“He’s a turd, he’s easy to loathe, he’s a shit, he’d devour anyone for breakfast, he’s cynical and on the make, he’s offensive and smug.”
This was Diamond Jim McClelland’s succinct assessment of Malcolm Turnbull, gleefully quoted by David Marr last night in his interview with Annabel Crabb.
“So, Annabel”, Marr intoned, “which of these propositions do you disagree with?”
Crabb laughed, saying tactfully that Turnbull was a divisive person who had as many supporters as detractors. “He has a very unorthodox approach to business, politics and the law” because he breaks rules and creates enemies.
“He is charming and vivacious, very good company, a great raconteur, definitely one of the more interesting people in politics,” she continued, adding that she was a massive fan of Tony Abbott “because his brain is not far from his mouth and I like it when that happens, it makes life more interesting.”
Crabb was being interviewed by Marr for the Gleebooks launch of the latest Quarterly Essay, for which she has written an excellent piece called “Stop at Nothing, the Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull”.
Marr asked Crabb, “he is unafraid to make enemies and doesn’t mind being loathed, these are not actually good qualities in politics, are they?” She agreed, adding that watching Malcolm deal with relationships was interesting, in particular his relationship with his “polar opposite” Peter Costello.
“Peter Costello poses the kind of threat for which Malcolm Turnbull’s life has not prepared him. He is now a wraith-like figure, the sort of person you could put a fist through.”
Costello’s passive aggression is “uniquely frustrating for someone like Turnbull,” she said. His standard responses to a threat are to “sue it, buy it or smash it. He thrives on conflict, but Costello avoids it. (In the end) Turnbull is under-endowed with political patience and Costello is over-endowed with it.”
In Parliament, they dance around each other in a kind of Mexican stand-off, she said, to which Marr countered, “Annabel, that’s racist.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, a SWAT team of heavy security descended on the Westin Hotel in Sydney, in anticipation of the arrival of the Deputy PM. Julia Gillard came to address the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, but news of her impending trip to Israel had brought out a collection of protest groups, including the Canterbury Bankstown Peace Group.
Gillard is going to the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum later this month with a bi-partisan delegation including Peter Costello, Liberal frontbenchers Chris Pyne and George Brandis and Labor backbenchers Mike Kelly and Mark Dreyfus.
Just one day after the PM seemingly endorsed her as his successor on a Sydney radio show, she gave her usual polished performance.
“I intend to reaffirm Australia’s ongoing support for Israel’s right to live in peace and security within defined borders. I will also reiterate that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East must be based on a two-state solution to the conflict.”
The Deputy PM will also visit Ramallah and meet leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
Part of the visit will include a “wide-ranging festival and celebration of culture between our countries called G’Day, Shalom Salaam. This festival includes the world premiere of the film Tackling Peace, which documents how a team of Palestinian and Israeli players travelled to Australia last August to participate in the Aussie Rules International Cup in Melbourne.”
After the speech, Gillard did a relaxed Q & A with Sky News political editor David Speers, where she revealed that she relaxed by reading “very bad” detective novels, walking on the beach and “going out to dinner with friends, the usual things.”
Back at the Quarterly Essay launch, Crabb was asked about Turnbull’s chances.
“There is very strong orthodoxy in this country that a first term government very rarely gets tipped out,” she said.
However, her own feeling, which she emphasised did not come from any confidential conversations with Turnbull, was that he was a “one shot in the locker” sort of leader, who has “not done anything in his life for long periods of time.”
Can he wait? she was asked. “I don’t think so.”
As usual, one of the best lines about Turnbull comes from Paul Keating, which Marr quoted with relish.
Keating said that “Turnbull is a bit like a big red bunger on cracker night,” Marr said.
“You light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing, nothing.”