The New Daily

Disappointing echo of the past in Turnbull’s tactics

ANALYSIS: He might be untouchable in the popularity stakes, but the PM gave voters an unwelcome glimpse of his leadership style this week.

Malcolm Turnbull

The PM's approval rating is slipping. Photo: Getty

It was not the Christmas gift voters hoped to receive from a new Prime Minister whose popularity remains somewhere up near the International Space Station.

Indeed, you could even say the quiet, holiday season dumping of two senior government ministers breaches an implicit promise of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership. Namely that it is different. That he’s a communicator who will level with voters. That effective, 21st-century government, as he calls it, can do the difficult things but do them in an honourable way.

But what Mr Turnbull dished up to voters on Tuesday, with the hushed-up departures of Mal Brough and Jamie Briggs barely 30 minutes apart, came from chapter one in the manual about how to play politics the old way.

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In that system, manipulation trumps forthright management. It privileges hiding things for fear of pain instead of owning up to problems and earning respect for transparency. It assumes voters don’t notice when a politician tries to hide a problem. But voters do, and those small deceptions are damaging over time. 

Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough

MPs Jamie Briggs (L) and Mal Brough stunned the Turnbull government. Photo: Getty

That’s the real cost of the decision. If there is any benefit to hiding this news it will be short-lived, and not because people will soon forget about it.

Rather, Mr Turnbull has flagged his willingness to employ the same cheap political tactics which deliver small but frequent insults to voters. They appear harmless on their own but taken together they tarnish the character of the government.

Some will argue: “All pollies do it so why shouldn’t Mr Turnbull?” 

While that sounds logical, it holds our national leadership to a low standard. We should expect better from politicians. Better should be the default offering, especially for an ‘outsider’ like Mr Turnbull.

But sadly for his supporters this was the clearest signal yet that he is prone to using the cynical ways of his predecessor or susceptible second-rate advice.

If there is one thing we already know about 2016 it’s that Mr Turnbull’s popularity will slide once the gritty business of government resumes. It must. Criticised for being a policy-free zone since his ascension, he cannot remain a small target in an election year. Standing for something electable will require cashing in some of his popularity.


The Turnbull government’s political manoeuvring bears a striking similarity to Tony Abbott’s time in power.

When he announced on Wednesday that his government would implement all 79 reforms of the Heydon Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, and added a few of his own, perhaps it was a sign of the conviction to come. 

The PM would prefer Jamie Briggs didn’t need to step down in embarrassing circumstances, but the Mal Brough decision was more difficult.

Consider the PM’s alternative course of action: calling a press conference, announcing he had directed Mr Brough to stand down citing the police investigation, and admitting that Brough’s appointment as Special Minister for State was a mistake.

Sure, the ALP would have shouted it from the rooftops. Opponents from the right wing of his own party would have added it to their dirt file. But the electorate, upon whom Mr Turnbull’s hopes as Prime Minister rest, could legitimately claim to have a leader who respects their intelligence – with actions, not just words.

Here’s a quick reminder of Mr Turnbull’s words from the night he won the top job: “My firm belief is that to be a successful leader in 2015 – perhaps at any time – you have to be able to bring people with you by respecting their intelligence in the manner you explain things.”

The actions of this week breach the spirit of that promise.

  • Kevin_Loughrey

    This article is unbalanced verging on untruthful.

    Mal Brough has had accusations levelled at him that, if found to be true, could lead to a criminal conviction. At present the matter is being investigated by the Federal Police. If they believe there is a case to answer the matter will be put before the Director of Public Prosecutions who will then decide if there is some prospect of success. The matter will then go to trial where there will be the requirement that the case be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Brough has denied the charge and so it is unlikely he will plead guilty unless the evidence uncovered by the police is overwhelming.

    So this could be a long and messy affair with no conviction at the end of it because Brough may, in fact, be innocent of the charges. But in the meantime, with this hanging over his head, there is no prospect he can properly function in his ministerial role. His appointment was not, as asserted in this article, a mistake in the first place! He has shown himself to be a very able minister and did particularly well as the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Provided this matter is resolved Brough has a bright future.

    Next there is the matter of Jamie Briggs. Here is someone who acted badly and, by doing so, demonstrated he was not fit to be a Minister. If he were a self-confessed, liar, cheat, occasional-alcoholic, serial-adulterer, and a member of the Labor Party he would most probably make an excellent Prime Minister but Turnbull runs to a different set of values.

