Turnbull, political farceur

By September 8, 2017Australian Politics

One could be forgiven for occasionally believing Malcolm Turnbull is a comedian. That is mostly because, if one had arrived from another country knowing nothing about Australian politics, and was exposed to it de novo and unadorned, it would be a fair bet that you would think it was broad satire.

Firstly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull professes he is a strong leader because “strong leaders carry out their promises. Weak leaders break them. I’m a strong leader”1. This referred to the shemozzle of a voluntary, non-binding, postal plebiscite to precede a free vote in parliament to legalise same-sex marriage. Turnbull argued emphatically against a postal vote when he led the campaign for an Australian republic stating that a postal vote “flies in the face of democratic values”2. The change of heart by Malcolm Turnbull is largely in response to the squirrel grip in which the ultraconservatives in his party have him. That is because he made a Faustian bargain with them, and if he transgresses the terms of that agreement, there will be a slight squeeze of his testicles, just to remind him where the power lies. Real leaders do not have to convince people they are strong. The fact that Turnbull felt he had to state he is a strong leader meant that he is not.

Secondly, Turnbull has now come out and stated that Bill Shorten is the “most dangerous left-wing leader in generations”. He was talking to a Liberal Party audience, so it is not surprising that he flew off the handle in front of the blue-rinsed and moustachioed conservatives. After the ‘dangerous’ comment, Turnbull stated that Shorten is a “wholly owned subsidiary of militant, left-wing unions who have no regard for the rights of others let alone the law of the land”. This from the Liberal Party, a party that accepts large donations from large corporations that require a quid pro quo, mostly in attempting to support the dying thermal coal industry beyond any common sense4, keeping minimum wages and awards down and decreasing corporate taxes. You could easily argue that the Liberal Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of big business. Pot, kettle, black.

Finally there was the leaked transcript of the phonecall with US President Donald Trump4. One of the funniest items was when Turnbull stated that he and Trump had similar backgrounds (i.e. businessmen). Turnbull was probably chortling inside when he said this, as I am sure he knows that Trump has been bankrupt four times5. More ridiculous was the reference to the agreement with the Obama administration whereupon the US would take refugees from offshore detention, subject to US vetting. In the conversation Turnbull backed down and stated that the US didn’t actually have to do anything, except vet the refugees. There would be no obligation to take them. The only obligation was to go through the vetting process4.

It could be satire at its finest.


  1. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2016/s4715216.htm
  2. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/scorching-malcolm-turnbull-quotes-resurface-as-push-for-samesex-marriage-postal-plebiscite-grows-20170802-gxnpn0.html
  3. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bill-shorten-the-most-dangerous-left-wing-leader-in-generations-says-malcolm-turnbull-20170812-gxuug0.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/04/full-transcript-of-trumps-phone-call-with-australian-prime-minister-malcolm-turnbull
  5. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/21/carly-fiorina/trumps-four-bankruptcies/



  • Arthur Baker says:

    “It could be satire at its finest.”

    It could have been satire at its finest, except for the souring knowledge that the refugees caught in the middle of this long-running farce are real people with real lives, many of whom have real children whose futures are being sacrificed to this seemingly never-ending continuum of political expediency.

    Many of these people have been incarcerated on Nauru or Manus now for four years. Their mental health is wrecked. Some have been raped, some assaulted, some even killed, most of their kids’ educations are down the toilet, almost all have been traumatised, perhaps beyond repair. Their futures are insecure, and our Australian government refuses to address this beyond the insecure and unforcastable so-called “deal” with the USA. For those who are not accepted by the Trump regime, there is no Plan B, it seems. How many years do they have to live in these inhospitable Pacific gulags>

    Forgive me if I abstain from any semblance of laughter at what I might normally regard as satire. Satire usually has a self-inflated narcissistic laughable dickhead as its target. This satire, perhaps unintentionally, targets people who have fled their homes under persecution and languish in concentration camps of Australia’s making, rather than the people in successive governments who have created those camps.

    We should hang our heads in shame, rather than engage in laughter.

