Here’s a contrast: Kevin Rudd in 2007 was a blank canvas onto which many voters projected what they wanted to see, but of whom, many in the right of the gallery, were already discussing his faults. Malcolm Turnbull in 2016 is seen as rich canvass of many experiences, but of whom many in the left gallery and the chattering classes see odd shapes they only want to see.
For the left of the commentariat, the only measure of character is how these shapes cast one’s position on gender politics, the Paris climate talks or the Republic.
When the harsh realities of a campaign force journalists to take another look at the canvass through the eyes of mainstream voters, they see different shapes.
Their response is often decrying the presence of the real picture with different characters in it, and falsely concluding that the character they first saw is now somehow missing.
This sin is not a new phenomenon.
In a fine and lucid article titled “Westminster’s obsession with US politics is both embarrassing and foolish” senior Liberal Democrat adviser Sean Kemp observed:
.. it’s not just actual US politics that sends some people weak at the knees; the West Wing still gets quoted bizarrely often by supposedly serious people to justify decisions. The programme’s ‘Let Bartlet Be Bartlet’ line has been adapted to say Let Gordon Be Gordon, Let Cameron Be Cameron, Let Miliband Be Miliband, Let Clegg be Clegg and even Let Ming Be Ming.”
To this list I’d add the more recent calls to “let Dave (Cameron) be Dave” “let Boris (Johnson) be Boris”, and here in Australia “let Julia be Julia” and now “let Malcolm be Malcolm”.
Back to Kemp. He continues:
… it’s symptomatic of a broader, almost wilful desire by people who should know better to misunderstand and misrepresent what really matters in politics. Campaigns aren’t simply won or lost by the neat soundbite or the barnstorming speech. It’s the random impressions accumulated over years combined with an effective long-term campaign strategy that count.
Similarly some of the “Let Malcolm Be Malcolm” crowd are projecting their own short issues on him with the true incentive being to ramp up column inches by encouraging new or return forays into gratuitous agendas.
The projected values of many of the commentariat are narrow and shallow next to those that are self-evident in Malcolm. I’ve personally known Malcolm for nearly 30 years. My observations are that his values are evidenced by his lived experience.
The truth is Malcolm Turnbull’s agenda and values have been clear for many, many decades.
He knows the value of security that family brings, in whatever form. Malcolm has observed publicly that his mother leaving meant that he knows “what it is like to be short of money. I know what it is like to live in rented flats. I know what it is like to grow up with a single parent, with no support other than a devoted and loyal father.”
He knows the value of education. “I was brought up by a single dad who didn’t have much money. And he struggled to send me to school (but) I had some really charismatic teachers that transformed my life. I would not be where I am today without them.”
He knows the value of hard work, risk and enterprise: together he and his wife of 37 years, Lucy, have built new businesses, not just encouraged, but personally backed new technologies and created jobs. They have experienced the satisfaction of helping grow a diversity of Australian enterprise that makes our society hum. With others, they have helped people hire, helped people invest, helped local communities grow. Far from the dull world of theoretical Canberra economic commentary, as every other hardworking Australian knows, there is great satisfaction in accomplishment, big or small.
He has consistently challenged orthodoxy when it needed to be challenged: from standing up to the British intelligence and legal establishment in the Spycatcher case to acting for Fairfax subordinated debt bondholders against (receivers of) big banks, in all cases he has handles he drives into the detail of challenges with fresh and unbiased attitude.
He values open-mindedness and innovative solutions: he is fascinated by how things work or why they don’t – and then fixes it. Take water. From fixing his own plumbing and irrigation at his farm during the 1982/3 drought to keep stuff alive to developing a successful national water policy; that passion for innovation is now being focussed on our future national prosperity.
And during all this time he and Lucy have quietly donated considerable amounts to Medicine, Education and the Arts. Some have cynically refereed to such things as a “Back Story”. In my view it’s simply voters wanting to check out what shapes the wider canvass they are buying.
Malcolm has demonstrated he has been successful financially by his own hard work and some good luck. He’s been politically successful through his own intelligence, perseverance and hard work, rather than a reliance on factional power blocks, union bosses, big business patronage or the financial support of others.
Ultimately Malcolm’s and the Government’s success will be determined on how effectively he and they embrace his long established values and focuses his considerable talent on making our economy stronger and growing jobs with tax and other incentives, not by fulfilling the projected fantasies of the chattering elites on left or right. But he requires at least three clear years to do that and in financial terms if he is loaned a vote his past successes suggest that he will pay this loan back to people with considerable interest.
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