There were so many potential narratives which could have defined Malcolm Turnbull’s political career, but none of them have proven interesting enough to cement his position in Australian history. It is more likely than not that he will be one of those “in between” prime ministers, whose name we remember, but of whom we remember nothing.
This very point was pressed home hard on Turnbull’s garrulous Q and A performance on the ABC recently. His and his party’s obsession with personality and petty rivalry was on full display as he flung accusations toward his former colleagues of ‘madness’ for having ousted him as party leader. I detect nothing short of egoism in this, since there is nothing to be garnered politically from this, as his party is already on the nose in the polls and he himself has ‘quit’ politics. Just a heads up, Mal, sniping from the sidelines is not any more chivalrous once you’ve quit the parliament; you’re still an Abbott-esque menace.
The man, to be fair, is only doing what is in his own self-interest, which is in keeping with the doctrine of his party and the entirety of his public life. The decision to challenge Tony for the top job was made on no other basis than ‘I want it.’ The justification of polls and anti-intellectualism from the Abbott camp was a thin veneer for Turnbull’s cunning, and his ultimate undoing.
Therein lies the issue with Turnbull. He regards himself as having been cut short of his full tenure, without any consideration for what his tenure actually meant for this country. To be prime minister is not merely to be positioned behind the correct desk, it is to be directing meaningful change and ushering the nation through troubles as they inevitably arise. Yet, Turnbull has left no legacy after three years in power. Where is his NDIS? Perhaps a child abuse royal commission? Nothing of the sort; his tenure was defined by petty partisanship and repeatedly defeated pushes for upwards redistribution of wealth via tax cuts for the rich. He was Abbott’s marionette and he had no care, for it meant his exaltation as leader and successor to the great Menzies and Fraser.
It is Menzies and Fraser surely who would most criticise the Turnbull experiment, owing to its failure and its un-versatile nature. Turnbull proved a horse for the Tory Trojan thrust into the Australian political zeitgeist; a mere echo of Howard manipulation.