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Turnbull’s triumph

Illustration/Chris Slane

He grew up the child of a struggling solo parent. He went on to make millions before eventually becoming Prime Minister. His name is Malcolm Turnbull and the similarities with John Key may explain their political bromance.

Within the high-wattage brain of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a grim echo of New Zealand has pulsed for half a century.

At nine, he’d arrived in Auckland to spend time with the mother whom he quietly hoped might return to the small Sydney flat she had shared with the boy and his father.

Coral Lansbury – cousin of British actress Angela Lansbury – was dark and vivacious, athletic and blindingly intelligent. In her late teens she’d won Australia’s premier poetry prize, the Henry Lawson, an award her son would also win. She was at the Auckland airport terminal to meet Malcolm. A lanky, sharp-featured, bearded New Zealander ­hovered at her side: “Darling, ­Professor Salmon and I are getting married,” she told the boy.

The words of this novelist, academic and daughter of London stage actors came down like an axe. They smothered any hope that Turnbull’s mother would reunite in Sydney with his father, Bruce, a kindly jack-of-all trades who struggled financially for Malcolm’s younger years, eventually becoming wealthy buying and selling pubs.

John Salmon had met radio producer Coral Lansbury in the early 1960s while he was living in Sydney and professor of history at the University of New South Wales. Salmon, who was born in the Coromandel town of Thames, served as an army officer in occupied Japan and later attended Cambridge. When he was appointed dean of humanities at the University of Waikato in 1965, Coral left her marriage and her young son to join him.

Turnbull recalled the meeting in Auckland for ABC TV’s Australian Story: “So you want to know what was the moment I knew? That was that moment. I guess I really did know before, but in the sense that you … if somebody offers you the chance of a comforting illusion, you’ll often reach for it, but the illusion was shattered then, at Auckland Airport.”

It was a devastating time. “My father, who had every reason to feel very let down by my mother because of the circumstances, did everything he could to ensure that I never thought ill of my mother — and he absolutely succeeded,” Turnbull told the ABC.

“You know, I have letters of his that he wrote to her filled with reproach and bitterness: ‘How could you leave us? How could you leave your son?’ Then he would say to me in the next breath, as it were, ‘Your mother loves you, she hasn’t really left you. No, she’s just gone to New Zealand to do some studies, she’s coming back, don’t worry, everything’s okay’.”

Lansbury would later move to Philadelphia with Salmon after completing her doctorate in Auckland, but the union didn’t last. Her son, at least, believed she was ill-suited to the New Zealander whom Turnbull thought overbearing and a drag on his mother’s resurgent academic career.

Turnbull, 61, is now among the wealthiest of Australia’s politicians – riches he built as a corporate hired legal gun, banker and investor. His Sydney upbringing as an only child in a broken home was a weary trail of rented flats – his father often struggling to make ends meet. But by the time Bruce was killed in a light plane crash in his mid-­fifties, that had changed; he had made a small fortune trading hotels. It can be assumed that Malcolm, by then in his late twenties, inherited well.

There are parallels between Turnbull and John Key: both were raised by sole ­parents who knew lean times. They were late entrants to politics after getting seriously rich inside top-drawer global finance houses. Turnbull headed Goldman Sachs’ Australian arm in the late 1990s. Key was then at the top of his career in London and New York with Merrill Lynch.

Both had striving mothers; Key was shunted towards university by his mother Ruth, whose ambitions for him eclipsed those for her daughters. Coral had highbrow ambitions for her son – so much so that Turnbull has recalled being terrified about sending her his school report cards, even though they showed a son performing well. He studied even harder after she left the home, hoping higher marks might bring her back, wondering, “Is it something about me that has caused her to leave?”

Whereas Key showed a gossamer-thin interest in politics in his student days – beyond an airy desire to get wealthy and become Prime Minister – Turnbull, still at Sydney Grammar, was firing off letters to the Sydney Morning Herald. At 15, he penned an essay lamenting how long the Labor Party had been out of power, creating old men in the conservative-governing Liberals averse to change.