    In removing Briggs, he has definitely done the right thing and has definitely stuck to how I read his promise to the Australian people.

    As for the timing, I have run many businesses over my lifetime. This period of the year is absolutely the best time to effect changes to one’s structure and to start the New Year on a solid footing of everyone having a clean desk, a clear view of knowing where they are going and certainty as to who’s travelling with them.

    So how about we get some balance and substance here. This could have been a good thought-provoking article. As it stands, this article has all the trappings of something contrived by a Labor or Green’s mouthpiece!

    • Leigh

      Excellant post KL.
      My thoughts were there seemed to be a little urgency in his “announcement”.
      Maybe clearing the “deck” for an election announcement early in the first sittings of parliament in the new year?
      You don’t have to be real clever to see sacking ministers while calling an election is not exactly an endearment to voters whos votes your courting.

  • Rye an

    After all the promise of a new enlightened future we now find he’s just a pretty front boy for the grubby neocons.

  • Really – I stopped reading this story 2/3’rds in as my rage
    grew – not at the PM, but at the author basis his perceived right to play
    ‘hotkey’ with the truth, and level his political bias at his readership.

    Given the info re Briggs’ behaviour and his actions, did he walk or was his
    resignation requested? As for Mal Brough – his pre-election antics
    and involvement in the Slipper demise pretty much made him ‘dead man walking’
    from the get-go. Why he was appointed to the Cabinet in the first place
    is the real question? Yet, this journalist is telling us that Turnbull’s
    – ‘dumping of two senior government ministers
    breaches an implicit promise of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime
    ministership.’ Surely the journalist has not sobered himself after too
    much festive celebration.

    This story is an example of journalist plying their trade as a trickery, a
    slight of hand one might say with the reality.

    • Crystal Keeper

      Totally agree. What was Turnbull supposed to do? Leave the announcements until parliament resumes? Both incidents made headlines, so what was the problem. Perhaps the author knew his slanted view on the matters would be well received by the rabid lefties who stumble over themselves to see who can create the most derogatory comments against the government. Their holier than thou stance is laughable. They continue to hold on to the ‘them and us’ mentality, kicking and screaming to remain relevant.

  • Mrfunbro

    Great article Thomas. There is a lot to dislike about Australian politics over the years but I do feel the LNP government has all of the worst traits. Firstly, narcissism. “Statements made frequently by this government that they are prepared to make the tough economic decisions that will hurt them in the polls but are good for the country.” It is clear this government will only make decisions that hurt the less fortunate as the economy would be much improved by addressing issues in the tax system that allow multi million dollar companies to pay no tax. Secondly, hypocrisy and self entitlement. “The members of this team regularly show their expectation of one level of scrutiny and disclosure for the rest of us and no level should exist for them.” Morrison’s border force, bishop’s helicopter, Abbott’s wedding attendances and kids scholarships. I realised I could go on and on. This government has an evil agenda and they are willing to sacrifice the citizens of oz to dutifully honour their masters of corporate greed.

  • travellersjoy

    It’s not just about tactics. It is also, and mainly about goals.

    The ALP is floundering under sustained assault, and has not left itself much room to manoeuvre since signing on to laissez faire capitalism.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      Exactly! The sell-out under Hawke and Keating finished Labor. Why vote for the Alternative Lieberal Party when you can vote for the real thing?

  • oldie65

    Another prime example of Turnbull’s style. Anyone who followed his actions with regards to the NBN, already knows that Turnbull’s rhetoric seldom matches his actions. Also, let’s not forget that he did state that there was nothing wrong with Abbott’s first budget. All that was needed was better selling.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      Typical Grammar boy.

  • Tim Boden

    So lets get this straight, the author is upset because decision made by individuals do not allow the author to protest to a larger audience who are otherwise engaged in more pleasing forms of entertainment. Does anyone care? No. Do I feel deceived because I could have been at a social gathering and missed the oh so important news? No, Is the author attempting to feign indignation to sensationalise an otherwise straight forward matter. Probably. Should I have read the article? probably not.

  • Harry

    It has to have gone away for it to come back.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      It went into a brief, partial, hibernation under Rudd and Gillard.

      • SG

        Julia Gillard 2012 – ‘We are the Labor Party and we make absolutely no apology for saying we are here to serve low and middle income Australians and Mr Abbott is here to serve the rich,”

        The same Julia Gillard suggested Tony Abbott “get off Sydney’s north shore and go talk to some real families”.

