous he’d … oooh, wait. The day parliament resumes, Labour will be presenting their two-same-sex-people marriage bill, and that is when the hammer will fall. Malcolm will declare “the Liberals do not whip”, leading a band of liberal Liberals across the floor in support. The bigot Liberals will lose what remains of their grip and the foaming tirades that result will finally turn the nation against them. Victory #2 for the “Doctor’s Wives” club!

  24. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2016 at 13:35 | #24

    There is a neat, almost Haiku-like poem by Emily Dickinson which we could imagine being addressed by any obscure citizen to Malcolm Turnbull.

    “I’m Nobody! Who are you?
    Are you – Nobody – too?
    Then there’s a pair of us!
    Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    How public – like a Frog –
    To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
    To an admiring Bog!”

  25. John Quiggin
    July 30th, 2016 at 14:55 | #25

    @David Allen

    I actually am interested in the NBN. I just don’t get time to write about everything that interests me very often, but I had my say a few years ago


  26. John Quiggin
    July 30th, 2016 at 15:08 | #26
  27. GrueBleen
    July 30th, 2016 at 15:40 | #27

    @Ernestine Gross

    Oh yeah, EG, tell me about it [sigh <- umm, that's me sighing for me in case there's any confusion, but also expressing kindred empathy for you.]

  28. GrueBleen
    July 30th, 2016 at 16:10 | #28


    Re your #15.

    I don’t want to enter into the ‘personality politics’ game, Ikono, but Turnbull, at least to the best of my ability to discern, is human, and humans, so I’m reliably told, have ‘personalities’. Frankly I think that humans are just conditioned rule processing machines: abstracting “rules” from their worldly interactions and then incorporating the result into their conditioning. Yeah, I know that’s just old fashioned B F Skinner and all the world is a big sand pit, but he really could train animals well. And very quickly.

    Anyway, to revert to the idea of ‘personalities’, then Turnbull has one and I confess to being just a little bit interested in delineating it. So:

    I appreciate your solipsistic narcissist judgment, and it isn’t all that different from my own first take – but then I didn’t update from DSM IVR to DSM V so I don’t know if solipsism is included in the mental model pantheon yet (but if not, it should be).

    However, I was tempted to reminisce about the Great Triumvirate: Freud, Jung and Adler. Frankly I never cared much for Freud or Jung, but Adler interested me. He had this thing about ‘feelings’ and ‘complexes’ as though human beings actually had some kind of operational consciousness (which is why he repudiated Freud). So, kinda ‘quoting’ Adler, we could say that Turnbull has “massive superiority feelings to compensate for an underlying inferiority complex”. The inferiority complex coming from his ‘poor boy’ childhood together with some kind of passive (or active) rejection by his more affluent private school ‘mates’. And his later, working-life ‘mates’ too.

    Don’t you, at heart, agree ?

    On the other hand, you might just think we’re acting like foolish Eloi while the Morlocks gather all around us.

    And since we are kinda covering the multiple failings of Turnbull, there’s one that hasn’t been mentioned so far but which I find to be very significant: Turnbull’s behavior towards Brendan Nelson when Nelson was Libs leader, viz, calling Brendan or bursting into his office to harangue him on all the myriad things Turnbull was sure Nelson was getting and/or doing wrong. Strangely, there’s no stories I’ve seen that indicate he did it to Abbott … I wonder why ?

    But how’s that for evidence of massive “superiority feelings” vis-à-vis Nelson and an underlying “inferiority complex” vis-à-vis Abbott. Or something.

  29. GrueBleen
    July 30th, 2016 at 16:18 | #29


    Your #24

    Well yeah, Ikono, a nice choice of poet and poem. But how about William Hughes Mearns and at least the first verse of Antigonish:

    Yesterday upon the stair
    I met a man who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    I wish, I wish he’d go away.

  30. Lyn Gain
    July 30th, 2016 at 16:26 | #30

    But I understand that Arthur was one of those who backed Rudd’s nomination.

  31. GrueBleen
    July 30th, 2016 at 16:40 | #31


    Re your #20

    Now there’s more than one possible take on this leadership thing, Ikono. Let me introduce you to a decision theory approach that may put things in better context. Quite a few years ago, I became something of a fan of a gentleman called Andreas Faludi and his most excellent book ‘Planning Theory’ Faludi was indeed an urban and regional planner, and apart from having the most usefully accurate analysis of various planning approaches and methodologies, he had some remarks to make about decisions.

