Exhibit I: servant of the ‘zeitgeist’.
By Gary Scarrabelotti
The great question facing Liberal Party MPs and Senators is this: do they have the “Right Stuff” to choose a new leader?
The Liberal Party has in the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a leader who could be great except for his being shackled to the zeitgeist. He is incapable of seeing beyond it and of resisting the fleeting rewards of burning incense before it. That kind of man is not fitted to the role of national leader.
About worshipping before the altar of élite prejudice: Malcolm Turnbull mocked the President of the United States, Donald Trump, at the Press Gallery mid-winter ball in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra, on 14 June.
The event was supposed to be conducted under Chatham House rules, but Nine’s Laurie Oakes did not attend the ball and so was not bound. Thanks to Oakes, we now understand much better the kind of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull makes.
Watch the video clip here in full. Even if the remarks were, only in part, self-deprecatory, why would Malcolm Turnbull do this and with such obvious glee?
Apparently our PM, who has a reputation as indecisive when it comes to important matters, did not stop to consider this self-indulgence. It says something when our national leader thinks it unimportant to belittle by name and publicly the President of the greatest power on Earth upon whose continued imperium Australia’s defence has been made so heavily to depend.
I offer this observation as someone who has grown sceptical about the ‘moral superiority’ of American action in the world and who would advocate a greater realism in evaluating it and reserve in engaging with it. That said, America offers a presently indispensable alliance, the only national-interest alternative to which would be the maintenance of large armed forces for which the “Lucky Country” seems wholly unprepared to pay.
To elicit rousing applause from a room full of his political enemies was more important to the PM than a persistent and consistent prosecution of our national interest.
To return, however, to our Prime Minister: it was not just self-indulgent and heedless to parody so powerful figure as the President of the United States, it was folly, especially when Australia is hardly a great power and when Trump, reputedly, has a thin skin and a disposition for taking revenge.
Let’s consider, for a moment, a different Trump: a mild-mannered, modest man albeit with “values” at odds with those of Malcolm Turnbull. Would it be to the good if our Prime Minister were to belittle such a Trump, to the applause of the cognoscenti, when he has the power to quash an agreement, like the sensitive refugee swap between us and the USA, which the PM has laboured to bed down and to which Trump has a well-known and deep aversion?
Seemingly the odour of approval is so sweet to the Prime Minister that, in order to have it, he was prepared to take thoughtless, reckless and even craven action. To elicit rousing applause from a room full of his political enemies — few Press Gallery members will vote Liberal at the next federal elections — was more important to the PM, it appears, than a persistent and consistent prosecution of our national interest.
The Prime Minister’s judgement in this matter, moreover, was so deeply addled that he appears to have imagined that the esteem with which he is regarded, even by inveterate Labor voters, would be sufficient to ensure that his mockery would remain forever the secret of the Press Gallery.
It would be a happy conclusion to this tawdry exhibition if Donald Trump proves to have a thicker hide, and a more forgiving nature, than his countless detractors claim.
Let’s hope that the whole thing blows over without further incident. Nevertheless, the lack of judgement it displayed, and the signs of flawed character it evidenced, is not something new or aberrant. On display were well known and understood traits that ought long ago to have disqualified Malcolm Turnbull from ever rising to the highest office.
And the Liberal Party back benches want this man to lead them … to where, exactly?