I'm already dumbfounded when I read just a few pages at the beginning of the book. I was preparing for long-winded descriptions with extensive use of difficult vocabulary words, but surprisingly, this is not the case. I never expect Malcolm Turnbull has a great storytelling skill. His writing is straight to the point, which is different from his usual speeches. To be honest, if he has any brilliant ideas in writing fictional stories, he should go for it. It reminded me of his speeches which usually beating around the bush. The introduction was always very long-winded.
The way he tells his childhood memories is very mesmerising and intriguing. I felt it's very memorable and sad at the same time when he mentioned that he kept reading "The Lord of the Rings" several times a year after his mother left just to recapture those happy days when she used to read the book to him.
What a great reflection to the current politics when I read this part: "The Liberals have no loyalty or generosity - and no gratitude. The Labor Party is at least sentimental..." That's what Jack Lang told him, and it triggered him to question why he chooses the Liberal Party instead of Labour? It gives me the psychic vibe that Jack Lang was predicting his future, but he didn't get it at that time. I wonder what he thinks about those words after the turmoil? Jack Lang's words seem valid even until now.
It's really unbelievable that a politician is so skilful in writing and gifted with storytelling as well. Writing a biography by himself is another thing, but putting his life story into words that can capture the reader's heart is a different level. To be honest, I was expecting it will be a dull book to read. This is not about "don't judge a book by its cover", but it's more like "don't judge a book by its author". It's miserable to read every time he mentioned his parents, especially his feelings and thoughts after they left him in a different manner. His relationship with his father was beautifully written, leading the reader to share his dismay when he mentioned the loss of his father after that.
One of the most significant achievements during the Turnbull government is the legislation of same-sex marriage. I felt disappointed when he wasn't given more appreciation for that. I still remember that some people complained about the postal votes or his method to seek approval for passing the legislation. I wish more people think about the positive side, which is the outcome of the result. There were so many joys, love, and happy tears after the passing of the legislation. When I look back (I haven't reached the same-sex marriage part) to that year, the postal vote is probably one of the best solutions to obtain approval from Australians. He probably knew or worried that the legislation won't be passed because some conservatives will vote against it. I was thinking what a relief it happened during the Turnbull government because I doubt Scott Morrison will pass the legislation based on his effort to brand himself as a religious person. And it's definitely won't happen in Abbott's government as well due to his strong Catholicism. So, my guess is right when Malcolm Turnbull mentioned that Scott Morrison "resolutely opposed" same-sex marriage.
Even until now, there are people still reluctant to give credits to Malcolm Turnbull after his tremendous effort to get the same-sex marriage legalised. Yes, it's political, and yes, a lot of LGBTIQ community received hatred and discrimination at that time. I was frustrated when every time I heard any news that targeting the LGBTIQ, but I also upset that religious community, including churches, were being targeted as well. Regardless it's a political move or dissatisfaction with his leadership or whatsoever, I felt Australians can't avoid the fact that he is the one that made it happened. This might be once of a lifetime opportunity. It never happened during Gillard government, definitely not during the Abbott government. It's a big NO from Morrison government. Reading how all these politicians think makes me feel how bleak the future is and if he didn't do it, I can't see there is another chance in the future.
I wish it was done sooner. Those weeks were so divisive and unsettling. Same-sex marriage supporters targeting the religious community and some even demanded to wed in the church. The religious community was clawing for their religious freedom and some aggressive ones marching with some biblical quotes. Sometimes, I don't know whether I should feel hypocrisy or humour when Australians are attacking each other with religious and marriage freedom. All this freedom seems only side to their own views. I feel a Christian who supports religious freedom shouldn't target the LGBTIQ community because they don't share the same faith as you. They have the freedom to do or believe what they want, instead of forcing them to follow Christianity's teachings. Christianity's teachings not applicable to them if they don't share the same faith with the Christians. It's annoying when someone like Tony Abbott or Margaret Court causes more people to increase their contempt for Christianity. Not everyone shares the same view as them, and they don't represent the entire religious community. And it's frustrating when a thick Bible that keeps encouraging love and respect is being overlooked, but people keep focusing on a few verses about homosexuality. Maybe Father Bob is the only Catholic that Australians love and respect.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage supporters seek the majority's support, but at the same time, some churches were vandalised, and people who said 'No' were being attacked. Not all religious people against same-sex marriage, and not all atheist supports same-sex marriage. Some same-sex marriage supporters even requested to have the right to wed in the church, which I felt baffled about it. I mean they strive for others' acceptance, but why can't they respect other people's religious belief? Why are they forcing the religious community to go against their own faith? This is not the right way to earn acceptance and respect from others. I still remember Magda Szubanski said that she can accept that she can't wed in the church but why not in civil? She even asked the same-sex marriage supporters to remain calm even if the legislation is rejected. I wish everyone thinks like her. And the ironic part is, according to the result, the highest percentage group who voted Yes for the same-sex marriage is Christians.