    Faludi broke decisions into two aspects: decision ‘making’ and decision ‘taking’. The ‘making’ side of it, Faludi insisted, was the domain of specialists (those who understood both the theory of planning, and theory in planning). The makers takes the issue/problem/ whatever and work out a clear statement of objectives, an analysis of the ‘action space’ (ie all the things you can and can’t do legally or fiscally), a clear statement of both the restraints and the constraints and their impact on the action space and hence arrive at a problem solution and a design for action based on their technical expertise

    So far, so good. But now comes the ‘leadership’ bit: any action plan needs resources (fiscal, personnel etc) and it needs to be proposed and pushed, all the risks and rewards accepted and promoted and when the plan is accepted, it must be continually protected from the meddling of those who oppose it and the death wishes of those who support it. This, Faludi calls ‘decision taking’.

    So, Ikono, unless a Prime Minister is a very, very accomplished person (like Rudd may have been and Turnbull thinks himself to be), there is a clear division of responsibility – and a very clear role for the ‘taker’.

  32. rog
    July 30th, 2016 at 18:30 | #32

    @Ikonoclast It’s not a myth, people everywhere are looking for a strong competent leader. To deny this is to deny evolution.

  33. Ikonoclast
    July 30th, 2016 at 20:32 | #33


    From the way you express it, it seems like this is a self-evident truth to you. But invoking “evolution” and applying it inappropriately in such contexts can lead on to Social Darwinist thinking.

    While it might be clear enough what “strong” leadership means in animal groups like wolf packs (alpha animal dominance as sheer fighting ability) it becomes an ever more complicated thing for complex modern human societies. The physical strength requirement is gone. Intelligence and cunning no doubt remain as requirements. However, a good argument can be made that the “strong” leaders our system now throws up are the most adept liars, the strongest liars. Their competence claims are clearly fake. Look at the lies and idiotic incompetence of Bush, Blair, Howard, Abbott and Turnbull to name a few. So we have to ask ourselves why our system is maladaptively throwing up such poor leaders and whether our infantile and archaic need for single “strong” leaders needs to be reappraised and our model moved to more collective decision making.

  34. Joshua
    July 30th, 2016 at 20:58 | #34

    @Moz of Yarramulla
    I would argue, in fact, that Turnbull is absolutely shite at tactics as well. The Double Dissolution was a failure on both a tactical and a strategic level, he showed himself to be terrible at tactics in the UteGate affair, and he was strategically humiliated in the Republican Referendum. He strikes me as more of a garden-variety hollow man; he projects the image that he knows what he is doing, but fails miserably every time he actually has to do anything.

    My evidence includes the entirety of his Prime Ministership, his failed NBN as Communications Minister, his original stint at the Liberal Paty leadership in 2009, the Republican Referendum and its preceding Constitutional Convention, and his entire business career, which is only seen as successful because OzeMail was purchased for a grossly inflated sum. Even his legal career, which launched his stardom, was not great; several of my law student friends described the Spycatcher case as “virtually impossible to lose.”

    Basically, Turnbull is a less crazy, more progressive, and not-orange Donald Trump. He’s the respectable con-man, not the sleazy one.

  35. Vegetarian
    July 30th, 2016 at 21:54 | #35

    @David Allen
    I used to admire Turnbull because when a journalist asked him a question, he just seemed to try to answer it – like anyone would!
    but now I agree with Keating – he has no political sense. His utterances now sound like a corporate pep talk.

  36. John Goss
    July 30th, 2016 at 22:20 | #36

    Let me make a prediction. Malcolm Turnbull will announce he is standing down as Prime Minister in 2018 in the year he will turn 64, on the grounds that he could not commit to serving a full term after the 2019 election given his age, so therefore it was best that he stood down in 2018 and let a younger person take the reins going into the election.
    Scott Morrison would then take over.
    I suspect the deal has already been done, and it may even be in writing.
    And the humiliation of Turnbull over Rudd is just Morrison (with cheerleading from the Nationals) rubbing it in.

  37. John Goss
    July 30th, 2016 at 22:40 | #37

    Let me also note that the Expenditure Review Committee (ERC) is currently Turnbull, Morrison, Cormann, O’Dwyer, Porter, Sinodinos and Joyce. The membership of the new ERC will be revealing. I suspect O’Dwyer will be dropped, and another National added – probably Fiona Nash. I think Sinodinos may even be dropped and Frydenberg added instead.
    Regardless, the new ERC will be absolutely dominated by the conservatives.

