Leading article Australia

Trump’s bandwagon

17 November 2016

3:00 PM

17 November 2016

3:00 PM

The agility with which both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have innovatively attempted to leap upon the Donald Trump bandwagon is as amusing as it is desperate. For Malcolm Turnbull, Leigh Sales’ 7.30 on the ABC was the carriage of choice. Worryingly, Mr Turnbull got his Trump messages back to front.

‘18(C) is talked about constantly on the ABC. It’s talked about constantly in what’s often called the “elite media”,’ he proclaimed, confusingly. By this reading, free speech is a niche issue of the sort that the out-of-touch Clintons and Obamas indulged in, and the ABC are the ‘elite media’ who are most focused on repealing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was Donald Trump who clearly championed free speech during his campaign, promising to repeal certain laws, as part of his attack on the elites, not the other way around. Even worse, using the ABC to promote your newfound ‘street cred’ is simply bizarre. Perhaps if Mr Turnbull had turned up at the Dubbo RSL to sneer at the ‘elite media’ it might have been a little more effective. And credible.

Similarly, Mr Turnbull appeared to view his own habit of jumping on and off public transport equipped with a smartphone as some kind of badge of honour that shows he is in touch with the ‘real’ (ie Trumpian) working classes.

‘Public transport is important. You meet a lot of people you wouldn’t otherwise meet,’ he proudly declared, unaware that even voicing such a patronising statement stresses how out of touch he actually is with mainstream Australia’s concerns.


The tragedy for Mr Turnbull is that he sees echoes of Donald Trump in himself (stinking rich, former businessman etc etc) but fails to recognise that Mr Trump’s appeal lies in all the areas Mr Turnbull himself lacks: the short, clipped phrases; the skill at cutting through; saying what people are thinking; the absence of pomposity; the vulgarities; the speaking of your mind rather than ‘advocating’; the political incorrectness rather than Turnbull’s toe-curling ‘progressivism’. Where Donald Trump appears to have genuine passion, self-belief and determination to make his country great again, Malcolm Turnbull’s drive comes from a gnawing need to be admired as the smartest person in the room. And that’s about it.

Bill Shorten fared a little better, but only just. Donning his favourite fluro vest, and finding a suitable brick wall to stand near, Mr Shorten was quick to try and capitalise on Mr Trump’s ‘working man’ and ‘anti-foreigner’ credentials. Mr Shorten should be on fairly safe ground in emulating Mr Trump, who, after all, has a fierce protectionist mantra along with a classic working-class desire to keep the foreign workers at bay.

But the problem for Mr Shorten is the Faustian pact he has made with the inner-city, non-industrialised Left, with their anti-energy, pro-climate change, anti-jobs agenda. The two Australian states that probably most resemble the fabled ‘rust-belt’ states that Mr Trump barnstormed through are South Australia and Victoria. Only a few days before Mr Trump’s working class victory, Victoria’s major coal fired power station, Hazelwood, closed down – with the loss of hundreds of jobs – thanks to Labor’s insane climate change policies. South Australia, meanwhile, prides itself on blowing up its electricity providers. Hardly conducive to a Trumpian-style industrial revival.

Good triggance

Whilst it was encouraging to hear Prime Minister Turnbull inform Radio 2GB’s Ben Fordham that the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, will not have her contract renewed when it expires next year, the sad fact still remains that this Liberal government is betraying us all on the question of our right to freedom of expression. It goes without saying that Professor Triggs has not only been a disaster for the reputation of this miserable mob, but she has frequently performed her duties in a questionable manner.

On too many occassions, answers given, or comments made, by Professor Triggs to legitimate questions (from the media and elsewhere) to the political overtones of the AHRC’s performance have had to later on be ‘corrected’ or ‘clarified’ as new, contradictory, facts have come to light.

Thought should now be given as to a suitable replacement for the unlamented Triggs. We recommend putting Univesity of Queensland’s talented Garrick Professor of Law, James Allan, in charge. His brief? To shut the whole sorry show down the day he starts.

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