Thirty pieces of silver

Disappointment, disillusionment, disgust, desperation, desolation, despondency, and above all simmering anger - these are the emotions so many Australians have had, and still are experiencing when they reflect on Malcolm Turnbull’s period as prime minister. And this applies to many Labor supporters, who welcomed Turnbull’s overturning of Tony Abbott. Surely, they thought, nothing could be worse than the appalling Abbott.

Yet, despite Turnbull looking and speaking like a prime minister, in such stark contrast to the malevolent Abbott, with his reckless abandonment of the values and principles we all know Turnbull once embraced, in just over a year he has killed off any respect he initially had. We deplored so many of Abbott’s principles, but at least he stuck to them. Turnbull has turned out to be a shameful turncoat, ready to betray his beliefs for thirty pieces of silver.

We are astonished, dismayed and saddened.

This piece is a companion to the last published: Abbott’s legacy of destruction. It exposes the other side of the deeply tarnished Abbott/Turnbull coin. The two pieces need to be read in parallel.

Ten pieces of silver to abandon climate change action
Of all his fine principles, shall we ever forget Turnbull's stand on climate change!

He supported Kevin Rudd’s push for an emissions trading scheme – even crossing the floor to do so! You will remember his much publicized proclamation:

I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.

What a tragedy it was that Rudd reneged on his promise to work with Turnbull to achieve bipartisanship to bring in an ETS. We could have had one many years ago. We now are as far away from an ETS as ever.

In December of last year, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was foolish enough to utter the words: “…we know there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme”. Hard right-wingers Cory Bernardi and Craig Kelly went ballistic, Tony Abbott chimed in to repeat his longstanding opposition, and Murdoch’s Chris Kenny wrote a column in The Australian warning Turnbull that it was ‘political madness’ to re-consider an ETS.

Turnbull’s retreat was rapid. Within 24 hours he was insisting: “We will not be imposing a carbon tax and we will not be imposing an emissions trading scheme, however it is called, an emissions intensity scheme is an emissions trading scheme. That is just another name for it. That has been our policy for many years now.”

Suitably chastened, Frydenberg soon echoed Turnbull’s words, adding apologetically: “I have never advocated for a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme; that is why the Government won’t proceed with one.” Ben Eltham, writing in New Matilda commented: Somewhere...a rooster crowed twice.

Although we all remember Turnbull’s 2009 proclamation, he has made many other utterances, from which he has retreated. They can be found in the archives. Some may surprise you. Take a look at them: You will find them here:

Here are a few of them:
“Climate change is a global problem. The planet is warming because of the growing level of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If this trend continues, truly catastrophic consequences are likely to ensue from rising sea levels, to reduced water availability, to more heat waves and fires.

“I do not believe we can effectively move Australia to a lower emission economy, which is what we need to do if we're going to make a contribution to a global reduction in greenhouse gases, without putting a price on carbon.”

“…some years from now if there's a global emissions trading scheme agreement, as many have hoped for, then I'm sure Australia would be part of it.”

“The question of whether or to what extent human activities are causing global warming is not a matter of ideology, let alone of belief. The issue is simply one of risk management.”

“If Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously and believed that we should take action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of incipient Bolshevism.”

“We are already experiencing the symptoms of climate change, especially with a hotter and drier climate in southern Australia - the rush to construct desalination plants is an expensive testament to that.”

“Look at countries like China, they are determined to dominate all clean technology areas, putting lots of money into wind, solar, electric vehicles and battery storage. America's political impotence, caused by their terrible partisanship, will see them left behind.”

“Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.”

"Direct Action is “a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing” and a “recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”.

“First, lets get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money. To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money. Somebody has to pay. So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, "bullshit." Moreover he knows it.”

“I believe that politicians should speak the truth all the time. Invariably there will be occasions when you make statements that are factually incorrect due to an error.”

“I've been around in public life for a long time. I think people know what I stand for. They know that I have strong convictions, committed principles and I'm prepared to stand up for them.”
How laughable! Turnbull has shown over and again that he will not stand up for his principles when members of his rabid right wing stamp their feet and demand that he toe the line he agreed to get their votes to topple Abbott. We have seen that time and again, but nowhere more flagrantly than over the issue of climate change.

The man who so strongly supported an ETS now refuses to have a bar of one.

After Turnbull replaced Abbott, climate pundits were excited. Corporate advisor, Paul Gilding, insisted that there was great support from Malcolm Turnbull on renewable energy and climate change: “Turnbull actually supports climate action and has long understood the economic implications of the transition required. And rather than being fearful of those implications he embraces them – seeing the inherent opportunity in a transition away from coal and towards a technology-driven transformation of the renewable energy system. The influence of this over time, on the business community and on public attitudes will be long lasting and leave a legacy for a generation.” How disillusioned Gilding must be now!

