With former Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull releasing his memoirs on Monday 20 April 2020, the former Member for Wentworth continued his press tour by addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday 22 April 2020.
Following his Press Club address, we have been thinking about what the key takeaways are from his book as well as his various media appearances.
With this in mind, here are our thoughts on Mr Turnbull’s autobiography and press tour.
TURNBULL CRITICAL OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE
Beyond the political history and opinions already covered by the media in detail, the autobiography and its accompanying press tour details former Prime Minister’s frustrations with the Australian Public Service (APS) and its overly bureaucratic nature.
One such example Mr Turnbull highlighted was his dealings with the APS on the refurbishment of the Lodge, in which he and his wife, Lucy, lived in during Mr Turnbull’s stint as Prime Minister. According to the former Prime Minister, there was little planning put into the renovations, with no consideration given to key amenities such as WiFi.
Even more frustratingly for the former Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull outlines in his book that over $11 million had been spent by that point of the renovations, with little progress made.
The former Prime Minister’s role in the infamous Godwin Grech situation is also detailed in the book and how his relationshp with Grech led to the ‘Utegate’ saga in mid-2009.
Mr Turnbull describes the negative personal impacts arising from Grech’s conduct including the shame of being associated with the falsified email used to make an accusation against then Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd.
Following ‘Utegate’, Mr Turnbull outlines in his book how he lost ‘faith in his own political judgement’ and how it may have contributed to his future criticisms of the APS and subsequent David Thodey Review of the Australian Public Service when he returned to Liberal Party leadership in 2015.
TURNBULL DETAILS HIS VIEW OF THE LEADERSHIP INSTABILITY IN AUGUST 2018
Although Mr Turnbull has given some insights into the events of August 2018 previously, his memoirs are the first time the Australian public have gotten an in depth look into what happened to the former Prime Minister as well as his thoughts on that week.
Throughout his book and subsequent media appearances, Mr Turnbull recognised that he had failed to grapple with the ‘tribalised’ Liberal Party, detailing a letter sent to him by former Senator and UK High Commissioner, the Hon George Brandis. In addition, the book describes in depth his views on the dynamics at play during the two leadership spills that occurred that week.
Mr Turnbull explained that the first spill called was designed to ‘flush out’ his opponents and show his strength within the party room. Although he maintained that the first spill was successful, Mr Turnbull holds some resentment to a number of his former colleagues for their changing support during the August turmoil.
TURNBULL APPEARS AT THE FIRST EVER ‘VIRTUAL’ NATIONAL PRESS CLUB
In a special COVID-19 virtual Press Club Address, the former Prime Minister fielded a range of questions from members of the Press Gallery and National Press Club President, Ms Sabra Lane, regarding his book, his prime ministership as well as his views on the COVID-19 response by his successor, the Hon Scott Morrison MP.
Despite Mr Turnbull’s appearance being advertised as a National Press Club address, his appearance did not have the typical speech. Instead, his appearance took on a form similar to an extended TV interview.
Throughout his interview and consistent with other media appearances and his book, Mr Turnbull continued his negative stance against the Murdoch owned media companies for the role they play within Australian politics.
In wrapping up his interview, Mr Turnbull talked about teachers and the effects of COVID-19 on education in Australia. He also referenced his daughter, Ms Daisy Turnbull, who works as a teacher and how she and other teachers have had to adapt quickly to the transition to online learning solutions.
To read further, including about Mr Turnbull’s time as Leader of the Opposition as well as his life journey to the Lodge, the autobiography can be purchased here.