Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull - UoS alumnus

I had the pleasure of attending an alumni breakfast this mrorning at which the Hon Malcolm Turnbull spoke on "Politics, Policies and Personal Life". More interestingly it mostly took the form of a Q&A discussion.

It was the engaging contemplative Malcolm on show without any of the debater or the "try hard" about him. That is, the Malcolm that it is possible to like and admire.

He observed that politicians are judged on their competence and conviction, and that often the people will forgive the occassional failing on competence if there is demonstrable conviction. His view is that Kevin Rudd ended up with neither.

In response to a question that asked whether a third c - communication - belonged there, Malcolm made the observation that the communication failure was what I think of as the customer service gap. If you talk up the expectation but don't commensurately increase the delivery you increase dissatisfaction. A really good example is the gap between climate change as our "greatest moral dilemma" and what was ultimately (not)done about it.

He pointed out that it is really difficult to assess the claim that the Government's action averted the effects of the GFC and more importantly whether better managed policies might have been effective.

When asked "how's life" he replied that he believed it was better than the only available alternative. That is a strange answer for someone who is a Catholic - one would think he expects the alternative to actually be better!

He went on to note that the Westminster system has become more presedential than the executive presidency in the US because there the President doesn't by definition control the legislature.

He observed the error in the handling of the Henry tax review - the report should have been released when received (I didn't try to ask him about the other Henry (Ergas) tax review he commissioned).

Malcolm also commented on the 24-hour news cycle - which he more accurately called the 60 second news cycle - that's how fast there is comentary. e bemoaned the fact that the formal media is only full of polls and not analysis of policy positions. He described it as the media only reports "personality and the game" which aligns perfectly with David Forman's description that the media reports politics as "celebrity and a horse race".

Finally there was some reflection about the challenges of taking the public along on issues like climate change and the republic. This made me think they have the same problem - you can get people to agree on the fundamental question (should we be a republic - should we act on climate change) - but it all turns to mush when you get to detail because it is too easy to attack the actual proposal (the politicians republic or a great big tax).

And only as I type that am I reminded that Tony Abbott stood on the side of the negative attacker on both. Ultimately this will be Abbott's problem in ever winning Government - he really doesn't stand for anything.

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