Simply the worst: Rundle on Turnbull as PM

Just before the Joyce affair broke and occupied all the media space, Guy Rundle at Crikey wrote an excoriating piece in which he stated that Turnbull is the most contemptible modern prime minister we’ve had. At least in the last 15 years.

The focus was Turnbull’s “pathetic handling of the Jim Molan mini-scandal, the new senator posting anti-Muslim dreck from a British far-right/neo-Nazi website.” Rundle could not see the point of pandering to emerging neo-Nazi sentiments on the right. He sees Turnbull as entirely vacuous, living an imaginary life of his choosing. Abbott by contrast, has some content, although ridiculous.

It was on 7 February when Rundle wrote:

    Virtually the entire crop of leading mainstream party politicians — after the cresting of John Howard and the demise of the Beazley-Crean Laurel and Hardy act — arouse in us rich and complex blends of pity, loathing, and disgust; each as distinct as the different notes and flavours in a variety of single malts.

    Of our leaders of the last 15 years, only Julia Gillard escapes such judgement, due to her basic competence, rationality and having some consistent beliefs; ironic, in that she had to suffer the worst barrage of simple hatred while in office. What a goddamn golden age.

Rundle is merciless on Rudd:

    Kevin Rudd floats across the political landscape like an escaped hot-air balloon with a face painted on. The practice of government that once tethered him to the ground awhile; now, bereft of that, the fantasy side of his nature has taken over, reconstructing the memory and account of his inspiring but shambolic time in office. The cocktail? A degree of remnant regard, contempt, a dash of pity, a garnish of schadenfreude.

On Abbott:

    The boy wonder, feted to be either pope or prime minister, the right-wing rugger bugger, turned Santamaria student politics falangist, journalist, would-be priest, thinker, the leading conservative of his generation — and he turned out to be the most ridiculous figure of them all.

Even though ridiculous, he finds some content in Abbott, which is lacking in Turnbull. On the latter:

    Sartre spoke of the nausea, the actual physical sickness one feels at the contingency of things, how everything could just as well be otherwise. Turnbull goes one better; he channels a sort of existential dry retching, a product of the vast disappointment with the politician, combined with a rich contempt for the man he has decided to be, or always was.

In this case Rundle sees Turnbull as pandering to a creep towards neo-Nazism which “is moral and political poison for any centre-right force that wants a long-term future.”

He says you might compare Turnbull to boss in TV program The Office, but not the UK version, where you see:

    a clumsy, excruciating man, but with some capacity for real feeling and need, beneath the bluster. Turnbull is Steve Carell’s Michael Scott from the US version: the smirking, giggling, twitching cartoon figure, who never misses a chance to advance his own interests, usually blunderingly, a man whose presence lingers, when he is gone, by the sour taste in one’s mouth.

    Turnbull cannot shift the Coalition out of the 47/48-53/52 two-party-preferred zone, I suspect, because disgust is immovable, and disgust is what he provokes in a number of people. Cowardice, poor judgement, delusion, petty ambitions: Malcolm Turnbull manages to discredit not merely the life of politics, but human striving in general. Even at the end of this bum cycle of Australian politics, that is quite an anti-achievement.

Should you think that Rundle is a shill for the left in Australian politics, you would be sadly mistaken. He has done a series of six articles Red Brotherhood at War: Inside Labbor’s impending Factional Collapse looking at the factionalism in Victoria which he says killing the Labor Party and asks whether it can be reversed.

Where we are in Australian politics is not pretty in Rundle’s view. Labor under Hawke/Keating was “forceful, dynamic, sexy, technocratic and elitist, and media-oriented.” However, the next generation are media-friendly narcissists, rather than builders of a mass party.

    Selected early for their media-friendly style and demeanour, mentored, proteged and duchessed, they have had no defence against the disease of a media era, corrosive narcissism.

    Forming networks, they have mirrored each other’s self-regard, and drawn less self-obsessed people along with them. The party’s internal defences and processes have become so weak as to lack all immunity to such. The parasite takes over the host and works its limbs, and that is something of what one is seeing now.

Inevitably they burn out, and are left running off the energy of bitterness, which is all that remains.

Rundle thinks this could cost Labor the next election.

    But if it can somehow conspire to lose to Malcolm Turnbull, or whoever, then we’re screwed. Somehow, eventually the pet-shop puppy-basket clusterfuck that is the Coalition will hit on a winning formula of centre-right social progressivism, and corporate-favouring capitalism, and at that point it will wipe away what remains of a social-democratic industrial framework.

