Ten years ago today Malcolm Turnbull
counselled an assembled pack of press gallery journalists, saying ‘You cannot run a modern economy on wind farms and solar panels. It’s a pity that you can’t , but you can’t.”
(Prest, 2007: 254)
Then he came unstuck (or rather, was taken apart) on support for Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in November 2009 (the best accounts I’ve read are Paul Kelly’s Triumph and Demise, and Phillip Chubb’s Power Failure).
He had enough momentum to then call the ‘Direct Action’ scheme of his usurper, Tony Abbott ‘bullshit.’ And in mid-2010 he happily launched Beyond Zero Emissions Stationary Energy Plan.
And now. Well, in his speeches Turnbull seems indistinguishable from Abbott (some take comfort in his mentions of energy storage, or his actions in installing panels and batteries in his Point Piper mansion).
What happened? Well, Robert Manne reckons we should look the man’s history as a barrister
Malcolm Turnbull is a barrister by training and inclination. For him, causes are quasi-clients that he voluntarily and serially embraces – with the kind of sincerity barristers must routinely muster in a court of law – in order to advance his career. At a certain moment, however, Turnbull appears to realise that this or that cause poses a danger to his progress. At this moment, the cause is quietly dropped, with as much dignity and disguise as possible. It is dropped because in the end there is only one cause that ultimately counts for him – the cause of Malcolm Turnbull. Perhaps almost all successful politicians have this quality to some degree. But with Turnbull, it appears to be definitive.
Prest, J. 2007: The Bald Hills wind farm debacle. Pp.230- 261 in Bonyhady, T. and Christoff, P. (eds) 2007. Climate Law in Australia. Sydney: The Federation Press.