typing is not activism….

environ mentalism, fresh articles, interviews & checkitouts from Sydney.

Wondering where Malcolm Turnbull’s worth Went?

with 2 comments

I wrote this article for Tasmanian Times, where it has just run today. I’m posting here now with the intention of adding useful links shortly. Enjoy. Or not. Up to you. Churs.

At the end of the day there’s no real animosity, no vehement contempt, no serious doubt that can’t be set aside for someone with a nice smile and a well-cut suit. So, in this week of weeks, let’s all spare a thought for the environmental Goldman Boy, he-who-would-be-federal-opposition-leader, a man who seeks to balance environmental, social, and economic concerns by balancing economic concerns…

“Come on Down, Mal-colm Tuuuuurn-buuuuull!!! This Is Your Political Shitfight!!!”

Please release me…
Unless the Federal Court updates its injunction this week, as of tomorrow Minister Turnbull will be in a position to rule on those very few aspects of Gunns’ Pulp Mill and its environmental benefi – oops, impacts in which he has declared that the Commonwealth has an interest.

Hilariously, the media release on his website, “Does the Australian Government have a role in approving Tasmania’s proposed pulp mill?” has been ‘updated’ at least twice since the Wilderness Society launched proceedings against his handling of the approval process.

Initially, this release stated that:

– the Australian Government had spoken with Gunns about the new approval process in early March (which would have been before Gunns had officially abandoned the original assessment process)

– the Government intended to rule on its areas of concern by late August (coincidentally about the same time that Lennon would state his ‘findings’ and just before Gunns are due to commence losing notional moneys).

The version on his site, as of July 16, now makes

– no mention of when the approval/rejection at Federal level is intended for announcement

– no reference to the discussions in early March

A letter from the Howard Government to Gunns, dated March 19, is now mentioned. This, importantly, does not deny the statement of the original release – namely, that the Howard Government spoke about a new approval process with Gunns in early March, by implication before they had withdrawn from the RPDC assessment. Sending Gunns a letter on March 19 does not un-happen what was formerly stated. It is in effect a sleight-of-hand, “look at the letter” more than “look at the bunny”. Not as cute, not as fluffy, and far more likely to take a dump somewhere unpleasant.

And he was such a nice little boy…
But let’s put all the anger and distrust aside and spare a thought for the man. Remember what we said about firm handshakes and community donations? I mean well-cut suits and a nice smile?

Turnbull was slotted into the seemingly safe Liberal seat of Wentworth – Bondi and surrounds – in 2004. He was laterally promoted to replace the eminently bungling Ian Campbell as Environment Minister last year. As far as portfolios in Federal Liberal governments go, the position is more a hospital pass than a promotion. However, given the renewed electoral concern regarding the environment, this all seemed to fit into the ascendant-new-leader story which Turnbull seemed so confident that he was penning at the time.

Indeed, his keenness to be part of such a story may explain why an obviously intelligent man acquiesced to hold the Howard team line with repetitious farcical nonsense about Australia’s global leadership on climate change, Australia’s responsibility to indigenous culture, Australia’s concern for [insert Orwellian bollocks here].

Electile Dysfunction…
The most overly-tumescent cliché in political coverage is surely ‘a week can be a long time in politics’, but it does follow that 10 months in politics is, well, 10 months. In that time, there has been more than just a Kevin Rudd-shaped dent pounded into Malcolm’s future prospects. He has not only been left holding the disgustingly re-legislated taxpayer-funded appeal against the Wielangta decision and fetching the oranges for the Gunns pulp mill approval.

The turn around in Turnbull’s prospects has actually been quite astounding. Sure, he still gets to have his smirk occasionally wiped on the 7:30 Report by Peter Garrett, but one can’t help feeling that his working day must have lost some lustre lately.

Wentworth, held by the Liberals since 1901, is traditionally an outrageously safe and well-moneyed seat. It is still well-moneyed, but not so much the strictly old money as it used to be. The electorate’s boundaries have been recently redrawn to include the pink dollared Oxford Street and the red-lit Kings Cross. Not your traditional Young Liberal breeding grounds.

Furthermore, depending on whose figures you believe – the Financial Review’s or Fairfax – this 2006 redistribution has left Turnbull with a margin now measuring either 2.5% or 4.5%. This makes it either the 9th or the 16th most marginal federal seat in Australia. Given that the Federal ALP need to pick up at least 16 seats to win the election, well…. You do the maths.

Malcolm’s nightmayor…
Oh…and there is one other factor making Malcolm openly miserable at the moment – his opponent. The ALP candidate, as of a couple of months ago, is all over Malcolm’s electorate. He should be – he’s the Mayor of Waverley.

45-year old human rights lawyer, George Newhouse, has consequently managed to make himself part of every single groundbreaking, media junket, and photo op that Malcolm gets near at the iconic Bondi Beach.

And of all the coverage given to their antagonistic relationship, the July 27 Financial Review article, entitled “Labor stalks Turnbull in the hot seat” is perhaps indicative of a critical moment in the making.

It is nothing for Green Left or New Matilda or Overland or Tassie Times to run articles critical of Liberal politicians – especially ministers. But when AFR runs a 2-page story about a Liberal incumbent under fire which not only isn’t the voice of a cheerleader, but does in fact lean positively toward his ALP opponent…

“So what happens when happy anarchy meets the Turbull juggernaut,” writes AFR national affairs correspondent Tom Dusevic, “You can already hear the nasty whispers, feel the rumbles on the ground. There’s a lust for blood that goes beyond a Liberal preselection or Labor branch stack. Come election day, Wentworth could be a slaughter.”

Writers of Dusevic’s standing don’t waste such forecasts on non-events. And his detailing of Turnbull’s public sulk over Newhouse getting into frame at his official opening of a garden for disabled children. . .well, . . hilarious.

True to forecasts of a vicious turf war, Newhouse did in fact send a fairly stabby release to media shortly before AFR hit newsstands. It was intended to direct attention to 2004 revelations of Turnbull’s financial connections to a company specializing in heavy forest destruction in the Pacific region.

Such a release merits direct follow-up questions and, as such, is a story for another day.


Written by typingisnotactivism

August 6, 2007 at 2:43 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Wow, that Video is quite something 🙂 Congrats on y our Blogging Milestone.


    August 7, 2007 at 11:38 pm

  2. It is so nice to read that Malcolm Bligh Turnbull is not having an easy time of it as Minister for Environment and Water Resources.
    This John Howard ‘glove puppet’ is not only making Tasmanians fume, he is causing considerable distress to NSW Clarence Valley residents, as he uses every backdoor method available to further his master’s aim to steal vital freshwater flows from the Clarence River system.
    Thereby placing not only the health and productivity of the Clarence River at risk, but also the future of communities which depend on this river system.
    A little further north, where he is also looking at raiding the Oxley River, they are saying “that calling Turnbull Minister for the Environment is an Oxleymoron”.
    I enjoyed your article so much I will be placing a link to it on my blog page “A Clarence Valley Protest”.

    Judith M. Melville

    August 8, 2007 at 5:54 am

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