  38. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 08:09 | #38

    @John Goss

    Which raises the question of why Turnbull wanted the job in the first place. (Here’s me speculating in the personality politics vein). Did Malcolm just want his photo on Prime Ministers’ Row? Did he think he could actually achieve anything? Was he selflessly saving us from Tony? (Just kidding.) Perhaps he thought he could get a good majority and win the Senate in the last election. In which case his legislative program was… er um… what was his legislative program?

  39. Neil
    July 31st, 2016 at 11:54 | #39


    “To deny this is to deny evolution.”.

    For most of human history, we lived in egalitarian bands. Even when big men emerged, everything had to be done through negotiation (or the big man was quickly toppled). This is pretty uncontroversial among ancient archeologists. *The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire* is a non-technical overview.

  40. Newtownian
    July 31st, 2016 at 12:15 | #40

    rog :
    @Ikonoclast It’s not a myth, people everywhere are looking for a strong competent leader. To deny this is to deny evolution.

    Probably true and nicely satirised by Life of Brian in the “he’s not the messiah he’s a very naughty boy” scene.

    The trouble is the viability of a ‘strong competent leader” has been undermined by the evolution of human society. To illustrate:

    – To understand complex issues ministers rely on a one page ministerial and the in fact senior business managers rely on even less. In the oversimplification of the eight second sound bite prevents senior politicians from really understanding issues beyond the superficial/sound bite level except where the issue is one of their pet hobbies personal interests or obsessions.
    – Malcolm being a lawyer has had to master this stuff for the purposes of advocacy and he appears to be good at it. However man’s got to know his limitations and maybe this is why Trump is currently successful. He knows his limitations so he doesnt even try. Malcolm on the other hand is still trying but like Gillard and Rudd he is out of his depth.
    – In times past the world was simpler for the West at least as there was a simple left right split framework that drove our thinking and simplified things. China Islam Finance etc. were not so much out of control and so were secondary externalities. And a leader’s decision options and choices were usually pretty obvious.
    – And people were getting wealthier on average so discontent was constrained and a leader could claim responsibility even though their contribution might be marginal.

    Thus we are now faced perhaps with the inviability of the strong competent leader model and Turnbull being a victim of this change just as Menzies was beneficiary.

  41. bjb
    July 31st, 2016 at 14:39 | #41


    Not too sure about Turnbull trying to answer journalists questions – my memory of a younger Turnbull was someone very eager to threaten litigation if he didn’t like the tone of questioning.

  42. tony lynch
    July 31st, 2016 at 14:43 | #42

    Touching you think there is any doubt here.

  43. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 15:32 | #43

    The problem with the notion of “leader” and with the appellations “strong” and “competent” in connection with “leader” is that the definitions of these qualities are all in the mind of the one making the definitions.

    Thus a “leader” is someone heading in the direction that I want to go. Someone heading in a direction I don’t want to go is not my leader. The difference between a leader (one I will actually follow) and me might be one of strength or competence or persuasiveness. The difference could alternatively be that the leader and I, although both wanting to go the same way, and having generally comparable qualities, have yet made different assessments of the rewards and risks of leading and the rewards and risks of following.

    “Leaders” and “followers” don’t exist except in relation to each other. There is a dynamic at work. We should always remember Tolstoy’s ship analogy. Is the foam bow-wave that froths ahead of the ship leading the ship in terms of actually steering it? Of course not. Likewise much modern political and diplomatic activity is just froth ahead of where the great material-political ship is heading in any case. Are “leaders” those who figure out, or guess, where the trends are going and then run ahead to appear to be leading?

    What is a “strong” leader? One who drone strikes weak and innocent women and children half a world away? One who tells the people only what they want to hear? “Don’t let anyone tell you we are not the greatest nation on earth.” Or is a leader one who tells people truths about themselves and their world that they don’t want hear? Like a Jeremiah perhaps. Self-insight is rarely pleasant. In the modern context a truth-teller will never get elected. Those who repeat the myths and shibboleths of modern hubris (a mix of religious, ideological and scientistic-humanist fundamentalisms) will get elected. Yet the truly strong person would stand up, tell the unpleasant truths and then immediately be ostracised and politically destroyed; at least in our current system which functions on its myriad myths and lies.

    Note: I deliberately used “scientistic-humanist” rather than “scientific-humanist”.

  44. rog
    July 31st, 2016 at 15:37 | #44

    By “strong” I don’t mean big teeth and big muscles I mean the ability to gain and hold the support of the group; group could be family, tribe or nation.

    At one point Turnbull had the support of the nation but appears to be unable to hold it.

