Turnbull's Ikea catalogue moment: The 21st century cabinet

Reasonable voters have no truck with smooth-talk and marvellous hair. Reasonable voters see past political expression and through to the policy this works to conceal. Reasonable voters have diminished hope of survival against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull whose charming unreason charmed the reasonable pants off a nation twice Monday morning.

To be honest, my own trousers are briefly out for dry-cleaning after the new PM’s performance on Nine and on Seven. I may have previously thought of this man as the wicked issue of Oprah and F.A Hayek and, truly, I still do. But, with each informed crack about House of Cards and every other shrewd signal that he was a man of this century — like that’s a good thing — I fluttered.

I could never permit this romance into the ballot box because my grandparents, Melbourne socialists still angry with B.A Santamaria at the time of their death, would rise to disturb me. But, not everyone is haunted by the grave of the left and our silver-tongued PMILF should easily talk his way beyond reason and into a second term.

These are not just poll spikes we are seeing but the neoliberal sword on which we will skewer ourselves until that date when we are so enslaved to Turnbull’s “free” market, we are less a nation state than a minor clause in an international trade agreement and our only means of survival is either becoming intellectual copyright lawyers or eating our family members — not dissimilar pursuits.

Turnbull is our most convincing political speaker since Howard and the funniest since Keating. That he can sell very old, and very dodgy, ideas on a self-regulating market as spanking new is to his great credit as a salesman.

His “twenty-first century cabinet” was sold with a level of marketing skill rarely seen outside the IKEA catalogue. This is, as Bill Shorten, says, the same political furniture in a new configuration — the reasonable voter would know that the chief business of government is economic management and that economic management will remain largely unchanged under Turnbull. But, Shorten is our least convincing political speaker since Billy McMahon and our unfunniest since Howard. He cannot do what Turnbull does and seem like a guest so grateful for our hospitality, he is always ready with bon mots.

When Kochie asked him Monday morning if he and his chic political wife Lucy could be compared to Frank and Clare Underwood of House of Cards, he replied no, “other than we both use a rowing machine”. He continued, “And, it has been noted I’ve got a different model. I have one of the more traditional ones.”

God, he’s good. Not only did he upturn the criticism that his public Underwood cheer conceals his private Underwood malice, he seized the opportunity to demonstrate that he is (a) unlikely to purchase fancy exercise equipment and (b) very familiar with the Netflix catalogue.

The only person likely to find this presentation galling is Rupert Murdoch. And Rupert, who would prefer Netflix and all other opposition to his profit legislated out of existence, has already made his disdain for Malcolm plain. If there is a single reason to feel good about Malcolm’s ascension, it is the aversion Murdoch has for it and the super-fun way his employees echo his threat to their pay-cheques.

News Corp might continue to punish him, but Malcolm looks set for victory in any case. As publicly brilliant with Lisa on Today as he was with Kochie on Sunrise, he revisited the sunny message that had risen last week. When Wilkinson asked him about the serious dispute with the cultural right of his party, he asked her “Why are you so negative?” and reminded her it was a beautiful morning.

This is Malcolm’s beautiful morning. When he moved last week from Abbott’s tedious reminders that “Team Australia” needed to be very afraid of most things to the “There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today”, he courted a new kind of unreasonable voter. We’d prefer to be unreasonably charmed than unreasonably frightened.

The signs, not the evidence, of rebirth are everywhere. I counted the word “renewal” so often in the announcement of his cabinet reshuffle, that I was reminded of ‘70s sci-fi kitsch Logan’s Run. In this picturesque dystopia, citizens of a world that can no longer sustain them are rewarded by the state with “renewal”, which, as it turns out, is nothing but a sentence of death.

Still. If we and the planet that produced us will all wither anyhow, where’s the harm in being proud of a leader who comports himself like a leader? Let us go gently into a good night with a false promise of morning. Let us be happy with our unreason and the eloquent, bright means that Malcolm uses to court it. Renewal!

Featured image by Veni Markovski/Flickr

28 responses to “Turnbull's Ikea catalogue moment: The 21st century cabinet

  1. Great piece Helen. Well I went out to my car on Sunday & gave it the ritual Sunday wash. When the sun had baked ther suds dry I took it for a spin aropund the block only to find it was the same old car. Its a slightly lighter fade of what it was before the wash !!!

