The ALP hasn’t wasted any time getting stuck into Malcolm Turnbull’s wealth. In fact Wayne Swan had a crack yesterday in Question Time.

“The member for Wentworth has no great affiliation with those sort of everyday goods,” Swan said. “He thinks alcopops is the noise that is made when he uncorks a Moet!”

Boom, as they say, boom.

This will be a relentless line of ALP attack. Turnbull knows it. It was the first thing he spoke about in his press conference yesterday. Turnbull shouldn’t overplay the indigence of his background — after all, he still went to Sydney Grammar and did Arts/Law at the University of Sydney (not, I might add, that there’s anything wrong with Arts/Law at Sydney).

And Labor will be careful to avoid harping about it too much, given the Prime Minister has a quid or sixty million himself — or is married to someone who does. But there’ll be constant sniping about it — Turnbull is too rich to understand ordinary Australians. Stand by for a recycling of all those Keating lines about John Hewson’s wealth.

Labor backbencher David Bradbury gave us a taste of it at a doorstop this morning — and we know doorstops are carefully coordinated by the PM’s office.

“Well, life is tough for many people in this country at the moment,” Bradbury — Jackie Kelly’s replacement in Lindsay — said.

“Somehow I don’t think the challenges that people face around the boardroom tables of Point Piper are anything near what people sitting around kitchen tables in Penrith are currently facing.”

Yeah, um, there’s not actually too many boardrooms in Point Piper, Dave. Plenty of big houses and harbour views, sure, but not too many businesses are headquartered there. Bit pricey in the rent department, see. But I guess we know what you mean. Kind of amusing, though, while a Parliamentary Secretary whingeing in Parliament about the size of the food portions (Stroganoff-gate, anyone?) in the subsidised Parliament House facilities.

Labor’s disgraceful hypocrisy on this doesn’t derive from Kevin Rudd and Therese Rein’s wealth. It comes from the fact that many Labor politicians have been every bit as bent on getting rich as Malcolm Turnbull ever was — only they prefer to do it by cashing in on their political careers.

Have a look at the federal Lobbyist Register. There are dozens of ex-Labor MPs, premiers or senior party officials who are on the lobbying gravy train. Bob Carr. Nick Bolkus. Ross Free. Sandra Nori. Steve Bredhauer. Chris Schacht. Con Sciacca. John Dawkins. Christian Zahra. Graham Edwards. Stephen Loosley. Cameron Milner. On it goes. All using their Labor connections.

And Bob Hawke and Paul Keating aren’t exactly poor either.

How soon before the recent casualties of NSW Labor make their way to Canberra? Iemma? Meagher? Costa? Watch out for Cranky Consultants Pty Ltd on the Register.

In fact, lobbying is the perfect career for today’s breed of professional political hack. It looks like a business career, but it’s really a continuation of the same influence-peddling and deal-making that marked their ascension through party ranks.

Malcolm Turnbull did it the other way around. He came into public life after a staggeringly successful legal and business career. It’s not the first time he has put what he believes in ahead of his immediate financial interests, either. He brings networks to politics, not the other way around.

Yes he’s an egomaniac, but he’s exactly the sort of person we should be encouraging into politics to slow the apparently remorseless diminution of the political gene pool in this country. Turnbull compares very well to Michael Kroger, who has been content to remain a political dilettante while growing rich from banking.

For Labor to try to bag Turnbull for his wealth isn’t just hypocritical and crass, it’s damaging in the long-term to the quality of our politics. Which successful businessman or woman is going to want to enter politics on either side knowing they’ll be derided as a silvertail? And all while the hacks, the non-achievers, who’ve spent their lives cloistered in politics, think about how much they can make as lobbyists once the jig is up.

Peter Fray

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