A revised history of Malcom Turnbull


There was no warm spirit of cooperation between Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd


I was speaking to a Liberal voting friend of mine the other day and happened to make a joke about Tony Abbott’s political abilities. Predictably he leapt to the defence of his would be Prime Minister and went on a somewhat protracted rant about it. In the course of his rant he did something I’ve noticed a number of Tony Abbott supporters do in recent months; he painted Malcolm Turnbull as a soft, ineffective figure of bipartisanship (as a contrast to Tony Abbott’s negativity). I have to say my recollection of the Turnbull leadership was rather different to this revised consensus and with very little effort found evidence to support my claim.

This edition of the ABC’s PM with Mark Colvin shows that at the time Turnbull was not perceived as a warm and fluffy push over but as a destructively negative political attack dog whose reckless negativity was a threat to Australia’s prosperity. Sound familiar?  In February 2009 as the Rudd government attempted to implement its 42 billion dollar stimulus package, the then Prime Minister declared to the parliament “Mr Speaker, those opposite have embarked upon a campaign of negativity, negativity, negativity.” In May 2009, after Turnbull delivered the oppositions budget right of reply, then Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen went on the ABC’s lateline program and said of the speechTonight from Mr Turnbull we got 30 minutes of negativity.”  Can you spot a theme developing?

Of course what Abbott supporters refer to was Turnbull’s support for the Rudd governments Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Except even that was bitterly opposed in a hostile debate. Far from working constructively to develop the scheme, Turnbull voted it down initially then submitted a list of ridiculously conservative proposed amendments to the government as part of the charade of negotiating in good faith. Much to the surprise of everyone, the Rudd government actually acceded to Turnbull’s demands in what was at the time perceived to be an enormous back down by Rudd.  In retrospect this might have been a glimpse of things to come for the Rudd government but in 2009 after Rudd so pathetically bowed to Turnbull’s whim, the opposition leader couldn’t very well have voted against it and kept face. A contemporary equivalent might be if Julia Gillard put a “Direct Action Scheme” before the parliament.

Just as Rudd’s demise was never really about polling, Turnbull’s was never really about climate change. He was a boorish leader, unpleasant to work with and scorning of his colleagues, but he certainly didn’t treat the Labor party any better. 


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