The Prime Minister is a “warm, green and dry” politician who has copied the management-like style of former NSW premier Nick Greiner, according to the author of a new Turnbull biography,  former Crikey business editor Paddy Manning (Paddy has left us to pursue his next book, which we very much look forward to reading — Ed).

Turnbull also admired another former NSW premier, Neville Wran, he said. “When he talks about Neville Wran he seems to be inspired by his competence in managing the economy. These are nebulous concepts, but they are not convictions which inspire you to go into politics — to be a better manager?”

Sydney’s Gleebooks bookshop was last night packed with people to hear Manning, an award-winning journalist and author, talk about his latest book, Born to Rule: the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull with journalist Peter Hartcher.

Although some believe Turnbull will be a long-term PM, the author is more circumspect, saying that if Turnbull was “so superior to Tony Abbott, then why did half the party not back him? He is a high-risk option.” (The vote was 54/44.)

Although the former lawyer was famous for his white-hot temper, he now seemed to have that more under control, Manning said. The main reason for his change in temperament was losing the leadership of the party in 2009 to Tony Abbott. At this time, the independently wealthy businessman contemplated leaving politics. He also went to a Chinese herbalist in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, ingested only Chinese herbs and lost 18 kilos. Throughout that process he seemed to have rethought his own flaws, Manning said.

The patience Turnbull has shown this year indicated that he had changed, Manning said. “All the people I’ve spoken to who love him say that he has calmed down.”

After the loss to Abbott, Turnbull was advised by John Howard not to leave Parliament, the author said. He wasn’t advocating disloyalty, but merely pointing out that you never know what’s going to happen in politics. Howard recognised that Turnbull has political talent.

Manning has interviewed hundreds of people, some of whom have provided priceless quotes. With even Turnbull’s own mother describing him as a “demonic bundle of energy” and wife Lucy saying he was the “soul of indiscretion”, my favourite description was a quote from The Australian, saying he was a “bull who takes his own china shop around with him”.

The book is extensively referenced and indexed and like the author’s previous books on businessman Nathan Tinkler and coal seam gas, extremely readable. Manning told us that after the book was finished, he met an indigenous woman who had worked as a domestic servant in the household of a high-profile Sydney family. There, she had heard a nine-year-old Turnbull announcing that he would one day become prime minister. He turned out to be right.

Peter Fray

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