  45. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 16:29 | #45


    “By strong… I mean the ability to gain and hold the support of the group; group could be family, tribe or nation.

    I am so tempted to type at this point what would simply be a proof of Godwin’s Law.

    Must… resist… temptation. 🙂

  46. Jim Rose
    July 31st, 2016 at 16:38 | #46

    But he won the election but everyone expected the Liberals to lose 9 months ago. Labour is still labouring under the misapprehension that they did not lose the last election. They did. They were slaughtered in South Australia by NXT. 42% of one nation voters are labour.

  47. FREDDO
    July 31st, 2016 at 17:07 | #47

    Malcolm Turnbull and self-respect have never met.

  48. FREDDO
    July 31st, 2016 at 17:17 | #48

    How anyone ever thought that a man who learnt his business ethics at the feet of Kerry Packer could ever amount to anything and was suitable to be PM of this country is beyond me. He only supported a republic and climate change because they were trendy issues he saw as a launch-pad for his own ambition. Both bit him on the arse and he dropped them. Truly, one of the great con-men of Australian political history.

  49. FREDDO
    July 31st, 2016 at 17:23 | #49

    Turnbull only wanted to be Prime Minister so that he could be Prime Minister. It was the big box on his bucket list. His massive sense of entitlement told him he deserved to be PM and he has achieved that goal. He has no shame. He has no dignity. He has NOTHING inside. So he will sit on top of the dung-hill, crowing away, until Sco-Mo knocks him off.

  50. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 19:51 | #50


    “Truly, one of the great con-men of Australian political history.”

    Maybe… but there sure as heck is a lot of competition for that title. 🙂

  51. hc
    July 31st, 2016 at 19:52 | #51

    Labor lost the election because they were a hopeless government. Time for Labor supporters to move on and to forget about bucketing Turnbull in the hope that this will somehow dislodge the conservatives. I voted Labor when Abbott was leader and now vote will vote Liberal because Turnbull is streets ahead of Shorten. The decision on Rudd was sensible – his own party members recognized he was a hopeless manager with no people skills.

    The economy is doing OK and I don’t think there were huge imperatives to change the tax mix. It could never have addressed the adverse terms of trade shock over which no Australian politician exerts control.

    On climate change, the Coalition have been disappointing but that is democracy. Turnbull was the most eloquent supporter of pricing carbon – far better than anyone in Labor – but currently cannot get his party to shift. If he was deposed the situation for getting decent carbon pricing policies in Australia would be diminished – it would not help.

  52. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 20:16 | #52


    I disagree that the Australian economy is doing OK. Neither the Coalition nor Labor have any idea how to run the economy properly. Both are neoliberal in the main and are quite happy to tolerate 6% unemployment and an extended labour force under-utilisation rate of something like 13% (hard to get recent figures). These figures are a travesty but nobody in the major parties cares one iota. I can’t even recall a minor party mentioning these issues.

  53. hc
    July 31st, 2016 at 20:32 | #53

    The terms of trade shock we experienced was dramatic but the economy has adjusted reasonably well. The problems that remain are the high value of the Australian dollar and the persistent public sector deficits caused by squeamishness about cutting public spending on non-capital items and Labor obstructionism in the Senate. Shorten wanted to increase the deficits and the Australian public rejected this but the opposition to curtailing excessive government spending and/or refusing to increase taxes continues.

  54. FREDDO
    July 31st, 2016 at 20:59 | #54

    You’ll vote for Malcolm? Name one thing of substance that he has done in public life. Just one. He has wrecked havoc everywhere he’s gone (the NBN being the most outstanding example). Since he became PM there has been one gutless and stupid maneuver after another. If he gets even a sliver of a chance to f… up he takes it without doubt or hesitation. If “eloquence” is measured by the number of words required to state a simple concept, then he is the most eloquent man alive. People seem bedazzled by the fact that he’s made a lot of money. Big deal. Christopher Skase and Alan Bond made a lot of money too. I wouldn’t want them as PM either.
    Shorten, on the other hand, has real runs on the board in government, the NDIS being the most significant.

  55. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 21:30 | #55


    What about unemployment? Doesn’t that matter? There are 734,200 unemployed in Australia. Their situation means nothing?

  56. Ikonoclast
    July 31st, 2016 at 21:39 | #56

    Actually, the above are just the official numbers which are a heavily manipulated lie.

