Back To Turnbull’s Future

As a former journalist & broadcaster, looking into your past can give your some nasty surprises. Speculations that made sense at the time are shown up later, when more facts came to light. Prophesies you made never came to pass. People you praised that turned out to have feet of clay. But once in the while there’s that exhilarating moment when you discover you got it right. And then promptly, stupidly, forgot.

In preparation for a major move I’m clearing out old files, scanning old newspaper stories I wrote, and some in which I played a part.

In 2009 I had a regular opinion column in the Southern Star called Bearly There. On March 26th I wrote:

“…I’m also being wooed by a man who at first sight has everything going for him. He’s charismatic, rich, handsome, and has the sexiest husky baritone voice – usually an absolute clincher for me.

“He purrs like a rutting lion, while she [Julia Gillard] sounds like a cat trying to climb a blackboard. His face is handsome and open, hers as sharp as a rat’s. But nowadays he just leaves me cold.

“It just goes to show that first impressions are unreliable. I was prepared to swoon over Malcolm Turnbull. He appeared smart, engaged, modern – he stood up for gay rights in the Howard cabinet – a liberal in the true sense of the word. But now that he has emerged from the murk of the Howard era, his essential hollowness stands revealed.

“Like the clever lawyer he is, he can take a slew of facts and spin from them an entrancing tale, which for an hour or two seems utterly convincing. But when he takes those same facts, and a few days later, weaves from them an entirely different but equally compelling story, the scales fall from our eyes. He’s nothing but a clever, charismatic storyteller.

“First he supports the government’s stimulus package. Then he renames it to sound like the money shot in a porn movie – a ‘cash splash’. One minute he’s working for the defence. Next he’s at the prosecution table. Ditto alcopops. Ditto WorkChoices. He’s the empty vessel making beautiful, loud, pointless booming noises… [a] handsome political gigolo.”

(I have to confess that the rest of the column was a gush over Julia Gillard, though, to be fair to myself, this was before she decided to knife Kevin and grab the hollow crown for herself.)

If I could see all that in 2009, how did I come to forget? Ah yes. Abbott. Even the silver-tongued Harbour Bridge salesman from Point Piper was better than that.

But look at the old man now. A yellowing husk, a dried ear of corn left over from Harvest Festival, tough but devoid of nutrition. The confident booming delivery a hoarse parody of what it was. The smile no longer reaches the eyes, which seem primed for weeping. The suits are as glamorous as ever. The man within, not so much.

As a fellow ‘maverick’ advocate, activist and campaigner said to me last week, “Aren’t you glad we never went into politics, darling?”

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

“Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe.” (Daniel Witthaus, “Beyond Priscilla”, Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)