    It will preside over a nation creating a new type of Australian: with the same expectations of atomised, individual work existence as many Americans have, with little notion of an enabling state, dominated by the classical liberal conception that the state is inherently parasitic. Perhaps such a disaster would produce a revival of real left politics. But perhaps it would be the end of an Australia many of us hold dear.

So, he says:

    Labor is hoping to eke out a 2019 (or 2018) win despite the roiling chaos going on beneath the leadership. Those who grit their teeth and work for it will do so in the rueful knowledge that one must fight for victory, even if the only thing that would make genuine renewal possible would be another defeat. We can’t go on, we go on, and so it goes and so it goes.

This may be a Victoria-centric view of the Labor Party. In 2016 Labor ran on a stack of detailed policies and factions have always been a feature of Victorian Labor. Looking at last election results Turnbull’s biggest task will be to hold onto the Coalition’s 21 out of 30 seats in Queensland. According to Newspoll, if an election were held today the LNP would win 63 seats to Labor’s 82. On personal performance, 54 per cent of voters are dissatisfied with both Turnbull and Shorten and only 34 per cent satisfied – a dead heat.

Now Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce may have gifted Labor the next election if the pundits are to be believed. Greg Sheridan in the Oz thinks that the Joyce scandal may be the pivotal moment that marks the Trumpification of Australian conservative politics where tribal ties prove more important than principles and morals. According to him, the left are already there.

For what it’s worth, I think Joyce will hang on. He needs the money, and no-one within the National Party has enough heft to unseat him. Turnbull in the end has no say in the matter. How this plays out over the next weeks and months in quite unpredictable, but democracy based on rational consideration of policy will struggle for attention and more dry retching in store for Rundle.

20 thoughts on “Simply the worst: Rundle on Turnbull as PM”

  1. Jeez what a post! Write that about me and I might be calling Beyond Blue.
    Sadly, I was largely in agreement.

  2. Rundle and his ilk are the main part of the problem politicians have.
    I don’t subscribe to crikey so can’t read the whole bleat, so does he posit any alternatives ?
    I mean, he so brilliantly understanding of what a perfect politician is should run himself.
    Then he can feel the acid pens of his now colleagues.

    Or maybe he’s just another snide pontificating scribe without the balls to back his words.

  3. Bolt, Devine, Blair, Albrechtson and their ilk are the main part of the problem politicians have.
    I boycott Rupert, so can’t read any of their bleats, so do they posit any alternatives ?
    I mean, they’re so brilliantly understanding of what makes a perfect politician they should run themselves.
    Then they can feel the acid pens of their now colleagues.

    Or maybe they’re just a group of snide pontificating scribes without the spine to back their words.

  4. zoot
    No, same dog different leg.

    So you admit only listening to one sides criticisms.
    No wonder your balance is off.

  5. So you admit only listening to one sides criticisms.

    Apparently in your universe there are only two sides.
    Murdoch is one. What is the other?

    (Disclosure: in my universe there are a vast number of points of view. I pay attention to as many as possible. However, Rupert’s flying monkeys are so predictable that any time devoted to them is wasted.)

  6. Politically, and that’s what we’re talking about, in Australia there are two dominant sides.
    In the media ( MSM ) there are the same two sides.
    There is no middle media source.

    Are there any media outlets that are too left wing for you zoot ?

    ( there is such a thing as ” far left wing ” even though your ABC never sees it. They only point out ” far right wing ” )

  7. Are there any media outlets that are too left wing for you zoot ?

    Jeez, it’s like nailing jelly to a tree.
    Jumpy, I’m not getting into a pissing contest with you. I just want to know who or what you think is the other side aligned against Murdoch.

    (More disclosure: In my Australia the mainstream media generally lies on a spectrum from centre right to far right. At the edges there are some smaller non-mainstream players on the extreme right and the extreme left)

  8. And there it is.
    You are so far left you think the MSM is centre to far right ! Wow!

    Let me guess, Di Natale is a centrist?

  9. In truth zoot I appreciate your honesty.
    To reciprocate, I’ll list the way I see the political parties on the left/ centre/right spectrum.
    Greens – Left
    ALP – centre left
    LDP – Centre
    Lib – centre right
    Nat- Right

    Now there are overlaps from time to time but that what I see.

  10. And in the spirit of full commitment to transparency to promote genuine dialogue, I’ve never vote for a green or Lib candidate. I have the others.

  11. Note for any interested observers:
    I engaged with Jumpy on the topic of the media. I mentioned in passing my assessment of the political leanings of the Australian media. Jumpy “reciprocated” by listing his assessment of Australia’s political parties.
    This is what passes for dialogue in Jumpy’s universe.
    And he still hasn’t told us what he thinks is the other side opposing the Murdoch media.