    Roy Morgan Research found as at February 05, 2016:

    “Now 2.575 million Australians (19.7% of the workforce) are unemployed or under-employed in January – third straight month over 19% of Australians are looking for work or more work…

    This month’s increase from 9.7% to 10.3% means the latest Roy Morgan unemployment estimate is now 4.5% higher than the figure currently quoted by the ABS for December 2015 (5.8%).”

    “Over the last four years in 47 out of 48 months total Australian unemployment and under-employment has been above 2 million Australians. This is a consistent trend that has not been addressed by either the former Gillard-Rudd Governments or as yet by the Abbott-Turnbull Government.”

    So, we pretend the economy is OK and the government supplies rigged figures. The reality out in society is much, much worse than is being acknowledged or shown on the mainstream media.

  57. Ivor
    July 31st, 2016 at 22:47 | #57


    This is a very dogmatic approach to the dilemmas facing Australia.

    You do realise that the cuts you want to public spending will dump entire families into pauperism?

    The solution to deficits, even under capitalism, is to increase taxes on profits.

  58. Suburbanite
    July 31st, 2016 at 22:55 | #58

    hc :
    Labor lost the election because they were a hopeless government.

    Well, you make a compelling case with your argument – and I guess this is why the LNP was re-elected with a strong mandate and a majority in the upper house…. I suspect you are going to be in for some confusing times. Turnbull isn’t going to last the term and he has just proven to everyone who isn’t reading the Australian that he has no authority.

  59. wmmbb
    July 31st, 2016 at 23:37 | #59

    Could it be that both Turnbull and Rudd are solipsistic narcissists? If so, Malcolm will be absolutely hopeless in dealing with the cross benchers (Arfur may well be the answer, but that presupposes
    self -awareness. Catch 22.) One double disillusion is never enough.

  60. GrueBleen
    August 1st, 2016 at 03:17 | #60


    Re your 33

    You ask: “So we have to ask ourselves why our system is maladaptively throwing up such poor leaders …”

    I thought, just for the sake of serene contemplation, that I might list all the people who have been Australian Prime Ministers since I was born (but not including Frank Forde or ‘Black Jack’ McEwan who were only very short term fillins). So, Ikono, what does this list tell you, or us, about “maladaptively throwing up such poor leaders” ?

    John Curtin
    Ben Chifley
    Robert Menzies
    Harold Holt
    John Gorton
    William McMahon
    Gough Whitlam
    Malcolm Fraser
    Robert hawke
    Paul Keaing
    John Howard
    Kevin Rudd
    Julia Gillard
    Tony Abbott
    Malcolm Turnbull

    That list covers 70+ years. Impressive lot, yes ?

  61. Ikonoclast
    August 1st, 2016 at 05:49 | #61


    The PMs I remember start at Harold Holt. It seems strange I don’t remember Menzies at all when I have other childhood memories which go back to 1960 at least.

    As one gets older and acquires more world experience, one can see how flawed each PM is. All I can see as far back as I can remember are a string of flawed and contemptible characters with the possible exceptions of Gorton and Whitlam. It seems like they might actually have been intelligent and decent human beings. It’s hard to tell at such a distance though.

    What baffles me is watching adults at the US party conventions carrying on like they are pre-teens at a Beatles concert. Don’t they realise how idiotic it is to hero worship people who are just in it for themselves and who are deceiving the populace? It’s the infantile desire for “leaders” which is holding us back from the next steps we need to take in social evolution. People who need leaders are held in contempt by those very leaders. Bjelke-Peterson expressed when he said, IIRC, “People are children.” I think people remain children while they expect leaders to tell them how to run their own society.

  62. Dave
    August 1st, 2016 at 06:26 | #62

    The corporate memory here, on a variety of opinions, is marvelous (as is the enduring and inspiring commitment to seeing this country get a better shake of the sauce bottle despite appalling cynicism from certain political leaders).

  63. Ikonoclast
    August 1st, 2016 at 06:39 | #63


    I view my memories more as anti-corporate. 🙂

  64. rog
    August 1st, 2016 at 07:38 | #64

    Those uncomfortable with the concept of leaders need only to look at the current US presidential process and the inexplicable rise of Trump, a hero to more than just a few.

  65. rog
    August 1st, 2016 at 08:18 | #65

    @hc Pre election Abbott made a number of promises that he broke when PM, which made him unpopular with the voter. Realising that they would lose the next election they changed leaders, installing Turnbull who’s advocacy had been more popular. Post election it seems that he is also not living up to his promise.

    Turnbull seems to catering to a minority ie the hard right and will suffer the consequences at the next election, should he make it that far.