But as we have seen in the last couple of months, ever since September when in South Australia a ‘once in fifty-year storm’ tore up transmission towers and blacked out the entire state, Turnbull has become a fierce critic of the targets set for the adoption of renewable energy, initially blaming the state’s dependence on renewable energy for the disaster, later capitulating in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary.

He and his minders, having decided that ‘energy security’ will be the defining issue in the months ahead, have attacked Labor and the Greens relentlessly as ‘ideologically driven’ incompetents whose ‘utterly unrealistic renewable energy targets’ will not be achievable, and will drive energy prices skyward. Turnbull has ruthlessly abandoned his long-held principles in the pursuit of political gain, for himself and the LNP.

Turnbull castigates those who seek to transition to renewables rapidly, and now supports coal mining. He even allowed his Treasurer to bring a lump of coal into parliament to mock Labor. He now talks of ‘clean coal’ technology, as if it was an imminent and financially viable possibility, which experts in the field insist it is not. His behaviour is no different from that of Abbott who proclaimed that ‘coal is good for humanity’ and would be around as a major source of energy for many decades!

He is Abbott personified, but without a skerrick of principle left!

Now, a coalition of eighteen business, energy, investor, climate and welfare groups, including the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services, and the ACTU, has called for an end to partisan energy politics and urgent action on global warming in the knowledge of its devastating effects on business, investment in energy, agriculture, the environment, and indeed life on this planet. But Turnbull and his government are not listening!

This whole piece could be about Turnbull’s shameful retreat from the urgency of global warming, but let’s visit some other of Turnbull’s inglorious retreats.

Ten pieces of silver to ‘demolish the NBN’
Who will ever forget PM Abbott’s infamous instruction to his then Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull: Demolish the NBN? Abbott wanted it destroyed only because Labor had proposed and designed it, a groundbreaking Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) proposal that would have placed Australia at the forefront of modern Internet communications, and would have given it a competitive advantage over its neighbours and overseas' rivals. After the Abbott intervention, thanks to the lily-livered, mendacious response of Turnbull, a tech-head who made his fortune in Internet communications with the sale of his OzEmail, we now rank a lowly 45th in the world for Internet speeds.

Although Turnbull knew full well that FTTP was the superior option, he messed around trying to convince us of the merits of a Multi Technology Mix (MTM) that included Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC), Fixed Wireless, and a Long Term Satellite Service, as well as Fibre to the Node (FTTN) where fibre was rolled out only to street corner boxes, with ageing copper wire making the connection to the premises. Turnbull’s selling spiel was that Labor’s FTTP was prohibitively expensive, too slow to roll out, and sotto voce unnecessary for Australia’s needs. FTTN, with its lower speeds, would be OK for this nation, which he continually implores to be ‘agile and innovative’.

The facts are that the FTTN rollout is arguably no faster than was planned for Labor’s FTTP, the speeds are poorer, and the cost is likely to be the same as for the FTTP, or higher. In other words, to placate the malevolent Abbott, Turnbull’s counterintuitive interference with the original FTTP plan has resulted in Australia gaining nothing, and we have lost a golden opportunity to be world leaders.

Once more, Turnbull has sacrificed his ideals, abandoned his technical know-how, and deliberately deceived the public about the touted merits of the Coalition’s FTTN MTM hotchpotch, leaving us no better off financially or logistically, but much worse off technically with an already out-of-date NBN that will soon need expensive upgrades.

Moreover, he has tried to convince us that the fast 100Mbps speeds promised by FTTP are not necessary, as many taking up the NBN are choosing slower speeds. But what about business and industry that need to send large files around the world; what about farmers who need to be in rapid touch with world prices and trends? Turnbull seems to be channeling the tech-ignorant Abbott who said that the speeds needed only to be good enough to send an email, or for his daughters to download a movie!

Turnbull, who does know the technical facts better than anyone else in his party, has sold his principles and values simply to gain political advantage for himself and his party. He has lied.

In answer to a question about the Coalition’s NBN on Q&A last year Turnbull obfuscated. Writing about it in Delimiter Renai LeMay said:
“On last night’s episode of Q&A, Turnbull did nothing to address persistent criticism of the Coalition’s NBN policy. Neither did he address – at all – Labor’s reworked NBN vision.

"Instead, what we got was a repeat of the standardised set of talking points which virtually every Coalition MP has been parroting about the NBN for the past two to three years.

"I find this insulting, to say the least.

"Turnbull is clearly aware that the NBN debate has moved on and that the country is now having a nuanced discussion of how the NBN project should proceed over the next decade, incorporating technologies such as HFC cable, FTTP and perhaps even new models such as Fibre to the Distribution Point.