Malcolm Turnbull with dad Bruce.

Tenacity and luck

By his early twenties, Turnbull was beginning his long amble among Sydney’s political and business elite. He was studying law at the University of Sydney – or rather he was paying a mate to take lecture notes while he worked as a journalist.

He covered New South Wales state politics for Channel Nine television, having the gall to front up to the channel’s head­quarters as an unknown and accepting an offer of $40 a story. It was a mad, frenetic time; he was also writing screeching jingles for wealthy larrikin adman John Singleton.

Through journalism he would meet and become friendly with powerful men – some tyrants and tycoons, some men of law and letters; all would later assist his rise and enrichment. In 1976, Turnbull, an accomplished university debater, went to London on holiday and spoke at a Cambridge Union debate. Legendary Sunday Times editor Harold Evans was in the audience and sent a note: “Dear Turnbull – magnificent speech. See me in Gray’s Inn Rd tomorrow.”

Turnbull later remarked that it was like getting a message from God. Like many young journalists, he admired Evans’ ­support for swingeing investigative journalism which, on the Sunday Times, had exposed the ­horrors of thalidomide and the engineering scandal behind the 1974 Turkish DC 10 air crash. The next day, Evans offered Turnbull a job on the spot, but Turnbull said he needed to return to Australia to finish his law degree, prompting an ­exasperated Evans to remark: “Law will certainly make you more money than journalism, but where does it end? Chief Justice? Or much worse, you could end up a politician.”

The astonishing front, tenacity and luck that powerful figures back in Sydney had begun to notice in Turnbull was deployed when he swung through New York on his way home. Rupert Murdoch, then 45, had just triggered much hand-wringing among New York’s snootier media fraternity by announcing he was buying both the highly regarded Village Voice newspaper and New York magazine. The upstart Australian was on the cover of Time but his minders blew off Turnbull when he showed up at the New York Post offices with a freelance film crew to interview Murdoch.

Turnbull has recounted: “He was not giving interviews to anybody. So I just started dialling one extension after the other. And finally I fluked it; I got through to the extension on Rupert Murdoch’s desk. I said something like ‘Jeez, Rupert Murdoch. You’ve got to help me out. I’m completely screwed.’”

Murdoch came downstairs. Turnbull had the scoop for Channel Nine back in Sydney.

A telegram followed. It would result in the job that would supercharge Turnbull’s career and lead him to the connected woman who would become his wife.

Trevor Kennedy, the volcanic maverick who edited the Bulletin for Kerry Packer, was offering the cub reporter a real job. It was 1977 and the long, intelligent, lively pieces of the type Kennedy expected from his stable of writers were powering circulation, pleasing the never-easy Packer.

Lawyer and journalist-to-be Turnbull shows his early tendencies.

Good company

Turnbull leapt at it. He’d continue with his law studies and fill a chair in the Bulletin’s office surrounded by an eclectic bunch of journalists with clashing views; some would later go on to positions of power and influence in politics, business, law and media.

Across the desk from Turnbull sat Bob Carr, the gangly, preposterously ambitious train driver’s son who sorely wanted to be a foreign minister of Australia in a Labor ­Government; for now he kept the Bulletin writers entertained with his achingly funny desk-top parody of the Premier for Life – a cross between Idi Amin and New South Wales Labor Premier Neville Wran. Carr, of course, would become Premier of New South Wales, staying for more than a decade, longer than even Wran. And then he became Australia’s Foreign Minister ­­– under Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Others included David Armstrong and Greg Sheridan. Armstrong would later head Murdoch’s flagship broadsheet, the Australian, and Sheridan has since established himself an Australia’s pre-eminent foreign affairs writer and commentator. Sheridan knew Turnbull from his university days and recalled him as “an almost impossibly glamorous figure around campus” who attracted women.

