Reimagining Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir: Garry Linnell reads between the lines

Turnbull's new book reveals just how unequal the schooling system is.

Turnbull's new book reveals just how unequal the schooling system is. Photo: Supplied/ TND

It is the explosive, no-holds-barred memoir that has shaken Australian politics to its core. In this exclusive extract from his profoundly candid book Me, Myself and I* Malcolm Turnbull reveals the duplicity and skulduggery that engulfed his last days as prime minister.

Politics can be an awfully lonely business and in those final days of my prime ministership I became aware that many backbenchers and members of my cabinet were whispering behind my back.

They were muttering things only a few had the courage to say directly to my face – that I was supremely intelligent, far-sighted and a natural leader quick to assess a complicated problem and devise ingenious solutions.

According to my loyal staff who haunted the corridors and back rooms of Parliament House, some of my senior ministers were even overheard complaining about my sharp wit and empathy for others.

Malcolm Turnbull leaves his final press conference in August 2018. Photo: ABC

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard such brutally frank character assessments.

Living with acclaim and praise was a burden I had carried since my early school days.

The rapturous applause that often accompanied my many achievements might easily have turned a weaker person into a preening narcissist or an egomaniacal social climber driven by ruthless ambition.

But I was a Turnbull.

My ancestors in the Scottish Highlands had rightly earned their surname for being so strong they could stop a charging bull in its tracks.

Obviously their blood ran strongly through my veins.

Because of this I had always been able to draw on enormous reserves of self-control and sheer grit to ensure I remained modest, humble and deferential.

But my political instincts nevertheless remained sharp.

Some might even say unparalleled. They could say all they liked about me but running through my enemy’s comments was a distinct thread of jealousy.

Envy was not one of those afflictions that had ever affected my character. But I had learned to quickly detect it in others.

It was clearly the reason why men like Tony Abbott continued to undermine me.

He would tell others I was nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a left-leaning, Greens-loving, coal-hating, Guardian-reading shell of a man with no commitment to Liberal values.

tony abbott malcolm turnbull book

Malcolm Turnbull, then PM, with Tony Abbott at a Liberal Party function in 2017. Photo: AAP

This was utter nonsense.

Surely my loyalty to a party that celebrates initiative and achievement was proven when I added another wing to my modest 65-room mansion in the exclusive eastern Sydney suburb of Point Piper.

Despite protests from a handful of neighbours over a few early morning jackhammers, I had provided work for hundreds of construction workers.

Besides, where else was I expected to house my growing collection of autographed photographs of famous people who have met me?

Peter Dutton was another who had it in for me.

Poor fellow. His grudges against me ran just as deeply as those in Abbott.

I have forgotten the number of times I would catch Dutton casting envious glances in my direction during relaxed afternoons in the parliamentary library.

I would often be reclining on a lounge reading the Latin translation of Plutarch’s account of the Roman civil war after Nero’s death – and often having to make corrections – while Dutton sat forlornly at a nearby table, moving his lips while reading the Daily Mail online.

And then there was Mathias Cormann.

I had never rated his political skills. But I had kept him around because I’m a sucker for a great Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation.

Which is another mistake my critics make when they claim I lack the common touch.

leadership turnbull prime minister

Mathias Cormann and Peter Dutton on their way to the Liberal party room meeting in 2018. Photo: AAP

I know what they constantly say. Malcolm Turnbull is nothing but a wealthy and visionary former merchant banker who spends his Friday nights in his personal 50-seat cinema watching Swedish Arthouse films.

Nothing could be further from the truth – although, naturally, if I did watch such cinematic fare I would not require subtitles.

But deep down I’m a Hollywood man, something which will become apparent to all when this memoir makes its screen debut.

Confidentiality prevents me from disclosing too much. But if you suggested George Clooney might play the leading role, I would not be breaking any contractual clause by disagreeing.

But back to those final days and the numbers game that eventually unseated me.

Becoming prime minister had never been an ambition of mine.

It had only been at the urging of others who devoutly believed I had the talent and vision to reshape the nation for the rest of the 21st century that I reluctantly stepped forward.

Perhaps it was in the giddy excitement of this sudden and unexpected elevation to the most powerful position in the country that led to one of my rare misjudgments.

I had appointed Scott Morrison as my Treasurer. If I have a fault, it is that I too often look for my own qualities in others.

In Morrison I believed I had found someone just as loyal and as committed to my vision for the nation as myself.

morrison turnbull bali

Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull seen here in happier times. Photo: Getty

But now that I look back on events with the benefit of hindsight, it was Morrison who was clearly the most envious of all my colleagues and who had the most to gain from my downfall.

My career had seen me devise and close deals for powerful media moguls like Kerry Packer.

As a barrister I had challenged injustice and stared down belligerent judges.

As an astute businessman I had seen – long before most – the potential for new technology.

There are even some who say I pioneered the introduction of the internet to Australia, although I am sure others played some kind of supporting role.

What had Scott Morrison contributed to the country?

His only achievement as the head of Tourism Australia had been to oversee the ‘Where The Bloody Hell Are You?’ campaign featuring the model Lara Bingle.

How fitting, then, that he replaced me as Prime Minister.

At least he had some experience when it came to dealing with turbulent times.

That campaign, after all, kept more tourists away from our shores than coronavirus.

Me, Myself and I’* by Malcolm Turnbull (Vanity Publishing, RRP $99.99) was released this week.

***Well, this is how Garry Linnell imagines the book reads, anyway. You can read another analysis of the (real) book, here.

Garry Linnell was director of News and Current Affairs for the Nine network in the mid-2000s. He has also been editorial director for Fairfax and is a former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Bulletin magazine

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.