By ellymelly – If you enjoy my work, consider shouting me a coffee over on Ko-Fi
It is with great expectation and a heavy groan that journalists, politicians, enemies and the odd punter (who has picked up the book by mistake) open the cover on a nightmare.
Don’t panic: I read it so that you don’t have to.
Mind you, Turnbull’s memoirs aren’t really a poorly written, badly punctuated, never-ending ramble interspersed with the alarmingly regressive diary entries of a sociopath. No. They have mutated into a virus, working their way through the political database at 5G speeds. This isn’t your average infection but rather one of those malware infestations that do little more than cause your computer to emit snoring noises.
If you’re here for dramatic revelations, don’t bother – there weren’t any. If you came for trashy gossip, wait for the news headline. If you were hoping for an insight into the sacred machinations of our political system … I guess you’ll get that but I can’t promise you’ll like what you read.
We all know why a bored millionaire staring down a future of irrelevance and historical footnotes chose to squander a few years in reflection with a keyboard. Revenge is an easy motivation to sniff out. Aside from the publication of private conversations, WhatsApp messages and disclosure of his colleagues’ political motivations, I doubt Turnbull will get much traction dragging his fingernails down the curtain. The problem is, the juiciest bits have been whispered for years and the rest has been reliably guessed at.
Meanwhile, the shadow of the China Virus Bat-Eating Apocalypse shadows the release. If Turnbull was hoping to damage Scott Morrison by releasing the world’s least interesting murder mystery and longest trash mag, he needn’t have bothered. Australian politics and the Liberal Party are already working their way through the plagues of Egypt with his book fitting somewhere between frogs and locusts. China’s red waters are swamping the stammering media bandwidth and the only reason anyone’s even bothering with this (unbelievably long) text is the forced isolation.
This might explain why he has turned the book into a Trojan horse, creating a media storm around pdf copies that may or may not have drained out of the Prime Minister’s office to bait the press into snaffling them up and CTRL+F-ing their way through to see if they warranted a mention.
The 700-odd pages amounts to a Wikipedia entry of Malcolm’s life in minute detail with the (unintentionally) hilarious internal monologue of an unreliable narrator pretending to be a victim of fate rather than an orchestrator of his own chaos. The plot skips from palace to mansion, private jet to military chopper with about as much self-awareness as Trudeau blacking up.
One of the largest criticisms of Mr Harbourside Mansion was his inability to recognise that he was out of touch with the regular Australian. It’s a lesson he hasn’t learned. I have to say, I have never seen anyone this worried about global warming rack up so many frequent flyer points then joke about sometimes taking the train or going for the odd spot of canoeing to troll members of the press. The trappings of extreme privilege drip from the pages as Marie Antoinette’s crumbs scatter over the floor.
Fine. You’re all skimming through this for the stuff about Credlin and Abbott. Are you ready? Here you go. Prepare yourselves…
“In all my life, I’ve never known a leader more dominated by another than Abbott was by Credlin. Peta has always strongly denied that she and Tony were lovers. But if they were, that would have been the most unremarkable aspect of their friendship.”
There you have it – the dullest attempt at a scandal you will ever read. Thank god Turnbull doesn’t write romance or it’d be printed on an IKEA instruction manual. He mentions Credlin and Abbott repeatedly but the rest is your average sulking, complaining about her interior designing skills, and low-level bitching that amounts to, ‘I wish they’d go away’.
We are treated to a ‘rise to power’ and what he perceives to be his bloody murder, all interspersed with diary entries in which he laments poorly made jokes at dinner parties or monologuing like a Shakespearean extra with a sword held against his chest taking far too long to meet his inevitable death. Most of these diary entries are offered as self-justification (which are probably the bits his editor stopped at and asked if he was still trying to identify as a sympathetic protagonist) or more commonly he paints himself as the victim of scheming playmates. An interesting ploy. Perhaps Turnbull didn’t get the memo that playing the victim doesn’t work out so well if you’re a straight, rich, white male.
Personally, and I may be reading this through an unintended lens, I find his explanations for the way policy is written a real insight into everything that is wrong and broken with modern politics. Canberra is painted as a world in a constant state of panic with feathers of murdered MPs raining down over the building while the next press conference is being prepped. It is, as the BBC political drama ‘The Thick Of It’ correctly portrayed, a world dragged around by the nose of the press gallery. The sex scandals going on in those dusty stationery cupboards are producing policies designed to sound good, look good and move a Newspoll but when they enter their teenage years it is as drug dealing car thieves.
His lengthy discussions on the validity of raising the GST to 15% – something Scott Morrison liked the sound of so look out for that – was more about how loud the public would scream rather than how badly it might damage those who were already poor. When looking for money, at no point during the 700 pages does it occur to Turnbull or his government to cut back on their champagne lifestyle or Skype-in a few of their meetings. Indeed, Turnbull’s inconsistent logic surrounding Islamic terrorism and bewildering approach to international personalities makes you wonder how Australia survived with all of its States attached.
Spare a thought for old Malcolm. While sitting through the yo-yo-ing of Julie Bishop’s fatal bid for leadership (the first time), Turnbull reflects, ‘All of these discussions were taking place under the tightest secrecy. I was keeping my intentions to myself, receiving not transmitting.’ It must have been difficult keeping zip on one of the least remarkable murder plots in history. Anyone with access to a TV could see what the pair of them were up to, with Scott Morrison cruising around the edges lacking the charisma to step in front of Turnbull.
When the deed was done and Abbott lay like Caesar, Brutus – I mean – Turnbull painted himself as the saviour of Rome – I mean – #auspol. Julie Bishop was safely settled back in the nest and those whom he deemed, ‘Right Wing Nut Jobs’ were disposed of.
