July 21

The Quality of Leadership

Since the 2007 election, the Liberal Party has had three leaders, Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.

Notwithstanding reports by some journalists who did not bother  to ask him, Brendan Nelson was not a republican. Now a diplomat, he is a committed constitutional monarchist.

Malcolm Turnbull was chairman of the republican movement from 1993 to 2000. Between 1993 and 1994, before entering Parliament, Tony Abbott was the first executive director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.

Brendan Nelson, a very decent man, had won the leadership against Malcolm Turnbull days after the Liberal defeat in 2007 by a margin of 45 votes to 42.


Apparently Malcolm Turnbull was not too happy about Brendan Nelson’s win. According to Tom Switzer in The Spectator Australia (10/7), a new book describes how Malcolm Turnbull demanded Brendan Nelson relinquish the opposition leadership within days of winning it.

…"your job is to get Brendan Nelson to resign"…

Peter Hendy, Nelson’s chief of staff (for whom Tom Switzer worked briefly during this period), is quoted as saying:

"Turnbull told me that my job was to get Brendan to resign in the next few weeks because Brendan was hopeless and he would damage the Liberal brand so much that by the time he, Turnbull, took over, the next election would no longer be winnable… I told him his suggestion was ridiculous, but he was absolutely serious and he kept calling and making it again and on occasions he called Brendan and made the same suggestion."

“Yet the interesting point about Turnbull’s arrogance and impetuousness is underplayed,” writes Tom Switzer. “After all, it was this character flaw that manifested itself so revealingly during the last few weeks of his leadership, with Turnbull’s lack of judgement and contempt for Coalition colleagues shining through in the ETS debate.”

“ His demented decision to help Labor rush through such contentious and complicated legislation on the eve of the Copenhagen fiasco deserves more scrutiny. It flew in the face of precedent for a man to lead a centre-right party while deliberately baiting the right wing, as Turnbull did time and again. The authors can’t bring themselves to say that Turnbull was wrong on this issue, and that the much-reviled critics of the ETS — Minchin, Robb, Joyce, Tuckey — were right.”

…book written from the perspective of two political losers… 

Tom Switzer says the book,” Sh**storm: Inside Labor’s Darkest Days” by Lenore Taylor & David Uren published by Melbourne University Press at first this seems a simple, intriguing little tale about how Australia weathered the global financial crisis.

“But be warned,” he says. “Not only is the book marred by a title that reflects poorly on a leading university publisher, it is essentially written from the perspective of two political losers: Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd. Notwithstanding some qualifications, the authors agree with Labor’s explanation for its response to what the former prime minister called a ‘shitstorm’ in early 2009. They also appear to sympathise with the former Liberal leader’s view of the Coalition debate over climate change. Both arguments are wrong.”

“Take the financial crisis. It strains credulity when the authors contend that the Rudd government saw the global economic storm coming. “

Tom Switzer says this  book is "another reminder that when the Canberra Press Gallery journalists agree with each other, they are almost always wrong."

" Rudd did not have such an interesting prime ministership, however much significance the authors of this book try to attach to his government’s role in surviving the global crisis. The only plausible line in this book is the last sentence. ‘The political sh**storm may be wilder and more damaging than Kevin Rudd ever imagined.’ Neither the authors nor Rudd himself could have imaged that it would become so wild and damaging that it would destroy his prime ministership before the election."  




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