The former PM’s words that left us shocked

By | April 18, 2020

, This was published 6 months ago

OpinionIn the age of coronavirus it takes a lot to shock, but surely most of us were gobsmacked at the news this week of passages in Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir – A Bigger Picture, released tomorrow – that he had suffered depression to the point that he was on medication, and the thought of suicide hovered?

Malcolm Turnbull … dark days after his ousting.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Not only has Turnbull never evinced anything remotely approaching depression in his public persona, but I am not aware of any of us who have known him over the years getting a hint of such dark thoughts in his private persona. (After all, while depression has been known as “anger without enthusiasm,” the former Prime Minister’s brand of anger never lacked for that.)

The key question thus is, are you ok now, Malcolm? With the release of your memoirs stirring up all your old enemies with all the usual attacks, do you suffer dark moments now?

The answer was heartening.

“I am in good spirits, Peter!”

For the best revenge, of course, is living well. And he does that.

A dangerous moveAnd speaking of former PMs, your humble correspondent chatted briefly to the erstwhile New Zealand leader and long-time senior official with the United Nations, Helen Clark, on Friday. The issue was President Donald Trump’s announced intent of withdrawing funding from the World Health Organisation at the height of the world’s worst pandemic in a century. Speaking with an odd mix of tight diplomacy and sheer horror, she still laid it on the line.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.Credit:Ben Rushton

“To defund WHO in the middle of the pandemic, is foolish and dangerous,” she said flatly. “It weakens them at the time of their greatest need. It means they can’t do what they need to do to protect the world’s population and it will hit the poorest and most vulnerable people most, particularly in the sub-Sahara.”

She emphasised that while tragic for them, it is also a grave matter for the rest of the world, which will always be threatened unless the virus can be contained across the entire world, not just the developed one, and WHO is fundamental to that.

We can see clearly nowYes, I know the upside of the coronavirus pandemic is hard to find. But has anyone else noticed how crystal clear the air is lately? It’s not actually that it felt that smoggy before – at least not in bush-fire season – it’s just that it is so bracing and clear now it surely gives a glimpse of what the future can hold if we get on top of fossil fuels, and those millions now working from home don’t all go back. And the other species that seem to like it are the white cockatoos. On the North Shore at least, several people have commented that they have never seen so many flocking and frolicking about. Thousands of them.

Feeling blue?A reader with a background in this field, Professor Michael Izard, makes an interesting point. See, the bubonic plague was called the Black Death because it caused black swellings of the lymph nodes; syphilis was the Red Plague, because red in the 13th century had connotations of sexual recklessness; and smallpox was considered the Yellow Plague, while tuberculosis was the White Plague due to people looking so pale as the disease ate away at them, so there is obvious nomenclature for the coronavirus.

He says it should be the Blue Plague, for the “colour of the cyanosis that kills patients with respiratory distress, and blue for the impact on mood that is caused by social isolation and financial distress.”

Joke of the WeekIf Trump were captain of Titanic – There isn’t any iceberg . . . There is an iceberg but it’s a small iceberg in another ocean . . . The iceberg is in this ocean but it’s a small iceberg and will melt in about three days . . . There is an iceberg but we didn’t hit the iceberg . . . We hit the iceberg but the damage will be repaired very shortly . . . I didn’t know how big the iceberg was until two weeks ago . . . The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg . . . We aren’t taking on water but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a lifeboat and they are beautiful lifeboats because we make the best lifeboats in the world . . . Look, passengers need to ask nicely for lifeboats if they want them . . . We don’t have any lifeboats, we’re not lifeboat distributors . . . I really don’t think we need that many lifeboats . . . The people drowning should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats . . . We have lifeboats and they’re supposed to be everyone’s lifeboats, but they’re only for people who kiss my a** . . . They are not the passengers’ lifeboats . . . The last captain of this ship didn’t leave enough lifeboats and, besides, nobody could have foreseen the iceberg.”

What they said“How could any journalist hearing that not say: ‘”Activities”? How could you describe child abuse as an activity?’ What is happening to our profession? Bolt did more than protect Pell here. He allowed Ridsdale’s appalling crimes to be trivialised.” – The redoubtable Barry Cassidy, after the Andrew Bolt interview with George Pell, when Pell said of the infamous pedophile Gerard Ridsdale’s decades long sexual abuse of children, “I totally condemn those sort of activities.”

“He’s a professional politician who understands marketing and messaging better than most. His cringeworthy ‘daggy dad’ persona is more exaggerated than it is conflated, but in net terms it probably helped. All that aside, however, the truth is that Labor lost the election that the coalition, after the August coup, did not deserve to win.” – Malcolm Turnbull in his memoir, released tomorrow, on Scott Morrison.

“I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question. It’s hard to find the words to express my debt.” – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanking his medical team after leaving hospital and singling out two foreign nurses, Jenny from Invercargill, New Zealand, and Luis from near Pporto in Portugal, who he said stood by his bedside for 48 hours “when things could have gone either way.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Things have been drafted in haste, it’s entirely understandable that there are errors, but I think a lot of these fines, if people contest them, will ultimately be withdrawn or dismissed in court. You see reporting of people being moved along [by police] on beaches, in circumstances where people have left the house to exercise, then apparently have set down at some place at the beach. On my reading of the public health order, there is absolutely no power to move someone on or fine someone in that circumstance.” – Barrister Stephen Lawrence, one of several lawyers warning that many of the “social distancing” fines issued on the basis of hastily written public health orders could fall over in court, saying they lacked clarity on key details and left police with too much discretion.

“The thing that worries us most at the moment is complacency.” – The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brendan Murphy, advising against hurrying into relaxing COVID-19 safeguards.

“Instead of ‘Amening’ or saying ‘Yes’, we got to honk our horns [or] swish our wipers.” –

A parishioner at a drive-in Easter service at a church in South Carolina.

“You must remember that every elder is a library.” – Artistic director Wesley Enoch about the importance of keeping COVID-19 away from Indigenous communities to preserve culture.

“I’ll go quietly.” – George Pell.

“[Americans need to] unite in a great awakening against a politics that has too often been defined by corruption, carelessness, self-dealing, disinformation, ignorance and just plain meanness. This [COVID-19] crisis has reminded us that government matters.” – Former American president Barack Obama speaking in support of Joe Biden in his attempt at the next presidential election.

“This is not going to change the government books but for us it’s about leadership. It’s an acknowledgement of the hit many New Zealanders are taking right now.” – Jacinda Ardern once again taking the lead, announcing that her Cabinet members and senior public servants are getting a 20 per cent pay cut for six months in solidarity with the population.

“The President just said that he may unilaterally adjourn Congress. This seems to be a reference to Article II, Section 3, which gives a president in ‘extraordinary occasions’ to convene or adjourn the Houses. This power has never been used and should not be used now. A pandemic should not be an invitation for pandemonium. Indeed, we need regular order now more than ever.” – Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University.

Tweet: @Peter_Fitz

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, http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-former-pms-words-that-left-us-shocked-20200419-p54kwj.html, The Sydney Morning Herald

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