On the Bulletin, Turnbull wrote a barbed legal column and was familiar with many other subjects including royalty. He wrote cuttingly before the Queen’s 1977 Australian tour that she led the most bankrupt state in Europe and was the head of an enormous socialist bureaucracy. His legal column castigated judges for their impenetrable legalese, their affectation with wigs and gowns and, when required, their errors. He even called for the Chief Justice to resign. The letters poured in. The legal profession had never seen anything quite like it in Australia. Turnbull didn’t just shrug it off; he baited his critics, opening one column: “There’s nothing the matter with being vicious. In fact there’s not nearly enough venom and malice in this pussy-footing society of ours.” Packer had famously instructed Bulletin editors: “Just make ’em talk about it.” Turnbull’s legal column ­certainly did that.

He did a feature on student politics for which he interviewed a firebrand young arch-conservative student leader at the University of Sydney, Tony Abbott. In his piece, Turnbull described then 20-year-old Abbott as possessing a standing “his rather boisterous and immature rhetoric doesn’t really deserve”. Abbott would go on to study at Oxford, decide not to become a Catholic priest and end up on the Bulletin himself, soon after Turnbull left. The pair were destined for careers in national politics and their lives would later intertwine. They would break each other.

Before he left the Bulletin, Turnbull gained an interview with Australia’s then leading silk, Tom Hughes, a former Australian Attorney-General and the doyen of the Sydney bar. When Turnbull arrived in Hughes’ chambers, he was met by Hughes’ daughter, Lucy. She was 19 and also studying law – although at a less advanced stage. The cocky, dashing journalist impressed her. He was smitten. When Turnbull later departed for Oxford to take up his Rhodes scholarship, Lucy would join him and they married in England.

In 1983 he worked for Kerry Packer.

Dented arrogance

Turnbull revived his association with Evans and the Sunday Times and was soon tripping down to London to work on the paper. But there was one problem: it wasn’t coming out. Turnbull had arrived on the cusp of England’s infamous “winter of discontent”, the coldest in two decades and one that saw a string of crippling strikes. The Sunday Times journalists were locked out in a dispute over the looming computerisation of newspapers. While Turnbull twiddled his thumbs in London, his Oxford tutors were becoming vexed over his absences and, in late 1979, Turnbull gave up on the Sunday Times and threw himself into his studies.

The warden of Rhodes House would later write to tell the scholarship’s Australian trustees that Turnbull “had begun to find his level and stretch his ability. This has dented his arrogance usefully, but I expect it will bounce back. He has the manner of a likeable rascal but I hope there is more to him than that. Assuredly, he does not suffer from shyness.”

The warden had picked up on one trait in Turnbull that many in Sydney who know him believe a bedrock of his success across his varied careers: Turnbull had astonishing gall. Carr remembers being speechless on the Bulletin one day when the editors were having trouble understanding the terms of reference for a Royal Commission being run by a Supreme Court judge. Turnbull, then a junior recruit, piped up and said he knew the judge and would phone him to get clarification. He did.

Until then, journalists didn’t really phone Royal Commissioners.

Turnbull’s Oxford warden would write: “He is less of a know-all than when he arrived, but he is always going to enter life’s rooms without knocking, I suppose.”

The Turnbulls didn’t linger in England once Malcolm had his prestigious bachelor of civil laws with honours from Oxford. He returned to Sydney and set up a small law firm next to Packer’s headquarters in early 1986. Very soon, a case lobbed onto Turnbull’s desk that would gift the young lawyer international fame. It would pit Turnbull against the might of Margaret Thatcher and the British Establishment. Again, it was Turnbull’s connections – this time London-based, Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson, creator of the Hypotheticals television programme – that got him the gig.