  66. rog
    August 1st, 2016 at 08:38 | #66

    When you consider that Turnbull called a double dissolution over the failure of both houses to pass ABCC legislation and the result of that double dissolution was a reduced majority in both houses and still no passage of the ABCC legislation, I think it fair to say that it is Turnbull not Shorten who has lost the election

  67. Moz of Yarramulla
    August 1st, 2016 at 09:08 | #67


    I would argue, in fact, that Turnbull is absolutely shite at tactics as well

    I can’t disagree with your points there.

    I would count bollixing up the NBN as a tactical success since that’s what he was supposed to do. It was a strategic disaster and a good example of Turnbulls willingness to sacrifice the national interest for personal gain, but tactically it was sound. The Liberals had turned the NBN into an albatross for Labor, and I think no matter how they “turned it around under his brilliant leadership” it would still be seen as heavily Labor-oriented. If only because it’s socialist in nature, “everyone gets the same basic service” is just not a Liberal philosophy.

    He also managed to get the Liberal leadership twice, which says that at least at some level he’s got the tactical skills to get those votes. The counterpoint is that he gave away so much to get them that it has to count as poor tactically as well as strategically. Anyone can buy what they want if they’re willing to over-pay enough. I do wonder how much cash he put in, as well. Some of his backers in the Liberals are more known as money-men, so it’s at least possible that Turnbull influenced them in the most basic, venal of ways. By which I mean, of course, that he was a major source of funds for the campaign.

  68. derrida derider
    August 1st, 2016 at 10:16 | #68

    Na, Turnbull is one of the more capable people around – certainly more so than Rudd or Abbott. But being capable doesn’t much help if you’re put in a hopeless position (Gillard anyone?).

    Of course he is a power obsessed narcissist but then you don’t get to be PM unless you are. My theory is that anyone willing to do what it takes to become PM is ipso facto a deeply unbalanced person & therefore not fit to exercise the office.

    His main weakness is that he has chronically crook judgement of people (which is not at all the same as being stupid). A Howard would have known instinctively when the idea was first floated that he’d never get Rudd’s nomination past the tribal troglodytes in his Cabinet. Whether it was a good idea in the abstract is beside the point; that Rudd had no chance of landing the job and therefore his nomination was a cheap popular gesture was beyond the wit of those bigoted old white men.

    The narrowness of the win for the Coalition has paradoxically greatly strengthened the position of the uglies who were responsible for the Lib’s unpopularity in the first place. I see no chance of their being re-elected if the government does fall.

  69. GrueBleen
    August 1st, 2016 at 10:33 | #69


    Hmm, my limited memory of Gorton is that he was, indeed, a decent human being (aside from the usual complex of Aussie prejudices), but not quite bright enough. My recall of Whitlam (and I was in Canberra for much of his time) was that he was just a bit “too clever by half” and not a very good politician in the usual “taking the people along” terms – but I remember his ‘duumvirate’ time (with the Tasmanian Lance Barnard) of running Australia. Just 14 days (5 – 9 Dec, 1972), but very exciting at the time.

    The one who just might have been the best was Benedict Chifley – but when he lost the 1949 election I was but 6yo, so my memory of him is just about nil. He did a lot of good things though – the Snowy Mountain Schweme being just one of them (its construction began 17th Oct, 1949, just before Chifley lost the election of 10 Dec 1949.

    But your lack of memories of Menzies is entirely understandable, he wasn’t all that memorable – but I did see him live once in my teens at the Caulfield Town Hall (in Melbourne, boc). However, I do grant him much credit for picking up and implementing Chifley’s proposal for Commonwealth Scholarships (which I once had one of) and opening up the universities to many, many Australians, including me. Just imagine, Ikono, back in those days my Com. Schol paid my uni fees and paid me a (means tested) living allowance all so that I could go to Melbourne Uni so as to drop out in second year and become a hippy ! Happy Days !

    As to the leadership thing in general, I do commend to you, as previously expressed, a real need for capable ‘decision takers’ (as per Andreas Faludi). The best of our leaders have been fairly capable and passionate decision takers – not that the decisions they were taking were always good ideas, but they were fulfilling the true role of ‘leaders’.

    As to the Yanquis, well, keep in mind that, especially for Democrats, the big job ahead is GOTV (Get Out The Vote) – a little bit of Getting Out The Vote Getter Outers passion is forgivable, isn’t it ? Especially on behalf of the great ‘ceiling shatterer’ ?