"The Prime Minister’s failure to address that debate in any way, shape or form shows his lack of respect for the public; and also his determination not to meaningfully engage on the matter of the NBN. The increasing likelihood that the Coalition will not refine its NBN policy for the election reinforces that impression."
Once more Turnbull has recklessly sacrificed his ideals for a pottage of political advantage.

Ten pieces of silver to abandon marital equality
This piece is already long enough; so let’s conclude with Turnbull’s shameful retreat from his principles on this contentious matter.

Turnbull has always advocated marriage equality, and believes that a parliamentary vote would secure its legislative passage. Yet, despite public opinion strongly favoring marriage equality, and a majority in favour of a parliamentary vote to settle the matter, Turnbull will not budge from his commitment to the hard right of his party to have a plebiscite, which we all know was Abbott’s delaying mechanism that would give opponents the opportunity to disseminate emotive dissent, thereby creating doubt in voters’ minds, which the religious right hopes will result in a negative vote.

Turnbull has no religious, social or ideological objection to marriage equality – indeed the contrary is the case. Yet he is shamelessly sacrificing his long-held principles on the altar of political expediency, simply to placate the rabid religious right in his party, and thereby hang tenuously onto his prime ministership.

Do you need any more evidence that Turnbull has sold his political soul for thirty pieces of silver? On three crucial fronts: global warming, the NBN, and marriage equality, he has sold out so that he could grasp, and now cling doggedly onto leadership. There are many more of his values that he has sacrificed for silver: The Republic, Medicare, urban planning, and asylum seeker policy. But enough is enough.

What are voters feeling about him now, just eighteen months into his prime ministership?

Disappointment, disillusionment, disgust, disrespect, despair, despondency, desolation, and above all, intense anger.

What a political and personal price he has paid in return for his thirty pieces of silver!

What do you think?
What are your views about Malcolm Turnbull?

Have you other examples of how he has sold out his principles and values?

Let us know in comments below.

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Comments (18) -

  • lawrence winder

    3/5/2017 2:34:20 PM |

    I cannot see any logical advantage for the country to be dragged further back into the 50's  than profitability for the ruling rabble's big business mates.... their destruction of the place under the aegis of IPA cant is almost complete ...what a despicable mongrel lot...every one of them!

  • Ad Astra

    3/5/2017 2:56:58 PM |

    lawrence winder
    I heartily agree.

    If one were writing a rancid satirical play about conservative politics, no more appalling scenario than we now witness could be dreamt up, even by the most cynical of writers.

  • Barry

    3/5/2017 7:59:45 PM |

    "Once more, Turnbull has sacrificed his ideals, abandoned his technical know-how", sorry to disagree with you on this one, he hasn't any. The Malcolm Turnball (sic) we see is exactly what he is, a man that will throw any and all convictions out the window to  hold onto power whatever it costs.
    "Moreover, he has tried to convince us that the fast 100Mbps speeds promised by FTTP are not necessary, as many taking up the NBN are choosing slower speeds", the reason as I see it is people aren't taking it up because of the cost. I've been on the NBN for about four months and it's been a boondoggle from day one. For the most part comparable speeds to ADSL but at least with ADSL the landline phone didn't drop out every other day requiring a reset of the modem or having to reset because the internet goes off to la la land. I had hopes of a change of direction after Abbott received the heave ho but alas, screwed again.

  • Michael Taylor

    3/5/2017 8:25:15 PM |

    You just keep getting better, Ad astra. One of your best articles yet.

  • Ad Astra

    3/5/2017 9:00:05 PM |

    Thank you for your kind comment. Coming from someone of your expertise and long experience as a webmaster on a great site, is a great compliment.

  • Ad Astra

    3/5/2017 9:12:41 PM |

    Of course you are right. It is all the more sad when someone thought to be a man of principle reveals that his prime 'principle' is to keep his job at any cost.

    I haven't got the NBN, only ADSL2 here in Melbourne and in the country only a mobile service. The former is acceptable, but the latter is variable depending on whether it's school holiday time at our coastal village, when the pace slows to a tedious crawl. The NBN is said to be close to us there, but tantalisingly slow coming. After reading your account of the NBN, I wonder how worthwhile it would be.

  • Barry

    3/5/2017 9:36:08 PM |

    Ad Astra, my advice is stay on ADSL2 until you absolutely have no other choice. On a different tack but pertaining somewhat to your article. Bill shorten is receiving an absolute caning over his comments about the FWC decision. I don't know about the rest of the country but he is the sort of pollie I like unfortunately he hasn't put it in the way I would I.E "I screwed it up and I'm sorry. Now how do we fix it so it doesn't happen again?" and yes I did that quite a few times in my working life and why I'd like to hear just ONE politician say that but I'm not going to hold my breath.