When I was reading about Tony Abbot in this book, it seems I had dodged a bullet when I wasn't in Australia during the Abbott government. However, I wasn't aware of many issues when I was in Australia during the Gillard government. I didn't know the Gillard government is also one of the worst, equivalent or similar to the Abbott government. I researched about it when reading this book and found out that the majority of Australians felt those two were among the worst prime ministers. Now I understand why Liberals often attacks Labor for overspending and the hatred towards Tony Abbott.
I know I will get the answer if I do a Google search, but I still like to ask this rhetorical question. How Tony Abbott became the leader of the Liberal Party in the first place? To be honest, I'm surprised that he is more incompetent than what I thought. I felt terrible about saying that. I was blinded by his voluntary work and his religious belief. He seems a simple-minded person and being in politics just either for fame or money. Simple-minded is a big no-no to be in politics.
I felt Scott Morrison seems a dangerous person who just keeps watching and waiting to act when the opportunity comes. I started to feel there are some similarities between Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. They don't seem the smart or knowledgeable type of person. And they earned the position based on luck (due to other's misfortune), not capability. Both are not prime minister material, but both love to be and thought they have. Both branded themselves as "religious" but acted differently than their beliefs. Both seem prone to white supremacy. The difference is, Scott Morrison always has something in his mind behind the grin, and he doesn't depend on a particular person. Despite many dissatisfactions with the current government or specifically with the Prime Minister, I don't feel surprised that the Liberal Party will win again in the next election. The way they handle the pandemic is still considered way better than a lot of countries. That really adds a lot of points to it. I wish the current government is more proactive instead of handling Australians like customer service's complaints. Initially, Scott Morrison seemed active (or maybe just to win the election) in engaging with people. He was trying to be a people person. As time goes by, he and his government run the country like routine work and lack any outstanding plans to improve the country's welfare. Sometimes, they are just missing in action. To sum up, the government seems working with the motto "I won't do less, but I won't do extra". Malcolm Turnbull gave me the impression that he was trying his best to understand the problems or the person he is talking to despite he is not a people person too.
At some point, I think I had chosen to read a book which is above my intellectual ability. I can't claim that I fully understand the entire book, especially related to policies, legislation, finance and economy. Somehow, I able to construct some personal views about this book and Malcolm Turnbull. I don't know whether my personal opinions will be clouded by what I've read, but I still like to express my views here. It's undeniable that Malcolm Turnbull is a smart and knowledgeable person. I don't have any remarks about his leadership because his life as a prime minister is too short to be assessed. I think he is a visionary person who has a very sharp judgment in almost everything except human nature. It's not about his assessment of others' characters, but it's more about what others behind him are planning to do to him. I felt the question of doubt is not about his leadership but is his characteristics or personality, which I felt unsuitable to be in politics. Politics is a dirty game, and that's why it comes with the saying "there are no clean politicians". Self-interest always comes first, which lead to dirty tricks to drive them to be more successful and influential in politics. There are smart and righteous politicians that really want to serve the people and country, but not many can survive long with those attributes. Non-intelligent politicians know they are short of intellectual abilities and they will use whatever means to get rid of the smart and the favourite ones. Unless the intelligent or the favourite ones make it clear that they are not interested in climbing higher, such as Penny Wong or Christopher Pyne. It's worthless if a good leader has a bunch of useless ministers working under him or her. And it can be horrendous too if a weak leader has a group of knowledgeable ministers. It always requires the balance, but it depends on which is worse that determines the outcome. Is the leader worse than the ministers or vice versa?
Finally, I can summarise what I feel about this book after I finished reading it. In terms of the structure and the writing style, I never expected that it was so well-written. Although some of the statements can be repetitive, which gave me the impression of Malcolm's strong self-confidence with his achievements, other than that, the content was insightful and comprehensive. It stirs the reader's mind, giving the readers a lot to ponder.
At some point, it made me feel insecure that the current government is run by a bunch of climate deniers, conservatives that are undermining women and religious hypocrites. I can't believe I just blurted it out like any other Australians on social media every day. The dissatisfaction for the current government and the Prime Minister is almost the same thing that keeps trending daily on social media. However, it seems this book has confirmed some of Australians' views about the current government.
In a naive tone, I can't avoid myself to say "Damn! How dare they killed my beloved Julie. O my Julie! Long gone." That was the closest opportunity to have a woman prime minister. Reading this book made me feel hopeless that another such similar opportunity will come in the future. I don't have a strong interest in politics but always stick to my belief - "there are no clean politicians. People just need to choose the best of the worse and pray it won't get worse." I felt lucky that I don't have to vote in Australia because I really can't decide who is the best of the worse. Although my country has a complicated government that is surrounded by corruption and racial issues, it's probably easier to vote than in Australia. In between a corrupted government with suppressing the equality of other minor races for more than 61 years and a new multi-ethnic party, it's not too difficult to vote.