  70. Troy Prideaux
    August 1st, 2016 at 10:34 | #70

    @derrida derider
    Agree 100%

  71. GrueBleen
    August 1st, 2016 at 11:46 | #71

    @derrida derider

    Your #67

    May I respectfully request your indulgence in a wee bit of role playing, DD. We are in the room where the Royal Commission Into The Very Costly Failure of the Copper N-not veryB-N. And you have just testified that “Turnbull is one of the more capable people around – certainly more so than Rudd or Abbott”

    And now when, as counsel assisting, I ask you: have you any evidence to support that remarkable perception, what would you reply ?

    Any evidence at all ?

  72. FREDDO
    August 1st, 2016 at 12:08 | #72

    Totally right. The greatest scam that capitalists pull is to claim that people who become rich are somehow talented or smart, when it’s far more important to be thuggish, greedy and dodgy.

  73. FREDDO
    August 1st, 2016 at 12:09 | #73

    @derrida derider
    On the issue of capacity: Rudd had the drive and ability to master Mandarin. Turnbull hasn’t even mastered his own language yet.

  74. Ernestine Gross
    August 1st, 2016 at 13:02 | #74


    1. Some observations on the 2016 election outcome. The biggest loser is the Liberal Party (lost 13 seats). Still the Coalition (three parties) won the election marginally (literally). Given the noises by Coalition MPs, this government doesn’t seem to have ‘the core property’ that is, there are members of the Coalition which, in terms of their policy payoff functions, have an incentive to form other coalitions. (I am not convinced these people think about feasible policies.) This makes it difficult for Turnbull (liberal).

    2. You say ‘the economy’ has adjusted well to the ‘terms of trade shock’ and there are two major problems, the high value of the A$ and the budget deficit.

    The terms of trade is a value based measure. Where is your terms of trade shock, given you say the A$ value is too high?

    I am not sure what you mean by ‘the economy’. If one were to use rough macro-economic statistics, then I’d say it is quite difficult to manage ‘the Australian economy’ such that it becomes a basket case quickly because of its natural endowments, relative to population size, and its institutional environment. (Canada is comparable.)

    While the notion of ‘optimal resource allocation’ (defined w.r.t. individuals’ preferences and resource constraints) is merely a theoretical benchmark, I would maintain it is a useful benchmark for forming an opinion on economic policies. Looking at ‘the economy’ a bit more closely the following observations are close to hand:
    *about 100,000 homeless people
    *6% unemployment (uneven across the country)
    *rental stress
    *house prices inconsistent with wage earnings, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne
    *road tolls in Sydney too high for wage earners living in outer suburbs
    *increasing wealth concentration (seriously inconsistent with minimum wealth constraint, given the foregoing observations)
    *student debt
    *high private debt to disposable income ratios and signs of increasing financial stress
    *budget deficit not declining

    You consider only one of the above financial economics (in the broader than accounting sense) items, namely the budget deficit. Moreover, you suggest an improvement in this one item was hindered by Labor (actually the Senate) by not allowing legislation aimed at reducing government expenditure to pass.

    hc, I can’t agree with you at all.

    To the best of my knowledge, there was no legislation to reduce government expenditure on
    – private health fund subsidies (even though there are many complaints from the public about the usefulness of privatge health, both financially as well as service)
    – private VET education subsidies (even though the ‘industry’ is anything but an education provider)
    – private schools subsidies (even though there is no shortage of concerns)
    – negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions
    – top marginal tax rate cuts during the years, when, according to your terminology, there was a terms of trade shock in the other direction.
    – superannuation tax subsidies for the high income and high wealth individuals
    – tax subsidies for the mining sector (including non-payment of super profit tax and non-payment of emission tax)

    The failure to reduce government tax expenditure has contributed to the list of economic problems, particularly the critical concentration of wealth and financial stress.

    The head of the ACCC recently announced he is now against privatisation on the basis of empirical evidence. A man, who is obviously closer to reality than naive macro-economics.

    Lets see whether the current government will at least adher to reducing the tax expenditure on superannuation for the wealthy. Lets see whether the deal with the French manufacturers of the submarines will work out as advertised locally, or not, as written about in the French press. Lets see what will come of the aim of reducing tax leakages in the multinational corporations sector.

    The long term corporate tax cuts aren’t good policy even from the perspective of finance, as taught by accountants.

