Bombshell Lands in the Antipodes

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I’ve heard from various observers in Australia in response to the now widely-reported rage bender call – some from readers outside of politics, others deeply ensconced in the political establishment. The one word I hear over and over is “bombshell.” This is just today’s freakshow here in the United States. It’s quite a bit more down there. Here’s one analysis of the background that I found edifying …

Some Australian background of Turnbull and the Australian political landscape for you.

1. Turnbull is an urbane, highly intelligent former lawyer and banker. He is a technocrat and an intellectual. He would find Trump repellant on a personal level and would have been holding his nose on the call.

2. He is socially quite progressive for a leader of the conservative party and was previously a supporter of action on climate change.

3. Turnbull holds a very weak grip on power because:

* his Government won the last election by a tiny margin and can lose power if a few MPs decide to become independents; and
* he can be replaced as leader by his party at any time if he loses support among enough of his fellow Liberal Party MPs. This has happened a lot in Australia in recent years. It happened to Turnbull when he was opposition leader and was replaced by Abbott.

Turnbull is always looking over his shoulder to see of the right wing will come to get him. Think Boehner;

4.Because of the above, Turnbull is captive to the Australian hard right, many of whom are Trump admirers, climate change deniers etc. These people have been reaching out to the Trump people since the election. Turnbull would love to ignore these idiots but he can’t because the minute he does, he gets rolled.

5. In Australia, refugee policy (in reality, politics) is a big deal. The issue has been politicised in the last few election cycles so that a great many Australians support “offshore processing”, a policy that is basically designed to be so cruel that refugees stop trying. At the same time, there have been huge problems with offshore detention camps in Nauru and PNG, so Turnbull is desperate to clear the camps by settling refugees anywhere he can. Settling refugees in Australia is politically risky for Turnbull so the US deal was a godsend.

6.I think Bannon and Miller know Turnbull is weak because their hard right allies in Australia will have told them.

7. To Trump, Turnbull will have come off as just the kind of intellectual snob who has belittled and ignored him all his life. In Caddyshack terms, Trump is Rodney Dangerfield and Turnbull (like the Bushes) is Judge Smailes.

8. This all feeds into the call between Trump and Turnbull. Trump saw and heard a wraith in the making. Turnbull would personally have loved to pull a Trudeau, but his political weakness made him into a wraith. On Australian TV the other night, he looked like a kid who got bullied at school. No surprise.


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