October 7

A déjà vu dilemma

Malcolm Turnbull is under siege, desperate to swing votes by force of his personality, the authority of his leadership, and by an appeal to protect the nation’s future, writes Malcolm Farr in the Daily Telgraph, “Malcolm Turnbull on the horns of a déjà vu dilemma” (5/10).

It was only a matter of time before some writer would compare the Leader of the Opposition’s performance with his leadership of the republican movement at the 1998 Constitutional Convention.

ACM is of course non political and has no view on who should be Leader or indeed Prime Minister. But the analogy is interesting. ACM was at the Convention, the largest group after the ARM. The recollections are interesting as is Malcolm Farr’s comparison. ( He is a republican, as are most political journalists)


“In a fascinating convergence of massive personas, Turnbull ran the republican operation alongside Labor’s Gareth Evans, another giant ego,” he writes. Asked which ego prevailed, a rupublican campaigner recently joked, “Gareth conceded defeat.’’

“Turnbull was everywhere and ruthless.

“At one point Peter Beattie, then Labor’s Opposition Leader in Queensland, spoke on a motion about voting procedure after which Turnbull took him outside the convention venue, the chamber in Old Parliament House.

“Beattie returned a few minutes later and changed his vote. Asked why, he said laughing: “I’ve been persuaded to see the light.’’

…broke the heart of the nation…

Mr. Turnbull today still relies on the brute strength of his personality, says Malcom Farr. He “still is ready to take issues to the brink, and remains convinced that he knows what is best for Australia. Those elements are summed up by his warning last Friday that if the Liberals don’t accept his ETS policy he won’t be able to stay on as Opposition Leader.

“Nothing has changed,’’ said a veteran of the ConCon.

“Watching Turnbull from across the republican divide back in early 1998 was Sir David Smith, a senior figure among the monarchists and “former private secretary to five Governors-General.

In his 2005 book, Head of State, Sir David “wrote about Turnbull’s confrontational style which appeared in yet another debate on voting procedure: “As soon as we had spoken, Turnbull strode across the chamber to us and said: `If you go ahead with your amendment, all deals are off’.

“To which (former Liberal senator Reg) Withers replied: `We made no deals with you, Malcolm, so push off .’’

Malcolm Farr ends his column by suggesting that the Prime Minister could at some future stage paraphrase the words Malcolm Turnbull used against monarchist PM John Howard in 1999.

“He was the Opposition Leader who broke the heart of the nation.’’  


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