August 24

Malcolm Turnbull and the referendum

In a front page story in Australia’s largest circulating paper, The Sunday Telegraph (23/8) the campaign against Malcolm Turnbull has reached a new level. The pointer to Glen Milne’s report summarised the story: “Hawke, Beazley & Richo: “ Turnbull wanted to join us”, followed by the headline “MALCOLM’S MATES”

Curiously, that part of the front page had been torn off my delivered newspaper. And I’m in the  Wentworth electorate.

This story is intimately related to the great issue of Australia’s constitutional future.

In reply, Mr Turnbull told the Telegraph  "Political parties always seek to recruit people they think may be of talent and over the years a number of people inside the Labor Party have sought to recruit me.

"I've always treated these invitations politely. But actions speak louder than words and I have never joined the Labor Party.''



But former prime minister Bob Hawke told Glen Milne that Mr Turnbull approached him on November 6, 1999, at Sydney's Marriott Hotel following the referendum's defeat.Mr Hawke remembered the conversation clearly.

He says Mr Turnbull told him: "Bob, the only thing I can do now is join the Labor Party.''Former senior ALP staffer David Britton, founder of  the Labor lobbying firm HawkerBritton, told the Telegraph about a conversation with Mr Turnbull.

He said the opposition leader at the time of the referendum  was "deeply p….. off with Howard'' . He said he had a "very different social agenda'' to the then prime minister.Mr Turnbull allegedly told Mr Britton: "Don't you think Kim Beazley would like somebody like me as his finance spokesman?''

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the NSW Health Minister, John Della Bosca, was also approached by Mr Turnbull earlier in 1999 about securing an ALP NSW Senate seat.

Senior Labor figures told Glen Milne  Mr Turnbull raised his interest in becoming a Labor MP with the then ACTU secretary Bill Kelty as well.  However Mr Kelty declined to comment for the commendable reason that he never reveals the nature of private conversations.

…former ALP leader speaks….

Mr Beazley, the Opposition leader in 1999, confirmed to Mr. Milne that  he had a conversation with Mr Turnbull a year earlier at the Constitutional Convention.  Mr Beazley said  that Mr Turnbull used the conversation to explore his options of getting into politics through the Labor party. He says he rebuffed him. 

Former Labor minister Graham Richardson has affirmed the claim in he made in 2003 that Mr Turnbull had sought a safe Senate seat from him.  Mr Turnbull, seeking Liberal pre-selection for the seat of Wentworth at the time, labelled the claim a "lie".However, Mr Richardson this week told The Sunday Telegraph he stood by the claim. He said there were “a string of witnesses'' to the half-hour meeting with Mr Turnbull, which took place in his office.

..politicians' republic off the agenda…

Since being elected Mr. Turnbull has indicated that a ( politicians’) republic could only be achieved after this reign, provided  there were a consensus on the model and the opposition minimal. As Liberal leader he could not push the issue as it would divide the parliamentary party and outrage probably the majority of the rank and file membership.  



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