        You still think the class war stopped under her?

  • Jimbo

    Thank you Mick. Now put your head back in the hole.

  • DallasBeaufort

    Mum’s the word…

  • vas

    Ridiculous journalistic assertions that smell of serious bias.

    Turnbull has done the right thing and gotten rid of suspect ministers quickly instead of dragging things out for months like Abbott did bith Bishop and the various Labor Ministers did with Craig Thompson in their desperate attempt to hold the Government together.

    As to claims of secrecy – grow a brain. There is no such thing in politics when ministers go, it always comes out and is covered hroughout the media as in this case.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      But Abbortt did draw out the removal, the partial removal, of Brough for months. Been hibernating, have you. Your comments re. Thompson are correct, however.

    • Athinker

      vas – these removals were anything but quick.

  • harry the original

    How do you soar like an eagle when surrounded by turkeys??

  • Kim Southwood

    Politics is a dirty game and Malcolm Turnbull has supreme credentials to play it. He is a far superior populist than Tony Abbott whilst at the same time appealing heavily to the elitist libertarians in society who cherish small government as long as they can further and protect their own interests. In short there is an absolute shortfall between what he says and what he is prepared to do. But whatever he does is cleverly justified in the language of persuasion at which he excels. His abiding strength is in the way he ‘explains things’. Everything he proposes is couched in highly jingoistic terms of its ‘rightness’. Okay, so there’s ‘…never been a better time to be an Australian’. Wow. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy as long as I have enough money, brains and tenacity to make astute investments, get the right qualifications, or never let failure deter me from try… try… trying again. Turnbull is busily convincing us he and his government is there to make us all super-humans. Well, that’s a very refreshing change from Tony Abbott. If you are an elitist libertarian you will be charmed to the bootstraps by Malcolm Turnbull. Otherwise I’m pretty sure the shine will wear off, tarnished by the dirty reality of political games.

    • vas

      Who do you suggest instead? A useless union placed puppet or one of the “Labor Lawyers” that have never done anything in their life except be in politcs.
      Give me a successful person with wide ranging abilities and experiences that has also been supremely successful outside of politics anyday over an insipid Labor union plant.

      • The Labor choice or Libs who have never done anything except be in business ripping people off and in Parliament ripping us off again?

      • mulga mumblebrain

        All Turnbull has ever been ‘successful’ in is turning his inherited fortune into a great fortune through speculation. Built NOTHING, extracted tens of millions. A true parasite for the Parasite Age.

        • vas

          Your claims are nonsense and do not give the slightest credit where it is due. He only inherited a small farm worth around a million, not some sort of massive fortune. There are tens of thousands that inherit businesses and family money well above this amount and have never turned it into a large fortune.
          He is also a very accomplished barrister and business man / banker that has been extremely successful in numerous areas as well as being very well educated.
          Unfortunately many in Australian society have serious jealousy / envy issues that they need to deal with instead of trying to cut down anyones that has been succesfu.

          • mulga mumblebrain

            Worked for the ‘great vampire squid’, Goldman Sachs, where senior figures were paid more or less whatever their greed dictated. Profited hugely from the bubble, selling at the right time. No great record of success as a lawyer, save ingratiating himself with Kerry Packer. Essential to the success of the predator class is the groveling sycophancy of lumpen Rightwing boot-lickers.

      • RGG

        You probably prefer the Liberal apparatchik that was planted at the recent North Sydney by-election!

  • Normal

    I think that the Editor has little left to write about at Christmas /New Year as it is in my view proves that papers can mislead people with such a biased view of what happened. Malcolm Turnbull did what he had to do and got on with making the point of Briggs ctions was not acceptable from a minister. Don’t lets forget Mr Rudds (Prime Minister) episode in New York Thompson’s episode and all the Labour people were saying it was a witch hunt. I am sure what Mr Rudd did and what Mr Briggs did are not hanging offences in most peoples minds but it is not acceptable for politicians as they are supposedly people that should be above those stupid indiscretions. The Editor seems to have a bias against Liberals and Mr Turnbull and he has tried to pute his views to other people that want to believe everything that is written by journalists. Not sure how else he thinks Mr Turnbull could do or announce the decision to say he did it in the hope not many people would take notice. Give us a break it is in every paper TV Radio and network. Next time give us something happy or good that people do instead of doom and gloom and bias..