Throughout this ordeal, Turnbull soothed himself with quotes from Labor figures. His heroes are either members of the historical opposition or painfully woke celebrities (which says more about his politics than he intended). My personal favourite quote reads:
“Deluded self-belief is a useful prop for leaders, especially when beleaguered. I’ve always been pretty objective about myself, tending more towards self-criticism. I recognised this surge of support was a relief rally. Cate Blanchett spoke for many when she said to me, being rid of Abbott was like having a weight taken off your chest.”
After comparing the Liberal party to terrorists, I am left to wonder if Turnbull imagines himself as the ruling Sheikh. It certainly seems that way with the irony of which he sets up the cabinet after his anointment. By being instrumental in the removal of several senior women in power (Credlin and Bronwyn Bishop) he placated his moral narrative by ensuring that he put just enough tits into the cabinet to write himself a #metoo record before adding a culture-card appointment to round off his virtue badge. The positions of real power went to his friends, not his quotas. This came at the expense of a bit of casual ageism where he admitted during another drone to promoting the young at the requirement of moving on those in their sixties. A rule, I presume, he does not apply to himself. The oxymoron reads, ‘In short, my office was chosen on merit as was policy – and delivery oriented while remaining keenly political.’ He must be a god to force merit and politics to align to his fantasy cabinet.
Look, the book is not without its humour.
‘Former ministers who stay in parliament all too often become fixated on revenge – as we were to see with Abbott. For that reason, I wanted to encourage them to move on.’
‘I’ve always assumed people have a reasonable amount of self-awareness and Dutton had never struck me as being so self-delusional and narcissistic as to imagine that he could successfully lead the Liberal Party.’
‘The general consensus was that I’d handled myself capably on the international stage. I’d even been described as striking up bromances with my old mate from New Zealand and with the handsome new PM of Canada, Justin Trudeau.’
‘I’d developed an exaggerated reputation for being ‘tech savvy’ – Tony Abbott, on one occasion, credited me with having invented the internet; of course, that was all Al Gore, I hastened to add, tongue in cheek.’
‘This morning did my first interview with Alan Jones in two years – went well, he is a weirdo but we need to keep him relatively sweet for the next five weeks.’
This is practically stand-up by Canberra standards.
There’s plenty of foul-mouthed swearing too – not that this is anything to write home about in politics. The only incident of any enjoyment comes from ex-PM Kevin Rudd scratching around the Earth’s bureaucracies for an excuse to wander out in front of cameras. He eventually decided that he wanted to be Secretary General of the United Nations (I should have put this up in the comedy section).
In a moment of self-preservation, Turnbull turned Rudd down. It went well.
‘You little fucking rat, you piece of shit! I’m going to get you for this. I’m going to come down to Australia and campaign against you in every part of the country. I will remind them of Godwin fucking Grech, you…’
Tail between legs, Rudd went begging at Botswana’s door (I promise I’m not making this up). The revelation that Julie was all-for nominating Rudd for the position will go down looking more like a pair of Crocs rather than red heels in her footwear-based political epilogue.
There are some more serious errors in Turnbull’s judgement that he cannot hide under his nauseous diary entries. When it comes to the birth of Christopher Pyne’s disastrous diesel submarines – a mistake that just keeps on giving – he made the bizarre observation that Australia possessing nuclear subs might scare China. One would have thought that was rather the point. What does Turnbull think our defence fleet is for? At this point I’m amazed he didn’t ask the French to build them with fluffy dice strung around the snorkel.
Turnbull’s assessment of China is all the more disturbing. Like so many wined-and-dined businessmen who made their fortunes on China’s easy money, they are unable to see through the gloss into the stone cold heart of a dictator-led nation on a mission to conquer.
‘After all,’ the governor of Liaoning remarked thoughtfully one evening, ‘just because the majority of the people want to do something doesn’t mean it’s right.’
‘They were fascinated by my leadership of the Australian Republican Movement, and amazed that the Queen of England was still Australia’s head of state. One of our friends, in Shandong as I recall, joked, ‘In 1949 Mao said, ‘The Chinese people have stood up.’ So you should say, ‘The Australian people stand up!’’
Firstly, the governor general is Australia’s head of state – something Turnbull would know if he wasn’t so keen on being king. Secondly, the day we start taking advice on our democracy from Mao will be the day Turnbull’s book becomes a classic. By praising up the violent revolution it’s pretty clear this portion of the text is designed to ingratiate Turnbull with his future Chinese business ventures.
‘And indeed,’ goes the accompanying diary entry, ‘it is important to note China’s growth in power, both economic and military, has not been matched by any expansionist tendencies beyond reuniting Taiwan.’
Conquering. The word you’re looking for is conquering. All I can say is Turnbull must have been upgrading his software during the Hong Kong riots and terror of Tibet. I hate to bring Wuhan into this, but Turnbull is as blind as a bat when it comes to China’s long game. At least he later admits that China’s reef-building fancy is probably not a legitimate way to re-draw sovereign boundaries.
One thing is clear, Scott Morrison is and always was, Turnbull’s man. He has a wealth of bad ideas lurking around in the corners of his mind and if we take anything of note from this pile of trumped up gossip it should be the make of our current leader. His plots for leadership are naturally of no interest – pay more attention to the economic chapters.
At the end of the day, Turnbull has sacrificed a small forest to carve himself out a discounted plot in Australia’s history. To our allies worried about the publication of private conversations – don’t stress, Turnbull is a rare species bred in captivity on the verge of extinction. That aside, I definitely could have lived without Dutton’s imagery of Julie Bishop being ‘Turnbull in a skirt’.
As we draw to the end of all this nonsense, what we are left with is a bigger picture of a smaller man.