Don't Call It A Swansong


This week, a piece of upsetting news blazed across the telegraph wires to the light and dark places of the globe alike: I, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, announced my departure from Australian politics.

It will take the community some time to absorb the substance of this announcement and to adapt to a new state of affairs. There is personal change on the horizon for my family— my loving wife Lucy, my cheerful son Alex, my patient daughter Daisy, and our mischievous friends Spook and Bandit — and the mood at Point Piper is currently one of reflection.

Indeed, as the news reaches the far-flung, disbelieving corners of the globe, I find myself imagining an Indian housewife pausing in her task of drying her family’s clothes against a rock by the Ganges, as she considers what might have been. Delicate undiscovered mammals residing deep in Amazonian jungles perhaps stopped their foraging for a second or two, pondering my truncated future as best their tiny brains can.

To mark this occasion, I would like to offer the Australian people the story of my life. Colourful anecdotes circulate, not all of them true. I am convinced that now is the right time to set the record straight. The Australian people and in particular the hardworking Australian Liberals deserve to understand the magnitude of their loss.

I was born a precocious waif in an English coal mine. At the age of four, I was sent to work in a shoe-polish factory to save my father from the debtors’ prison. Many lesser men, and indeed lesser children, would have struggled under these conditions. Yes, I ate with a silver spoon — but I was fed rat droppings and kept in a little wicker basket under three obsolete phone books. And they made me pay rent. I have always known what it’s like to be short of money.

Others may have buckled and become bitter and with good reason. I, however, spent these lonely hours scribbling advanced mathematical equations on bacon rinds, a habit to which I was happy to return in my later incarnation as a fabulous multi-gazillionaire.

In adolescence, I was fortunate enough to have been present in the Middle East during the turbulent times of the Great War, heroically leading the Arab peoples to independence after a protracted struggle. I was very proud to have been the initiator of this great initiative. The title "Malcolm of Arabia" was offered, but — as always — I humbly refused. After all, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet.

During the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis, it was an honour to be able to make myself available to take over from the exhausted Kennedy, who seemed ready to crumple beneath the iron fist of the USSR. Khrushchev had no option but to succumb to my demands the moment I produced an incriminating telegram detailing his use of a friend’s MiG fighter aircraft for political advertising purposes.

1989 was a busy year. I was privileged to have been recognised behind the scenes for the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Having long advised the Soviets to tear it down, I think we can all recognise that it was a great moment for Europe when they followed my advice. That said, it was mighty difficult work demolishing the whole structure on my own. All I had at my disposal was a blunt pickaxe. The wall was 155 kilometres long so that day, I took a tea break.

Those studying my life in subsequent centuries will no doubt focus on the Spycatcher trial during which period I stepped out from the shadows and became a global megastar. The real details are surprisingly little-known. During the 1980s I worked for MI6 as what is colloquially known as a "Superspy". It was routine, unchallenging work: grappling hooks, waterproof cars, beautiful women, exploding shoes.

With the interests of future generations in mind, I decided to publish a memoir. Being aware of the danger of reactionary attacks on my character by the British Government, the KGB, SMERSH and SPECTRE, I published the work under a pseudonym, hiring a dummy author and ingeniously defending my own book in court. I had never practiced as a barrister until that day but I won the case convincingly and with what I like to think of as my customary grace. And even if I’m a different sort of human to most, I’m still human so I can confess that that afternoon spent acquiring not only the fundamentals of the legal profession, but also the finer details, was one of my toughest challenges.

Many have speculated that I was responsible for most of the major scientific discoveries of the 20th century: allow me to address these rumours. Yes, I played modest (yet pivotal) roles in unravelling the structure of DNA, formulating the theory of relativity, and pioneering space travel with my colleague Neil Armstrong, the second man on the moon. (I am forbidden by NASA to say more on this matter.) As I am happy to toil in anonymity for the sake of humanity, I’ll say no more.

Having done absolutely everything a single human being could ever possibly do, I decided to become leader of Australia — an insignificant country that clearly needed my services.

I did encounter some unexpected hurdles, such as having to join a political party and become elected before I could be prime minister. To minimise conflict, I chose a dysfunctional party staffed by incompetents whose views I detested.

In my first years in Parliament as Water Minister, I pushed through a revolutionary plan to make the world’s water 86 per cent wetter, thus solving the age-old problem of thirst at a stroke. Lucy and I now look forward to pursuing new business opportunities that capitalise on such innovative thinking. One of our greatest passions is the support and promotion of Australian technology, especially innovations innovated by myself.

After briefly serving under a small insect that somehow managed to name himself Brendan Nelson, I of course became leader and began the task of domesticating the slobbering, senile, bottom-sniffing creature that the Liberal Party then was.

My three-step path to zero emissions could have saved humanity in two weeks: firstly, using my ego to blot out the sun; secondly, running Australia’s power grid on the dangerously high-voltage electrical currents constantly coursing through my staggeringly complex brain; and thirdly, purchasing a low-emissions fleet of ornate government rickshaws pulled by massive, heaving teams of dispensable people less brilliant than myself. To have worked on my interpersonal skills would have imperilled this plan.

I will not dwell on the unpleasantness of the leadership spill here. And I refuse to either confirm or deny the utterly plausible rumour that the ballot was fraudulent.

The moral necessity of crossing the floor to speak out against my own party’s policies left me with a more urgent challenge: to which heroic character from literature should I compare myself? My role as doomed rebel resembled Jean Valjean’s in Les Misérables: I too was a desperate man of shining integrity, thwarted by the lurking, swarthy, Javert-like presence of my party.

But I finally settled on Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, who chose to die honourably rather than be paraded by Romans "I’ th’ posture of a whore". I thus ended my career as leader as Cleopatra ended her life, the deadly asp of integrity poised hungrily upon my breast. It bit, and it bit again, and lo! Malcolm Turnbull MP was gone. The remaining days were spent deep within the suffocating granite tomb of ignominy that many call Parliament House.

Before departing this stage forever, I would like to say these final words:

To my people: Australia has been robbed of its place among titans. Revolt, while you have strength to breathe!

To my enemies in the Liberal Party: By choosing a jug-eared gymnasium rat to do the work of a man, you have forfeited the chance to be led by your natural master!

To my allies: Avenge my death — and remember to mourn the man you once adored!

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.