    • Sorry but your love fest with Turnbull fails at the very start of your diatribe, Turnbull did NOT make this or the Brough announcements, he was in hiding pretending it had nothing to do with him.

  • Seb

    Certainly the LNP wishes all journalists would take the Christmas period off so they can take out the trash discreetly. The sly, understated way that Turnbull is operating is increasingly sleazy and this article merely points out that, despite the season, people do see what he is doing. Does your heartbeat rise because we don’t all love the fascists enough? How dare we?

  • Salldean

    Love the irony and hypocrisy of this journalists article when it comes to standards. It would bode well for the journalist/editor to look at himself first when it comes to the question of standards and objectivity. It is not first time I have viewed the left leaning journalism of the New Daily. What can we expect when the New Daily ownership significantly includes the industry super funds controlled by the powerful union movement linked to the ALP. Methinks Mr Hunter is simply serving to his political masters. If anything factually I have said as to the ownership of the New Daily is inaccurate please feel free to correct me Mr Hunter.

    • Athinker

      Oh well, you’d have to be pleased to see an outlet to balance Murdoch. I hope you don’t think he’s middle of the road.

      • Kevin_Loughrey

        I’d just like good thought provoking, intelligent journalism rather than superficial drivel. I don’t care whether it is socialist, capitalist, reformist or conservative. I just like to hear all aspects of an argument and then make up my own mind.

        My complaint with this article is that it is superficial and unbalanced.

        • Athinker


          Your first complaint included “left leaning”. That is simplistic nonsense. And your position is clear.

          • Kevin_Loughrey

            Gee… that’s a bit harsh :-(.

            Just to be careful, because I’m the first to admit I do make mistakes and errors at times, I put all of my comments into a word processor and did a search for “left”. I can’t find any mention of the word. so I don’t know where you obtained “left leaning”. Is it possible you have confused me in your stupor with someone else?

            Education in this country is free up to final year high school. I’d like it to be free for mainstream tertiary “schools” as well but we are too busy spending the money on the undeserving.

            By the time one reaches matriculation one should be capable of reading and comprehending though the logical processes of some, even at that level, are suspect.

            So I suggest, you should possibly go back to school and learn how to read, comprehend and then logically ague a case instead of name-calling. Happy New Year! 🙂

    • I suppose that’s why they have so many former advisors to the Libs writing stories on here?

  • mulga mumblebrain

    An utter catastrophe that will send this country backwards, all inflicted for no other reason that that the NBN was Labor policy.

  • Sam Stevenson

    What do you expect other than people are getting what they voted for suckers

  • Athinker

    Sadly, the people in the media tend not to be the kind of people who understand the mess Turnbull has made of the NBN. Of course, Turnbull knows, but he was just following orders.

  • The first warning should have been his destruction of the NBN for purely political reasons, he knew he was offering a below standard replacement but did it anyway. That was a warning for many of us.

  • Kevin_Loughrey

    I’ve provided a logical justification for the point of view I have posited.

    If you wish to debunk that I’m sure readers would be entertained to hear your justification for a contrary view. What you have written casts you in a poor light and brings no value whatsoever to this discussion.

    As for implying I am right wing, what would you know and what do you mean? Do you mean I am a reformist or a conservative? Or is it my preference for freedom rather than having every aspect of life controlled by those who feel they know better? If you are suggesting I stand for the status quo and am a conservative, you couldn’t be more wrong. I can assure you I am a reformist beyond your imagination.

    So how about some logical debate rather that dismissive unsubstantiated assertion.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    And they are ruthlessly vetted for Rightwing ideological reliability.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Cayman ‘Vulture Fund’ Turnbull, please, preying on the poorest states and their people. That’s the REAL Turnbull.

  • vas

    You have completely missed the point re Bronwyn. It was Abbott not Turnbull who dragged it out.
    This entire article is a slight against Turnbull’s actions with ministers with very little basis in fact.

  • SG

    A good union man?
    Not much chance of that until you get rid of Shorten.

  • Matthew Johnston

    It is a great time to be an Australian. Innovation via lack of education. Lets face it Israel and Japan are competitors. Color film, black box, wifi, 3D mapping I could go on Australia. CSIRO could fund themselves be floated, majority Gov owned.

  • Foob

    Bring back Abbott
    Turnbull is a recycled failure…

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