One of Tony Abbott’s best ideas was one he implemented immediately after his election as prime minister — and which he promptly abandoned within a few weeks.

The newly elected Abbott was determined to avoid the increasingly frenetic media cycle that had engulfed his two predecessors, the relentless pressure for media appearances and announceables, the need to always dominate the media cycle in fear that if you didn’t, your opponents would.

Abbott thus kept out of the media for a couple of weeks. The problem was, he couldn’t stay out of it. Eventually he drifted back, and in the end he became as obsessed with staying on top of the media cycle as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had been.

It’s probably too much to expect that a media natural like Malcolm Turnbull would try the same experiment, and perhaps it is no longer possible in an era of social media and multiple news cycles even within a single weekday to pretend you can remain above it all.

But what the nation needs right now is for Turnbull simply to govern, and to do so in as bland and unremarkable a way as possible. After the Rudd-Gillard soap opera and the circus of the Abbott years, Australians just want someone to run the country competently, to turn politics from a constant, near-parodic spectacle into something altogether less interesting.

Turnbull can’t control whether disgruntled Abbott supporters leak against him, but he can control the government’s overall agenda, and at the moment we suspect both the national interest, and his own political interests, would be best served by Turnbull being something he has never aspired to in his life: boring.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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