    • admin says:

      I agree with you. I still find its difficult to believe that both sides of politics thinks this is humane in any way. They say that they are interrupting the people smuggler’s business model, but what they are doing is effectively taking peoples’ lives to punish others. That is an appalling thing to do. At the risk of breaking Godwin’s law, the Nazis did that in France during WW2, and the Americans did that in Vietnam (we had to destroy that village in order to save it). To be blunt, I am so enraged, I don’t know how to attack it. I would end up typing with my fists.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        I’ve closely followed this unedifying saga for about 20 years now, reading widely about it, recording and collecting news items about it, and working voluntarily for nine years (2004-2013) as a senior refugee activist for a well-known human rights organisation. I guess you could call Australia’s refugee politics my personal obsession. I’ll be attending Getup’s national conference in Sydney later this month for one reason only – to try to ensure that the refugee issue achieves as high a place as possible on Getup’s policy priority list, and nail a commitment to stick with it for as long as it takes to rectify the damage already done.

        After 20 years of involvement in this matter, having watched and listened and read everything that has transpired in this sorry saga, I don’t think either of the major political parties actually does, any longer, think it’s remotely humane. But they don’t care. What they care about is political expediency. They will sacrifice any principle, any shred of human compassion or decency, and more importantly, any human being, no matter how helpless, powerless or vulnerable, for their main goal – to get elected into government. Because being in opposition sucks.

        It would be hard to find anyone on the face of the planet more helpless, powerless or vulnerable than a refugee child, but Australians will one day have to face up to the fact that both our major political parties, the only two who are remotely likely to form a government in this country, are quite happy to sacrifice refugee children’s futures, mental health, physical health, and in some cases even their very lives, in order to be elected to government. In other words, for their own self-aggrandisement and financial benefit. Such are the depths of disingenuousness and hypocrisy to which Australia’s mainstream politicians have sunk.

        In many cases, they have become what I call BOOBs – people who Believe One’s Own Bullshit. Penny Wong is one of many. Recently she has been prominent in the same-sex marriage debate, proclaiming her love for her own child, which is indisputably as great as the love of any heterosexual parent. What she never mentions are the refugee children her party’s policies condemn to a dismal future on Nauru. The ALP and the LNP are replete with such hypocrites, both gay and straight.

        20 years on from my first involvement in Australia’s refugee politics, I could probably list several hundred notable quotes. “We will decide who comes to this country …”. “Children overboard”. “Queue-jumpers”. The list is endless. But for me, the one which stands out, head and shoulders above the rest, is a quote from Trish Hindmarsh, an early childhood professional who lives near me on Sydney’s northern beaches. Her husband John Hindmarsh is a former ABC broadcaster, now retired, and is a strong refugee advocate in his own right – I am fortunate to count them both as my personal friends.

        Back in the early 2000s, Trish became aware of the plight of very young children in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre, and very much wanted to help. She was frustrated by the Howard government at every turn. Here is part of what she wrote in “Acting from the heart” (Eds Sarah Mares and Louise Newman, Finch Publishing, Sydney 2007):

        “For years I rang Howard’s office, Ruddock’s office, senior staff at DIMIA, the Opposition Leader’s office, confronting them with the suffering of the children. They did nothing. They can never, ever say they didn’t know. They did know – and they didn’t care. People with pure hearts preach forgiveness. I cannot forgive, and I hope those responsible are forever haunted by the horror of what they have done.”

        That’s it. They knew – but they didn’t care. I’m with Trish Hindmarsh in the no-forgiveness camp. I’ll pursue these knowing perpetrators to the International Criminal Court in The Hague until the day I die. And if I don’t live to see their prosecution for crimes against humanity, I’ll die happy if others, younger than me, are continuing the struggle. Because they knew – but they didn’t care.

        • admin says:


          I cannot forgive them either. I had friends, unfortunately all dead now who arrived as boat people from Vietnam. No wonder Malcolm Fraser departed the liberal party before he died. His effort in the 1970s was genuine and empathetic, compared to the disgrace that was Howard. I have seared in my memory his holding up a map of Australia effectively saying that land rights for aborigines was about taking over farms all over the country. Another christian liar, and now the malevolent little swine has come out against marriage equality.

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