    Personally, I do hope Malcolm Turnbull will last because I hope he can make a significant contribution toward changing the nature of public debate. I don’t mind him floating some ideas which come to nothing other than easy points to pick on by some journalists and some cheap points by some politicians at some critical times. Let the public see it is not easy to be Prime Minister of a Coalition government. I also hope Mr Shorten will continue and Mr Xenophone and Mr De Natalie and some MPs who serve as ministers or shadow ministers.

  75. David Allen
    August 1st, 2016 at 13:11 | #75

    Oh dear, poor Captain Turnbull’s Royal Commissioner pick has come unstuck already. Everything he touches….

    Has the LNP ever nominated a commissioner that didn’t make you feel sick. Are these (mostly) guys the best we have? Really?

  76. Beethoven
    August 1st, 2016 at 15:38 | #76

    @derrida derider

    anyone willing to do what it takes to become PM is ipso facto a deeply unbalanced person & therefore not fit to exercise the office.

    This is true. It’s hard to think of a single exception. Maybe Alfred Deakin.

  77. GrueBleen
    August 1st, 2016 at 16:46 | #77


    You could maybe add our very first: Edmund “Tosspot Toby” Barton who at least had the sense to get out of government and into a High Court sinecure at the earliest opportunity until his passing away in 1920.

  78. GrueBleen
    August 1st, 2016 at 17:07 | #78

    @Ernestine Gross

    That appears to be a very comprehensive analysis, Ernestine. Is there anything else of any importance regarding the Australia economy that you have left unsaid ?

    And who, apart from we benighteds, will take any notice of it ?

  79. FREDDO
    August 1st, 2016 at 18:25 | #79

    DAVID ALLEN: If you were picking the 30 smartest people in Parliament, not one of them would be LNP. Turnbull wouldn’t even get in the top 100.

    And now Turnbull is getting into a public fight with Rudd (but won’t deny the central allegation he gave Rudd encouragement for SGUN). What a moron. Just shut up Malcolm and get off the political stage. Your time is up.

  80. Donald Oats
    August 1st, 2016 at 22:41 | #80

    Rudd was angling for this role from a long time back. If Malcolm Turnbull had not the wit nor the device to manage what was an inevitable train smash if left to run the course, then his time as PM is very limited. Morrison and others have been talking up the extent of Turnbull’s opposition to Rudd for that UN role, and they have been establishing that that an implacably opposed Malcolm was on display some time before the cabinet meeting. This of course wounds Turnbull, for Turnbull in May had nonetheless put it to Rudd to sort out the process for getting (successfully) nominated.

    If Turnbull had put it to the theo-neo-cons to stump up a couple of worthy characters for the role (i.e. instead of Rudd), they could have had a true contest in which the candidates were selected on merit. If the theo-neo-cons couldn’t find a suitable alternative, then that would be their fault if Rudd remained the best choice, and Turnbull could have supported Rudd’s nomination by arguing it was more important than ever for Australia to take a hand in the UN and to fill such roles if possible. If he’d done that, there would have remained the likelihood that Rudd would have failed in the international contest for the UN role of secretary-general, yet if he won it would also look good for Australia.

    Leaving the whole issue as a live one for so many months, and then getting entrapped by the theo-neo-con rump both in cabinet and during the aftermath, well that wasn’t a smart play. Abbottian leadership lives on, to our enduring dismay.

  81. Ernestine Gross
    August 2nd, 2016 at 13:07 | #81


    A Coalition, which has members as described in the smh artile, linked below, doesn’t have the ‘core property’.


  82. Alphonse
    August 3rd, 2016 at 13:29 | #82


    Harry, you clearly disagree with the Keynesians and MMTers on the subject of private sector deficits (aka public sector surpluses). Why?

  83. August 3rd, 2016 at 15:54 | #83

    Just as well Rudd was dumped from that nomination. He would have lost to Helen Clark for sure, and then would have had to have spent the next 10 years backgrounding the international press, and sneaking around trying to get the numbers for a challenge in the general assembly.

    Also that video of him messing up Chinese and yelling about how awful it is would probably have not gone down well with certain influential international delegates …

  84. Ernestine Gross
    August 4th, 2016 at 08:34 | #84

    Climate science, CSIRO and Minister Hunt. According to an article in the smh of today, Minister Hunt has ordered CSIRO to ‘do a U-turn’ on climate science (ie reverse the previous decision to scale down climate research) and he announced additional funding.

  85. GrueBleen
    August 4th, 2016 at 13:43 | #85

    @Ernestine Gross

    Oh goody goody gumdrops. Now when is Walri Hunt going to get rid of that D__H__ Larry Marshall ? Waiting for him to finally go under in the Arasor case, perhaps ?

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