Editor’s Note

Editor’s Note May 2017

“Malcolm Turnbull, approaching two years in the job, has seemingly utterly failed to find favour with the Australian public,” writes Laura Tingle in her essay this month.

“His major crimes? He isn’t who we thought he was. He runs a do-nothing government. It is a shambles.”

Commonly, political commentators have explained Turnbull’s disappointing predicament through the prism of personality. But, as Tingle points out, Turnbull has been forced into an invidious position by his own colleagues, and many continue to agitate against him; he has been landed with a near-impossible set of expectations by the public; and he was, truth be told, never much good at politics in the first place. What, in other words, did we expect?

“People start from the presumption that the prime minister is a politician of the centre who is driven by a coherent ideological base, who must inevitably have a clear medium-term strategy and a program to implement. But what if he isn’t, and hasn’t?”

The blame for these misconceptions can be spread widely, from Turnbull himself down through his party into the political class and media and even the public. And the implications, which Tingle expertly draws out, are profound: if we fail to apprehend properly our own expectations, or the task at hand, we are bound to repeat the cycle of failure and expulsion that has claimed all recent prime ministers.

It would also help if prime ministers didn’t walk away from their supposedly fundamental beliefs, of course.

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of the Monthly.