London publisher Heinemann had a manuscript penned by an elderly and disgruntled former MI5 agent, Peter Wright, by then retired and raising cows on a small farm in Tasmania. The book obviously couldn’t be published in the UK because Wright had an obligation of secrecy to his former employer, Britain’s security agency. But Heinemann believed a way around the law was for the book to be published by its tiny Australian outpost. Much of Wright’s exposé from inside MI5 had already been published; it was very much a rant against the gay Oxbridge elite who in Wright’s view had betrayed England’s spy agencies during the Cold War. But there were revelations, most notably the supposed confirmation that a group of up to 30 MI5 agents had plotted to destroy British Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The Thatcher Government was determined to stop Wright’s book, fearing that to acquiesce might encourage even darker accounts from inside the agency.

The British Government sought an injunction in the New South Wales Supreme Court to stop publication. It sent out a star witness. Sir Robert Armstrong was Whitehall’s most senior mandarin as secretary of the British Cabinet. The case created a fervour on both sides of the world. Weeks of hearings were scheduled. A large, raucous British press contingent descended on Sydney.

Turnbull’s tactic – it made the publishers nervous – was to argue that much of the material in the Wright book was already in the public domain, courtesy of previous books on MI5, most notably Chapman Pincher’s Their Trade Is Treachery. Turnbull’s killer argument was that much of what had been previously published had been done so with the prior know­ledge and even tacit support of the British Government.

He knew that, before the publication of Pincher’s book, the British Government was aware of its contents because it had obtained a galley proof. Yet, it had later tried to make out it had been caught unawares when British newspapers began publishing extracts.

Turnbull’s information led to a celebrated exchange with Armstrong when the British Cabinet secretary took the witness stand in Sydney. Turnbull pressed Armstrong on why the British Government had written a letter that purported to give the impression that publication of Wright’s book came as a surprise when it already knew the contents.

“Turnbull: So it [the letter] contains a lie?”

Armstrong: “It was a misleading impression. It does not contain a lie, I don’t think.”

Turnbull: “What is the difference between a misleading impression and a lie?”

Armstrong: “A lie is a straight untruth.”

Turnbull: “What is a misleading impression – a sort of bent untruth?”

Armstrong: “As one person said, it is perhaps being economical with the truth.”

Armstrong’s hapless response was published around the world and, although Turnbull was portrayed in the British press as a crass young upstart, it was obvious who was winning. The British Government was flummoxed because it could not counter Turnbull’s charge that it was treating Wright’s book vastly differently from previous books on MI5.

Turnbull won. The judge ripped into Armstrong, describing the British Cabinet secretary’s technical knowledge of operational intelligence matters as “virtually non-existent”.

Wright’s book – fuelled by the enormous international coverage of the Sydney hearing – was a runaway bestseller, selling more than two million copies. Turnbull was feted by both the Australian and international media as a brilliant lawyer with a gilded future before him. He was 32.

Malcolm with wife Lucy. They married in London in 1980.

Packer tactics

Then he walked away from the law. He claimed to be putting his political ambitions on hold, saying: “I don’t want all the hassle and responsibility and invasion of privacy.”

Turnbull had become close to Packer who had elevated him to corporate counsel for his publishing conglomerate after Turnbull went to Hugh Hefner’s mansion and nego­tiated a deal for Packer to publish Playboy in Australia.

Turnbull had seen Packer making fast millions. In early 1987, he helped Packer sell Channel Nine to Alan Bond for more than $1 billion. Turnbull was in Packer’s office as the pair waited for Bond’s team to arrive and close the deal. Worried that Bond might realise that the price was outlandish, Packer put an old framed picture of his father, Sir Frank Packer, on his desk. When Bond’s team arrived, Packer, moist-eyed, gazed longingly at the portrait and wondered out loud whether he could really sell off the television empire his late father had built. Bond signed, Packer smiled at Turnbull and later famously remarked that you only get one Alan Bond in your life.

