What the new Australian citizenship test says about Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership
20th April 2017
Malcolm Turnbull is finally trying to answer the lingering question of what he stands for.
It is no trivial matter because the hollowness at the core of his Government has been its fatal flaw.
In the absence of a central organising purpose his tenure has been a series of fixes driven by events.
It is as memorable for its inglorious retreats as for odd triumphs.
Asked last year what he wanted to achieve for the nation, all he could offer was the emotionally vacant “jobs and growth”.
There was nothing to capture anyone’s heart or imagination.
The Prime Minister has lost an enormous amount of skin in less than two years as leader.
He has clearly greatly disappointed many in the community who invested faith in the obvious intellectual talents he brings to the top job.
To date he neatly fits James Russell Lowell’s famous and unfair criticism of Edgar Allen Poe — that he had written some verses “quite the best of their kind, but the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by the mind”.
Unable to define himself, Mr Turnbull has been defined by others and found wanting against his past words and deeds.
Labor’s shorthand for him has stuck — an out-of-touch rich toff who doesn’t believe in anything.
Now Mr Turnbull is attempting to articulate that missing heart as delivering national economic and energy security and Australian jobs and Australian values.
You can argue against it, you can disagree with it, but it is a foundation which he didn’t have as recently as his press club speech in February.
Now that he has planted a flag he can try and rally his dispirited troops.
Because values and the character of the leader are the essential ingredients in politics.
They should be the engine that drives every policy.
So, it is well past time that the Prime Minister made an attempt to tell us what he stands for and what kind of country he hopes to lead.
And there is a chance he might just begin to find a point of connection with the community.
It might be too late to turn the fortunes of his Government, but it is a start.