  • Ad Astra

    3/5/2017 9:57:51 PM |

    Unfortunately Shorten is no strategic genius. Politicians never admit they screwed up -if they did, they would garner a touch more respect.

  • Ad Astra

    3/5/2017 9:59:21 PM |

    I think NBN Co. will make the choice for me - they won't come near my house!

  • Barry

    3/5/2017 10:14:08 PM |

    "Unfortunately Shorten is no strategic genius. Politicians never admit they screwed up -if they did, they would garner a touch more respect."
    I have to agree but he is making an effort as are all politicians from the 'left' (whatever that is). In my opinion the media has to take a lot of the blame, always looking for that gotcha moment instead of giving them a chance to explain why they've changed their mind and if ever a politician says "I got it wrong and I will try to do this to fix it" they'd have a certain number 1 vote from me as well as a lot of other voters. All that aside look forward to reading your thoughts about the world politic. Long may you keep it up.

  • Bacchus

    3/6/2017 12:20:28 AM |

    "abandoned his technical know-how" - sorry to disagree with you on this one, he hasn't any.

    I have to agree with you there Barry - Turnbull is credited with being some sort of technical guru because he did what high-end investors do - he bought and sold OzEmail at advantageous times in the market. Nothing more, nothing less. He's a merchant banker and lawyer, not a technical guru or a prime minister.

  • Golly

    3/6/2017 4:56:01 AM |

    Your outline has said it all. Have we seen such a rabbit blinded by the headlights? Turmbull looks stunned, a cloak of deceit with narrow self interest, so far blinded just to remain the titular head of so badly named political party, with one achievement. Turnbull has outdone Abbott as the most incompetent fool to be handed the reins. (dreadful pun!).
    Looking for something positive is still possible despite a totally self-interested and greedy government.
    Hopefully the WA election will give hope. Two more years of obstruction from the Federal government is is far too long for a emergency blowing up before us.
    The good news is that despite the efforts of our 'representative government' and a hostile puppeteering press, progress is being made by interests not controlled by the group that now control the group that control Turnbull.

  • Jon Chesterson

    3/6/2017 8:11:56 AM |

    Malco dreary Bligh,
    duplicitous company fly,
    lost in the paddocks
    of Trump and Murdoch
    bleeding the people dry.

    Howard digger grumble
    watch your Tampa crumble,
    far too long
    the rich man’s song,
    see Captain Malco tumble.

    To Canberra, rally we must go,
    bleary ey'd 'n weary end the show,
    heretical fanatical,
    shambolical tyrannical
    and troublesome 'teary' you know.

    [From Malco Turbo and the Twelve Apostles, 2017 - A satirical nursery rhyme by Barddylbach]

  • Ad Astra

    3/6/2017 10:52:27 AM |

    I guess I’ve always given Turnbull credit for having technical expertise. Maybe I’m channeling Tony Abbott – in one of his flights of fancy, Abbott even attributed the invention of the Internet to Turnbull! I’ll have to watch my words.

  • Ad Astra

    3/6/2017 10:56:32 AM |

    Your description of Turnbull is apt!

    A lot is swinging on the WA result. If Hanson does well, we ought to be afraid. She becomes more maverick by the day – witness here performance yesterday on Insiders.

  • Ad Astra

    3/6/2017 10:59:56 AM |

    Thank you for your remarks. There is certainly plenty to comment on in the world of politics, here and overseas - witness Trump's evidence-free claim this morning of phone tapping by Obama!

  • Ad Astra

    3/6/2017 11:03:53 AM |

    Jon Chesterson
    An prophetic rhyme - dating back to Tampa!

    'Malco dreary Bligh' is an apt descriptor.

  • Ad Astra

    3/7/2017 2:56:25 PM |

    Turnbull’s about faces on climate change (there are several), are becoming more embarrassing by the week, as others shift their ground towards an ETS, while Turnbull remains leg-roped to the ‘do-nothing’ gatepost by his radical right.

    Writing today in Crikey, Bernard Keane says: “… there’s widespread consensus among economists about the effectiveness of an emission intensity scheme for finding the most efficient way to transition to renewable energy, but it’s been shelved by the Liberals as a tool for political reasons.

    “Problematically, however, the policy ground is shifting under the government.

    “Not merely has the energy industry rejected “clean coal” out of hand, big power generators EnergyAustralia and AGL Energy have both called for an emissions intensity scheme, as has BHP.

    “And while big business in Australia has a track record of “supporting” climate action but bagging whatever mechanism governments come up with, now the National Farmers Federation has called for one as well.

    “The government’s ruling out of an EIS in December is now looking very Canute-like.”

    Turnbull and the LNP run the risk of being mugged by the hard-nosed business community that sees the folly of the denialist right’s determination to do nothing.

Comments are closed