Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Malcolm & Margaret Show

FROM time to time we all hear of that remarkable someone “you just have to meet.” The individual may be pitched as brilliant overall or perhaps supremely gifted in one narrow field. In the case of women it is more often vivacity or a remarkable beauty that is extolled. You take it all in, make a mental note to keep an eye out for the blessed specimen and then, sooner or later, the talked-up individual actually crosses your path. When that happens, expect disappointment – two of them, actually.

The first let-down will be that no one lives up to his or her advance billing. That 3-handicap wundergolfer you heard so much about, he will have a lousy round and confirm with his excuses that he is no more than a better class of duffer and, like all hookers, slicers and putt-stuffers, not entirely in control of his head, which is the hallmark of every genuinely great player. Or it might that the lauded one turns out to be the Great Mind who isn’t – the instant appraisal we might expect a Martian to form upon making the acquaintance of Robert Manne.

Humans, we’re a slower species, and sometimes it takes us a bit longer to twig. It is the only explanation for the esteem Malcolm Turnbull continues to command, which also nails the second predictable disappointment: Quite suddenly you realise that the opinions of the spruikers, who may even be close and valued friends, are testaments to their own fallibility. In regards to Turnbull, we have been hearing for so long that he is brilliant and destined for greatness, that he is both deep as the Marianas Trench and loftily possessed of such insight and incisive clarity that his perspectives frame the issues of the day from an altitude very close to the orbital. That he can be jocular or sober, with or without a leather jacket, confirms the man’s appeal to ABC interviewers and commentators, who generally prefer their conservatives to come a travesti in the vestments of the left.

It can be very convincing, all that adulatory talk – so much so that, for a while, it even persuaded the Liberal Party to make Turnbull its leader. But truth dawns eventually, as it did when the Olympian intellect’s urge to out-Labor Labor (and sometimes even the Greens) inspired a revolt in local party branches and the parliamentary rank-and-file that saw him replaced with Tony Abbott.

The broader population, however, may still not quite have grasped the depths of Turnbull’s shallowness – a lingering misconception for which we can be thankful the man’s own best efforts are doing much to remedy. Indeed, he is at again today, his views on the future of the forest-products press given both a near-verbatim airing in the Phage and Silly as well as a worshipful summary by reporter Michael Gordon. When it comes to a lust for occupying the spotlight, none but bunnies in a moonlit paddock have demonstrated such a drive to position themselves for the perfect headshot.

The surprising news is that Turnbull is against direct government subsidies to failing newspapers. His much odder suggestion, which he floats rather than advances, is that, like the Spastic Children’s League or Cat Protection Society, reporter Gordon’s employer and other media groups might be made eligible for charitable support. Can you picture it? “And to my favourite newspaper I bequeath the proceeds of the garage sale and any change the managing editor might find down the back of the couch.” Well, something like that anyway.

And what would that money secure? Well, if Turnbull’s address is any indication, and Gordon’s report with it, not very much at all, allowing that inaccuracy and smug conceit carry little in the way of market value.

The inaccuracy belongs to Turnbull, who quotes “an old ditty” on which he swears he was “brought up”. This is how he remembers what must have been some very peculiar bedtime readings beside his little trundle cot: ''Thank God one cannot bribe nor twist the honest British journalist. For seeing what he does unbribed, there is no need to do so."

Readers will notice that the Turnbull version does not scan, which makes for a very unlikely ditty, and some may actually recall the actual quote from a now-forgotten writer of the Twenties, Humbert Wolfe: You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to.

Small potatoes, true, but telling all the same. More damaging to his case are the patron and location of Turnbull’s address, which are none other than Margaret Simons and humorously named Centre For Advanced Journalism at the Parkville Asylum. Professor Simons, as some will recall, is the woman who aided with her silence and encouragement a very lame hoax on Keith Windschuttle and Quadrant, thereby violating the very first article of the MEAA code of ethics for journalists:
Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts.  Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis.  Do your utmost  to give a fair opportunity for reply.
She should have been booted from her gig at Swinburne; instead she was elevated to Melbourne University, where parents paying her students fees can assume Simons teaches a nuanced interpretation of the obligation not to “suppress relevant available facts”. Facts can be suppressed at will or whim, if seems, if they are likely to hurt critics of the New Establishment, of which Simons is very much a member (and a well-paid one at that).

Of Michael Gordon it is possible to take a more benign view. While Simons hid the truth and encouraged a falsehood to be published, Gordon overlooks the beam in his own “quality newspaper’s” eye. Consider this from his account of Turnbull oration:
While newspapers such as The Age remained committed to investigative journalism, the shrinking size of the Canberra press gallery and of the newsrooms of the major dailies meant that the vast bulk of political coverage was about personalities rather than policies, he said.
 So committed to investigative journalism neither Phage nor Silly has searched the Climategate data base for references to, say, the CSIRO or one of its resident warmers Barrie Pittock and his boy, who was working for the WWF at the time (see the second letter in this chain).

