06 June 2009

Malcolm Turnbull and Screaming Irrits

OK! So why does Malcolm Turnbull annoy me so?

Well, this cartoon begins to explain it:

(This is from The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday, 8 May, 2009, and done by Alan Moir, who, by the by, I think is this country's premier political cartoonist.)

I think the most annoying thing about Malcolm is that he is a clever man who feels he has to hide his light under a bushel. What's gong on here? Turnbull is a man of ideas and great expression (just look to his work on the campaign for an Australian republic), but he seems to be forced by his party or his minders to act like an idiot.

Now sure, some people are put off by Kevin Rudd's loquaciousness, and he certainly is prolix (go on, look them up), but I am not sure the correct response is to show no signs of erudition whatsoever.

He has fallen in to the trap of opposing for the sake of opposition - something we have not really seen since John Howard was leader of the opposition. (I think it was Howard who told a journalist that he had to oppose everything the government proposed, because as leader of the opposition that was his job description.) John Howard took this to ridiculous length in the campaign surrounding the 1988 referendum, where he ran a "no" campaign against constitutional changes he supported just to score points. I have more commentary on that episode, but since this blog entry is about Malcolm Turnbull I will save it until later.

In Turnbull's case the best example is emmissions trading. In order to get an ETS through the Senate, Labour has watered it down to the point where it is essentially the scheme that the Liberal's first proposed. So now will they vote for it? Err, that would be no.

A lot of people of my generation have seen "Yes Minister", and so we know about the tactic of not answering the question the journalist asked you but instead giving the answer to the question you wished they'd asked. Since we are now aware of that tactic, it only works if the politician can give the impression that they have actually listened to the question, but Malcolm does not. To listen to a Turnbull interview, he seems to treat journalist questions as pauses for breath between sections of his prepared speech.

Not that there is a lot of prepared speech - his minders seem to word him up with a three word grab, and he won't get his treat until he has said it 100 times. A month or so ago it was "Jekyll and Hyde." I can not for the life of me remember what the issue was, but Turnbull used the phrase about 30 times in a 2 minute interview!

Now I can't say for sure that this is why Malcolm Turnbull is performing so poorly in the polls (preferred Prime Minister rating at 24% as of 1 June 2009), but I don't think it helps.

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