  2. This: ‘ If there is a single reason to feel good about Malcolm’s ascension, it is the aversion Murdoch has for it and the super-fun way his employees echo his threat to their pay-cheques.’. Ah yes, the chagrin and confusion among this nest of poisonous reptiles of the press has been really entertaining to watch. According to Andrew Bolt, it has even descended into a kind of NewsCorp civil war, and it’s satisfying to note that there can be no winners in such a war.

    Whatever signals the Tele, Hun and Oz now send their readers about their disdain for Turnbull, they no their readers have nowhere else to take their vote except to Labor (if indeed any are still influenced by the budgie cage liners). Shorten might even fancy his chances of gaining a Murdoch impramatur – wouldn’t that be a turn-up?

    Dunno about PMILF, though. I’ll leave it to Lucy.

  3. If reasonable people are seduced by Turnbull’s presentation, it might have more to do with the fact that he presents an optimistic view of what the future might hold. It’s a long time since anyone on the counterfeit left spoke of a future that wasn’t shadowed by anti-humanist doom and gloom. Like, for instance, Razer in this article. It’s about time the “left” remembered that it used to stand for a better, brighter future for all. Without that, it has no reason to be.

    1. I base my “negativity” on widely available accounts of wealth inequality which indicate that the trickle down policies honoured in western democracies for the past forty years and clearly beloved by Turnbull inevitably produce these. It’s not a character flaw to know a little about economic cause and effect.

  4. Disappointed my comment, which disagreed with Helen Razer, wasn’t published. It wasn’t objectionable in any way so I can only suppose it was because I disagreed with Razer’s article. I thought she’d take disagreements. Shame. Disappointed in her. And I do think Turnbull waffles.

    1. Cherie. I receive little but disagreement and your very mild and valid case of it was not censored. It just took a while to moderate it.
      Sensibly, I don’t have moderation privileges!
      FWIW, I think you’re right. Turnbull can stray into bombast easily.

      1. Sorry about being so impatient. Felt rather embarrassed and hoped my 2nd comment wouldn’t be shown. Will be more patient in future.

  5. I’ll reserve judgment for a month or two, but Turnbull never impressed me before.
    We’ll see if this leopard can change his spots.

  6. Enough! Snap out of your fluffy stupor & call Turnbull for what he is – a slippery shyster! A slimy spruiker of ugly, destructive policies wrapped in a beautifully tied Windsor Knot. (yes, he is the only one that can actually tie his tie properly….) C’mon Helen, Leigh & Lisa, just do a ‘killing him softly with his song’…..you know you want to…..

  7. “…he was a man of this century…”

    Turnbull took carriage of Labor’s 21st century NBN and turned it into a distinctly 20th century model, with copper wire connections that echo a 19th century technology. On this alone his government has zero cred in claiming 21st…and as for a ministry for the future, try ‘back to the future’…

  8. Malcolm Turnbull is a very frightening prospect, because I suspect he harbors the same neoliberal values as Abbott but has the nuance and people savvy,not to mention the requisite technical financial knowledge to conceal them and convince everyone he doesn’t. He was also the Australian Chair of Goldman Sachs–believe me, no slouch has ever sat there without being a Master of the Dark Arts.

    Or I might be wrong. Perhaps he will prove to be truly moderate, but that won’t be easy considering has to pander to the far right clown car that has nationals and other nutters in every seat. There’s nothing wrong with Free Trade agreements per se; The Hockey/Abbott FTA’s were, however, woeful. What I can say is that if Australia has to have a recession (we will, within the next few years) I’d rather have a competent arrogant prick at the wheel than a political souffle, which is really what shorten is. Realistically, shorten has no chance against Turnbull. I doubt even Albanese can hang with him. Turnbull is like a Keating/Howard Hybrid; not only do the moderate libs like him, but a lot of labor voters do too. There’s really never been anyone like him.

    We live in interesting times.

    1. Yes he’s socially liberal on matters that do not cut into the bottom line of his corporate robber baron mates but on matters of economics his history at Goldman Sachs says it all. He’s as neo-liberal as any of the worst troglodytes on Abbott’s front bench. He’s the iron fist of capital dressed up in a gay-marriage-supporting, climate change-accepting, constitutional recognition-advocating velvet glove! And Bill Shorten is not too different.