  12. And just for Jumpy

    You are so far left you think the MSM is centre to far right ! Wow!

    Has it ever occurred to you that it is just as valid for me to write:

    You are so far right you think the MSM is to the left! Wow!

  13. Guy Trundle writes with verve, and anger. He wrote comedy scripts in another life.

    I don’t share his quasi-Marxist stance.

    But I feel his poetry has nailed Blimp Rudd, drifting effortlessly above us, just as he did when PM. He had (and has) a folksy disdain for us bogans. He knew better. He was the smartest guy in the seminar, and a shockingly ineffectual “leader”.

    With any luck, some of us may have time to dissect Mr Guy Tumbril’s words and standpoint. It would be worth some effort.

    When Communism collapsed, he lamented.
    I rejoiced.
    It’s a very 20th Century thing.


    Guy Fawkes: the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions!
    – anarchist poster, circa 1972

  14. Mr Rundle is not a shill for the ALP.
    Perhaps his political home is Arena magazine.
    It’s a Melbourne thing.

    Carlton, Brunswick, Fitzroy; mean streets, gentrification, Melbourne Uni glowering over from the Heights of Parkville.

    “Knowledge workers”,
    “public intellectuals”,
    “Writers’ Festivals”…….

    Women in black dresses, men in black skivvies. Semi-shaven, gritty realism…. as real as the sand dropped onto tram tracks, pulverised then blown into your eyes by a hot northerly wind howling down from Fawkner Cemetry or Reservoir. Damn those eastern suburbanites buying up terrace houses as investment properties with no thought for the garretting poets and postgrads shuffling past King and Godfreys, busking outside Readings, cycling home to vegan lentils with two-minute noodles while swanky capitalists and capitalist lickspittle sup the finest wines….

    It’s a Melbourne thing.

    And quite a stretch to compare ALP factionalism to real, deadly jungle and highway war in Kampuchea, Laos, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam: Red Brotherhood at War being the title of a book by three Melbourne Marxists: Grant Evans, Kelvin Rowley and ….. { sorry, forgot} published around 1980, about the conflicts which erupted within a few years of the Communist victories in Kampuchea, Vietnam and Laos, 1975, between those nations (supposedly) close brothers in their heroic defeats of US imperialism.

    How could it all go so horribly wrong?

  15. C’mon, Guy.
    There may only be 15 of us who even recognised Red Brotherhood at War.

    Eschew obfuscation, man!!
    Tell it all ungilded..

  16. Ambi, that is intriguing about Red Brotherhood at War. I know that titles are often chosen by editors rather than authors, so I don’t know whether Rundle chose it. I think it highlights how he overcooks whatever is going on in Victorian Labor.

    And his judgement on the main actors in Australian politics lacks a bit of nuance, yet I think it has value in stimulating insight.

    Happens that today I heard Kevin Rudd at Big Ideas giving his take on the political situation from the perspective of a man of faith.

    Unfortunately there is no transcript, but it is worth a listen. He’s a man with awesome intellect, as you say drifts effortlessly above us and is the smartest guy in the seminar.

    He too sees politics at a low point, blaming the situation, if I’ve got him right, on the failure of capitalism to give us a just and fair society.

  17. And while Turnbull dithers, our nation’s energy security gets more vulnerable.

    From weblog, here’s the latest post titled Australian fuel imports from Asia are going sky high while non-compliance with IEA stock requirements continues (part 1).

  18. Yes, I heard Rudd say that.
    He’s being a bit disingenuous there, he knows full well Clinton regulating lenders lend to the unlendable and Rating agencies labelling that junk as AAA started the GFC.
    But he’s consistent in blaming Capitalism for every failure of government intervention in the market, gotta give him that.

  19. Whilst I have more respect for Guy Rundle than for the herd of graduates of the Joseph Goebbels Academy of Accurate Journalism who now infest Australia’s “news??” media, I think he is wrong.

    Bad as he is, Malcolm Turnbull, is no worse than most of the other Prime Ministers, and aspirants for the P.M.’s job, who have flashed across our screens or our rubbish-wrappers in the past 15 years. I wish him all the best in his post-Prime Ministerial career as Macquarie Island’s senior inspector of penguin paths.

    But if Guy Rundle wants really bad, destructive prime ministers, ones who would leave today’s chief duds for dead, he could go no further than Menzies, Hawke and Howard.

    If not it were not for that trio, Australia would now be a sovereign, respected and prosperous country.

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