Now Turnbull would himself chase deals and money. Backed by Packer – who stumped up $25 million – and others, Turnbull formed his own investment bank, in partnership with Nick Whitlam, the banker son of Australia’s former Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. Their connections made them millions.

Turnbull’s really big break came in the early 1990s when he invested about $500,000 in then fledgling internet service provider, Oz­Email. The investment was on the cusp of the internet frenzy. OzEmail pioneered what was billed as the world’s first internet phone call, roping in former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating – with media in attendance – to make the historic call to Turnbull who was on a skiing holiday in France. But Turnbull didn’t answer, prompting Keating to shout: ­“Malcolm, where the f--- are you!” Nevertheless, ­OzEmail grew and prospered and by 1999 Turnbull and his partners sold the company to the US-based WorldCom. Turnbull was reported at the time to have pocketed $65 million – enough, when combined with his by-then large property portfolio, to make it onto Australia’s BRW rich-list. It later emerged that he avoided any shady scheme to minimise tax on the profit – telling his accountant he didn’t want any skeletons because he planned, eventually, to go into politics.

Rebublican zeal

But first Turnbull took over the leadership of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), recording in his book The Reluctant Republic that it was the royal family’s high-profile presence at Australia’s lavish 1988 bicentenary celebrations that fired his republican spirit: “Our 200th national day was presided over by an Englishman. Our own national leaders were just warm-up acts for the Prince of Wales … that bicentennial year was a year of shame.”

What followed was five years of bitter conflict with monarchists – whose standard bearers included John Howard and Tony Abbott, who would both become Liberal Prime Ministers. It was so bruising that Turnbull turned upon the Liberal Party, telling an interviewer in 1993 that the conservatives were trying to defend something that no longer existed.

“The [Liberal] party is largely composed of geriatrics. They’ve become a joke,” he said. In November 1999, Australians, voting in a national referendum, rejected becoming a republic with a president appointed by Parliament to replace the Queen as head of state. Turnbull later vowed the issue would return. Behind the scenes he was being wooed by the Labor Party which, despite Turnbull’s impeccable conservative connections, saw him as a natural fit for the economic dries but socially damp who forged the new Party of the Hawke-Keating years.

But Turnbull felt he was too rich for the Labor Party, telling Australia’s national broadcaster in late 2003: “You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that there are people in the Liberal Party who would say ‘Oh, Turnbull’s part of the millionaires’ club, Turnbull’s too pro-business, Turnbull’s a plutocrat’ … what possible home could I have in the Labor Party?”

Turnbull’s eyes turned to the gilded slice of harbourside Sydney he knew best: the seat of Wentworth had been held by the ­Liberal Party for 103 years. It was the country’s smallest seat by area but had the highest population density and took in the wealthiest areas of Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

The sitting Liberal MP was a blue-blood barrister, Peter King, who had also been a Rhodes scholar but had made little impression in Parliament. According to writer Paddy Manning’s new book Born to Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull, King was left in no doubt Turnbull was gunning for him when one day Turnbull paddled his kayak past King’s house and saw King standing with his back to the water. “Don’t take a step back,” called Turnbull.

A vicious campaign followed that saw big names line up behind each man: the radio jock and former Wallabies coach Alan Jones declared for Turnbull as did James Packer, Australia’s former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock, and a host of well-heeled business figures. But King had Tony Abbott on side, Mary Fairfax – the grande dame of the newspaper family – and his own big-name business backers. There were lavish fundraisers in harbour mansions and both sides had banks of QCs ready to challenge any voting irregularities. Turnbull, of course, won, became the Liberal candidate for Went­worth and marched into Parliament in the 2004 election – then the richest man ever elected as an MP and who was unkindly known “as the member for Net Worth”.

He was 50 – a much later starter than former Prime Ministers John Howard, 32, and Paul Keating, 25.

Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull with John and Bronagh Key. Photo/Getty Images 

Leader in waiting

There was no time to lose: Turnbull threw himself into water policy and climate change issues – putting himself offside with Howard and other ministers. By mid-2007, Austra­lians had clearly had enough of Howard’s decade in office. Turnbull went to Howard and told him he should think about resigning ahead of the coming election, in which he would face Labor’s Kevin Rudd.

After Howard lost the late 2007 election – and, as Turnbull had forewarned him, his own seat – former doctor Brendan Nelson, a moderate, narrowly won the Liberal Party leadership against a single challenger – Turnbull.

Turnbull was fuming. No sooner had Nelson given his acceptance speech to the now Opposition Liberal MPs than Turnbull flung open the new leader’s office door and barged in. Those who were there recall Turnbull telling Nelson he was a wimp who should man up. Nelson told him to make an appointment in future. Nelson lasted just nine months. Turnbull replaced him as Opposition leader. And then Turnbull flamed out, coming perilously close to ending his own political career and putting a deep black cloud over his complicated makeup, his judgment, and ability to get along with those – and there were many – he considered his inferiors.

The cause was a $5000, 10-year-old Mazda ute and a disturbed and rogue Treasury officer, Gordon Grech. The civil servant had claimed privately to Turnbull’s ad­visers that Rudd, by then Prime Minister, had been lent the ute for campaigning purposes by a car dealer for whom Rudd’s office was now trying to obtain Government favours. Grech claimed he’d seen an email from the PM’s office to Treasury supporting the dealer’s pleadings. Turnbull burst into full-force mode and thundered at a press conference that Rudd should resign as Prime Minister. That evening Rudd issued a statement saying no such email could be found. Next, Grech’s bosses at the Treasury searched his computer and were so alarmed at evidence of his rogue behaviour that they put him on leave, amid concerns about his psychiatric state. Then police raided Grech’s Canberra house and discovered the email: Grech had forged it.

Turnbull had been mightily duped. Worse, an ABC television crew was filming in his office when word came through that Grech had faked the email. The footage showed an office in meltdown. Still, Turnbull persisted, calling for a judicial inquiry. The whole affair was a staggering misjudgment – there had been many red flags about Grech, who ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

Turnbull was mortally wounded. His popularity burst. His leadership was crumbling. The end came when his shadow Cabinet and backbench rebelled against his progressive policies to deal with climate change. And his old nemesis, Tony Abbott, was in the thick of the rebels. Abbott rolled a sapped Turnbull at the end of 2009 by a single vote to win the leadership of the Liberal Party.

It was a psychologically crushing moment. Turnbull had endured the childhood departure of his mother and the sudden death of his father but never had he suffered a ruinous career reversal – and this was largely of his own making. He was 56. He went overseas with Lucy and early in 2010, after being overlooked for Abbott’s front bench, announced he would give up his seat and leave politics, saying if he was 10 years younger he might have stayed.

Three weeks later, Turnbull changed his mind. John Howard was one of those who encouraged him to stay: ­Howard’s own long political career had been written off before he won the 1996 election and then he served more than a decade as Australia’s Prime Minister.

In the way of those who experience and emerge from a personal crisis, Turnbull changed not just emotionally, but also physically. Long heavy-set, he began seeing a Bondi Chinese herbalist who put him on a diet of potions. The weight fell off – and has stayed off. With the weight loss came more energy. Lucy Turnbull said her husband had learned to stay calmer, even describing him as Zen, not a description that those who’d seen the Turnbull of old would have applied.

In the aftermath of his defeat at the hands of Abbott in 2009, there were many in his own party who’d experienced Turnbull’s inability to suffer fools – even for short periods. He’d shredded colleagues one by one. In the view of influential Liberal Party figures, Turnbull’s hubris cost him the ­leadership more than the ute affair or climate change.

The Abbott experiment has ended. ­Lazarus-like, Turnbull has arisen. So far, it is a reinvented Turnbull, a listener, a consulter, a leader willing to engage Australians in adult conversations – a man less given to confrontation and, unlike Abbott, one who does not talk of shirt-fronting other world leaders he doesn’t like.