  9. That’s us then, the whole country has a dose of Stockholm syndrome, and it feels damn fine. Keep talking Malcolm I’m all ears!

  10. It’s difficult not to be moved to tears by Malcolm’s sob story of his rise from penniless (really??) schoolboy to master of money movements at Goldman Sachs and thence to his ascent to the highest office in the land (apart from being captain of the Test team). How could we not be moved by his compassion for the New Yorkj taxi drivers who worked longer hours than he did and got much less money (much, much less)…How we need a bloke like this who can charm our socks off and make us feel pleased, even delighted that he’sd alive and on ourside on this dying planet. Thank you, Malcolm, do with us what you will. We are yours!

  11. I can’t watch HoC because Mal stopped the internet from reaching my house at sufficient pace.
    His comments are another case of the ruling classes rubbing our noses in it.
    People will, hopefully, see it.

  12. Nice piece thanks Helen. To your bon mots: “This is Malcolm’s beautiful morning. When he moved last week from Abbott’s tedious reminders that ‘Team Australia’ needed to be very afraid of most things to the ‘There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today’, he courted a new kind of unreasonable voter. We’d prefer to be unreasonably charmed than unreasonably frightened.” Precisely. I’d choose charm over fear any day. Now, neither you nor I actually know our new PM, but I have seen enough to tell me that unlike Robot Tony, Malcolm at least has a beating heart, a mind that’s in the 21st century, a degree of emotional intelligence and empathy, and yes, probably, a Netflix subscription. With luck the Tea Party elements of the Coalition will scatter like chaff in the wind and we’ll get neo-Libs vs. new Labor in 2016.

  13. It feels like the end of a bad dream – how did we put up with that dud and his shocking cohorts? Thank Christ Malcolm has relegated most of them to the garbage bin of political anonymity. It is all so worth it just to listen to the howls of seething rage coming from Bolt, and Jones – and how totally inconsequential they really are in the scheme of things.
    Also Bill Shorten was surprisingly very good last night on Q&A, so maybe there is a flow on effect.

  14. Once upon a time there was a man who loved his mother and viscerally hated his father. When his mother died , he felt little grief. However when, twenty years later, his much hated father died , he lost all sense of purpose, could barely even get out of bed in the morning.

  15. I don’t think Malcolm Turnbull expresses himself well – he is one of the biggest wafflers in Parliament. He reminds me of Beazley. He is so smarmy and so utterly pleased with himself it’s a bit embarrassing. I don’t think the right of his party is going to let him change too much from Abbott’s nasty policies.

    I’ve not been at all impressed with Shorten but on Q&A last night I thought he spoke better than I’ve heard him before. Hopefully he will find his feet. And hopefully the silly voters of Australia wont be stupid enough to again be suckered in by a greedy Liberal.

  16. Yup, Malcolm certainly represents the shiny, fuzzy, and — goodness — genuinely articulate side of the Kleptocratic side of politics.

    (And the fact that Rupert is going out of his gord because Turnbull won’t bend over and become a Newscorp stooge is just DELICIOUS !)

    So whether one leans Liberal or not, it’s a plus that the calibre of political leadership appears to have leapt considerably.

    Now if only Labor could muster a challenger of equivalent standing and politics in this country might actually have a political renaissance worthy of the best attention and intentions of the Great Disillusioned.

    1. Congrats, Rutegar, on completely missing Ms Razer’s point; namely, the “calibre of political leadership” has not “leapt considerably”, merely acquired a silver tongue and a nice suit (something Mr Turnbull can easily afford, having a net worth of something in the region of hundreds of millions).
      Congrats, Helen, on again seeing through the bullshit. I have otherwise intelligent and sensible friends who’ve been gushing over this smug freemarketeer.

      1. In my circle, the main feeling is of huge relief that Abbott has been removed and that his replacement appears at least no worse and may prove better in some respects. I’d go further and speculate that at first blush Turnbull’s lot may appeal to voters as being a better prospect than a Shorten led government.

    2. I am really enjoying News at present. These few days where journalists are bound to actually criticise policy instead of “the politically correct left”, which does not in any case wield real power, are precious.

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