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Malcolm Turnbull Struts His Stuff

Malcolm Turnbull has something in common with all ex-prime ministers: he is suffering from limelight deprivation. Some former PM’s like Bob Hawke, John Howard and Paul Keating have limelight thrust upon them. Others like Kevin Rudd and Turnbull seem to go out of their way to seek it out. Recently both Rudd and Turnbull seem to have been more active as if they are in some sort of competition to prove their importance for posterity.

A week ago Mr Turnbull criticized the Morrison Government for failing to take more action under the Foreign Interference and Espionage laws to investigate and prosecute the activities of foreign powers. This was in response to allegations by Nine Media that there was a Chinese spy ring operating in Australia. At the same time he criticized Kevin Rudd saying publicly that Turnbull had cracked down on the Chinese to appease the hard right of his party.

"I don't know why Kevin is so bitter and hyper critical in this way," Mr Turnbull said.Add to shortlist

"There is a disturbing habit, I might say, for some people in Australia that whenever the Australian government does something that displeases people in another country…. to immediately criticise the Australian government."

"If you want to have a government and a leader and ministers who stand up for Australia then you have to recognise from time to time there will be push back from other countries, but that’s the price you have to pay if you want to defend your sovereignty, as I did."

"The reality is Chinese foreign policy and strategy has changed under Xi Jinping... China is taking a much more assertive role internationally and regionally, and that obviously is met with reaction and responses from other countries including our own."

Over the weekend Mr Turnbull changed tack and attacked the Morrison Government for its approach to climate change. At drinks to commemorate his time as Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull called for ‘loud Australians’ to speak up on climate change. The function was attended by members of Mr Turnbull’s moderate faction and he told them that the current government’s policies were incoherent

"It was hard not to read it as a dig at (Prime Minister Scott) Morrison," one attendee told the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on Monday.

Mr Turnbull also warned the party against pursuing authoritarian populism, as seen in the United States with Donald Trump and the United Kingdom with Boris Johnson.

"So the real challenge for the moderates for all of us, for the liberals in the Liberal Party is the one thing we cannot be, now or ever, is quiet Australians," he said on Thursday.

"We have to be loud Australians and stand up for our values and get the outcomes, deliver the government and the policies Australians deserve."

It appears that Mr Turnbull has decided to be a factional warrior rather than an older statesman in the mode of John Howard. At the moment there does not appear to be much enthusiasm on the part of the parliamentary moderates to follow him by shouting out their opposition to the Morrison policies. On Monday morning the moderate leader in the Senate, Senator Birmingham, was unequivocal in his support for the Government’s climate change policy.

At the moment Malcolm Turnbull’s biggest fans are on the opposition benches and in the media.

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