Wider view

Suddenly, Australia’s national politics have become less akin to the blood sports of the Colosseum in which the relentlessly competitive Abbott appeared to measure each day by the amount of skin peeled from his opponents. Remember, this was a man whose wife once bought a two-person kayak because she could no longer stand his need to race her.

Turnbull has an elevated, broader view of public life – termed a “breath of fresh air” by his Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop.

His regard for Key appears genuinely warm. During November’s Apec summit in Manila, Turnbull was picked up on a microphone privately talking to US President Barack Obama and describing Key as “a role model”.  He was probably talking less about Key the man than his style of leadership and Government – a template in Turnbull’s mind for his own. What is not lost on Turnbull is the willingness and ­ability of both Key and Finance Minister Bill English to advocate a case to New Zealanders for change and then to move; how Turnbull might wish he could convince Australians of the need to lift their rate of GST in the way Key did in New Zealand.

But that doesn’t mean they agree on everything. At the 11th hour in Paris at the UN Climate Conference, Turnbull rejected a statement of support for fossil-fuel subsidies proposed by Key and agreed to by almost 40 countries. The stumbling block was an International Monetary Fund definition of the word subsidy that the French wanted included. “The document that our very good friend John Key has prepared,” he said, “contains a reference to an IMF report which frankly would be better if it weren’t there.”

Transtasman relations are also being tested at their most sensitive pressure point: the numbers of New Zealanders in Australia. Although it is true that more are returning to New Zealand than going the other way, the flows are cyclical and will reverse once the Australian economy recovers from the post-mining boom slump – or if the New Zealand economy slows further.

There is a determination within the Australian bureaucracy to discourage migration from New Zealand on the scale seen a few years ago when the numbers exceeded 50,000 a year. The deportations of New Zealanders convicted of serious offences can be read as part of that, as are the more long-standing moves to deny key welfare benefits and other government assistance to New Zealanders who have arrived since 2001.

Turnbull, at least, has agreed to modify the sharper edges of both policies: the appeal process for deportees will be streamlined and tertiary education loans will be made ­available to some New Zealand-born students.

Abbott showed no inclination to do either. You might say Turnbull has so far shown an attractively un-Australian regard for his mates across the Tasman.

He said it

Turnbull on John Key and the NZ economy:  “To be a successful leader … you have to be able to bring people with you by respecting their intelligence in the manner you explain things … John Key has been able to achieve very significant economic reforms in New Zealand by doing just that, by taking on and explaining complex issues and then making the case for them. That is certainly something that I believe we should do and Julie [Bishop] and I are very keen to do that again.” ­(September 2015)

Turnbull on Kiwis in Australia:  “This bill represents important opportu­nities for New Zealanders who have long called Australia home and provides fairness, given Australians on certain visa categories have long had access to New Zealand’s student loan scheme.”  (October, 2015)

Turnbull on Kiwis in detention: “There is no need for any New Zealander whose visa has been revoked and who is in detention in Australia to stay there.” (October 2015)

Turnbull on climate change:  “We do not doubt the implications of the science, or the scale of the challenge … Australia supports a new – and truly global – climate agreement.  It is an agreement that must drive humanity’s capacity for inventiveness and a new wave of technological advances.”  (November 2015)

Turnbull on Paris terrorist attacks:  “We are here [in Paris], the New Zealand Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister and our wives, and we are here offering the people of France, the people of Paris, our most heartfelt condolences and our unflinching solidarity in the face of this terrorism.” (November 2015)

Turnbull on domestic violence:  “Let’s make it a resolution that Australia will be known as a nation, as a people, as a society, that respects women. We have to make it as though it was un-Australian to dis­respect women.” (September 2015)

This article was first published in the December 12, 2016 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter. 

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