Turnbull has had many peculiar ideas -- that it is job to embarrass his leader not least amongst them -- but the notion that givers might part with cash to support their favourite newspapers is surely the most absurd of all. If he knew the left at close quarters, rather than looking down upon it from the rarified heights of an over-hyped intelligence, he would know that those sort of people believe it is always someone else’s responsibility to pay for the things they particularly enjoy. Doubt that? Look no further than the nearest wind generator or subsidised solar panels atop your typical Fairfax reader's home.

Turnbull is himself one of those costly novelties, or would be if only the Silly, Phage and ABC could engineer his substitution for Abbott. But given the declining trajectory of his career path within the Liberal Party, that seems most unlikely. Perhaps that is why Simons was keen to have him as a speaker.She helped perpetrate one fraud. Why not advance the cause of an even bigger one?

UPDATE: At Catallaxy, Sinclair Davidson thinks government should stay well away from the newspaper business.


  1. Turnbull is a notorious and arrogant bully and appears to believe that bullying all those he considers his inferiors (i.e., everyone) is the best way to achieve what he wants.  It worked for him when he was a merchant banker, and it worked for him as very adversarial, belligerent and not always completely scrupulous barrister; but, for some reason, it no longer works too well on his colleagues in the party room. 
    I well remember the “Spycatcher” trial wherein Turnbull represented Peter Wright and ridiculed Sir Robert Armstrong (as he then was), the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Michael Havers (as he then was), the Attorney General, and Mrs Margaret Thatcher (as she then was), the PM, to the delight of the media. (Armstrong during the trial famously mentioned being “economical with the truth”, and Turnbull seized on the expression with glee.)

  2. Sorry don't like Malcolm Turnbull, reminds me to much of Malcolm Fraser.

  3. Manchurian Mal is a puppet of the globalist bankers. They made him. They own him. Literally.
    He really is the Member for Gold and Satan.

    Now, one of the key pieces of infrastructure in the globalists achieving their mission is the AGW scam and it's resultant policies.
    The Left is replete with useful idiots only too eager to embrace and propagate this scam; ergo Manchurian Mal is a waste showing up on that side of politics. The more discerning anti-left side of politics is where he needed to be placed. If unsuccessful in his primary mission, which he was to an extent, then there is the added bonus of de-stabilisation he can bring.

  4. He will always be remembered for forcing us to buy horrible light bulbs that turn our homes into toxic waste sites when they break, but will give the patent holders a nice little earner before the price of LEDs comes down far enough that they will provide REALLY efficient lighting. Problem is, the 'inefficiency' of incandescent bulbs means they give off heat, which helps heat our home for that part of the year when both our lights and heaters are on. He really is intelligent.

  5. Note that Barrie Pittock's WWF boy is now at ANU - see

  6. Turnbull's problem is he can't fit into any party. He's the wrong tribe for Labor or the Greens, yet he's too far to the left for either the Liberal or National parties.

  7. Malcolm's head is in the clouds, which probably accounts for the fact that his feet never seem to be on the ground.

  8. There's a piece by Turnbull in today's ABC Drum where he writes about his days in England. Very tiresome I thought but I was struck by one quote:

    "Lucy has often observed in Canberra the politicians are the foxes and the press gallery the hounds."

    Does any one believe the Canberra Press Gallery are sniveling eager hungry hounds waiting to devour their prey?

    More like fat, complacent lazy Labradors eager to roll over and salivate all over their masters hand and then roll over back to sleep while licking their ba...!

  9. Greg Sheridan didn't miss Turnbull last weekend either:

    Sheridan seems to be turning into something of a right -winger and not just when it comes to defending Israel which makes for a nice change But I guess living in Bankstown you either turn right or Stockholm Syndrome takes effect.

  10. "He will always be remembered for forcing us to buy horrible light bulbs"

    A dim bulb for dim bulbs...

  11. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.December 8, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    He's quite a media tart. Hope he gets eaten.

  12. Let's hope he realises there is little chance that he will achieve hid God given right to be PM with the Liberal Party and decides to challenge Julia for the leadership of the ALP.

    What do you reckon Kevvie would do? Start his own party? Crazier things have happened!

  13. Any man who bans incandescent light bulbs is, by definition, dim.

    Always thought him to be overrated, and wished he kept his word and quit politics.

  14. Turnbull is a Mastermind contestant whose special subject is himself.

    At the time he championed the referendum on the Republic, he declared that he had no interest in becoming President. I have a friend, whose wife worked for Turnbull, who fell about laughing, saying that he thought about nothing else.