"Cormann and Dutton told me not to trust Julie and George. Julie, George and Christopher told me not to trust Cormann and Dutton. Barnaby told me not to trust any of them, and everybody told me not to trust Morrison."
I think the biggest joke is Peter Dutton believes he can become a prime minister. I don't think he can even survive the election judging by the public's intense disapproval of him. He probably doesn't have strong leadership, but he's a natural politician because he has 'thick skin' to survive in politics. I was surprised he still can win in his electorate. I remember many Australians were asking "what's wrong with the people in Dickson?" I'm curious to know too. I used to think whether Scott Morrison was involved in the plotting as well. What if all those just an act to distract Malcolm Turnbull? It was just a crazy conspiracy thought but couldn't believe it came out as a news a few months later. I'm not sure how trustworthy the news is, but I felt whatever happened has already passed.
Matthias Cormann is an interesting one. His reason for siding Peter Dutton was because of being blindsided and wanted to settle the coup. Well, blindsided is forcibly acceptable, but the latter was not sensible. It sounds courageous to apologise or probably driven by his conscience struggle, but the damage has already done. The coup against Malcolm Turnbull was a shock for everyone at that time, and it's just something that didn't make sense and so irrelevant to act at that time. I agreed with Malcolm's response to the note regarding how Matthias's wife views him after the coup. I felt it's funny when I read the part about Michaelia Cash was sobbing and kept saying 'yes' while Matthias just unconvincingly asking Malcolm to resign without strong argument why his best friend Peter Dutton is more deserved for the position. It's more like in a school than in a parliament. They sounded as if they were blackmailed or a gun behind them, forcing them to act that way. To be honest, I really have no idea how Michaelia Cash can survive in politics for so long. I guess another reason to stay in politics is not about intelligence and capabilities, it's about the number or who is your backbone. The worse is she was brought into Malcolm's ministry, and she just betrayed him face to face. This book is strongly supporting my doubts about her capability and the integrity of her character all this time.
It's unbelievable that I had chosen to read Malcolm Turnbull's book because I'm neither a political person nor his supporter. I mean I don't hate him but also not a hardcore fan of his. Somehow I like what others right now labelled him as "keyboard warrior". I guess he has more freedom to express his views when he is no longer in politics and probably able to see certain things from a different perspective. I'm not surprised with the knowledge he has, but it doesn't strike me that he is a righteous person. Everyone knows that he is wealthy, but I never expect that he will spend at his own expenses to get his job done for the people's best interest. In simple words, I feel he is a good person and a good person shouldn't and unsuitable to get involved in politics. If this book is used to recover his image or reputation, I think it has done its job well. When this book was released, everyone has a common opinion that it's for him to express his rage after what happened to him. It was a bit intolerable at the beginning when he was continuously sharing his views after the betrayal. I felt bad for him, but I wish he just moves on. I prefer the current him. It's more subtle, and maybe this is the real side of him, being righteous and offering reasonable opinions without the resentment tone.
In another side story related to the aftermath of the coup, I was upset when Julie Bishop was not voted to lead the party and become the prime minister. And the disappointing part of not being voted is because she is a woman. Then, another heartbreaking news for me is when she resigned as foreign minister. I don't know much about her past, but at that time, I felt that she is smart and strong for working in a male-dominated party. I guess the consequence of the coup has given her a different view about her future in the party. I respect her decision based on that situation at that time. She lost her strong support, and no one seems trustable in the party. If I was in her position, it's disappointing to be undermined and under-appreciated after working diligently for the party for so many years.
Regarding the sad part of her resignation, it's funny that I felt stranded despite I don't know much about her past. The first thing came to my mind at that time was "Who's going to look for me if I have a plane crash or got kidnapped overseas?" I know my origin country is unreliable and undependable. There were several times I saw Julie Bishop appeared on tv, speaking to the media for the actions that already taken to look for Australian citizens and permanent residents whenever any mishaps happened overseas. I always feel amazed by how efficient and calm the way she handled those incidents. To be honest, I have no confidence in Marise Payne's capability, and I know that I have to give her some time to familiarise with the new role. It's just a gut feeling that I have at that time. Even until now, it hasn't changed my mind to believe that she's capable of her role. Most of the time, she seems missing in action. During emergency situations, she's nowhere to be found and not responding fast enough to the problems. Back to Julie Bishop, I'm still waiting for her to write her biography book since she quits politics. I'm eager to know more about her, especially in handling challenging situations and facing all these difficulties in her party.
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: A Bigger Picture by Malcolm Turnbull.