There’s lots of nastiness on twitter. Perhaps is because it’s easy to just tap a few things and just hit that ‘tweet’ button.
The latest example is about Malcolm Turnbull and his claims to have had a struggle in his childhood. Personally I don’t like it when politicians directly uses their past to gain votes. I believe that the personal and the political has to be separate, otherwise we go down the USA path where the offspring of politicians are fair game and I think that’s deplorable.
On that level the criticism of Turnbull is justified, and perhaps the dreaded focus groups have shown he’s perceived as aloof and not in touch with the average person. In that respect it looks like the strategy has backfired.
However whatever we think about Turnbull’s policies a mother leaving his child when he’s nine can’t not be a fairly traumatic event at some level. An episode of ‘Australian Story’ showed that with the marriage of Turnbull’s parents fraying, they decided to put him in a boarding school when he was eight. He must have been very unhappy as he begged his parents to take him back home but a year later, in 1963, Turnbull’s mother left the family to follow New Zealand-born academic John Salmon to New Zealand. Turnbull’s mental state would not have been helped by the fact that Turnbull’s father told him that his mother was just away on a holiday. Maybe in those days this was thought to protect the children, but psychology says that it is better to know the truth and deal with it. In fact when young Malcolm arrived at Auckland airport for a visit with his mother promptly told him she was marrying Salmon.
To his credit Turnbull’s father must have done a good job to raise Malcolm. And his tragic death in 1982 in a plane crash could have very well re-awaken those feelings of emptiness that he felt as a child after his mother left. I always felt that when it comes to loss Turnbull was one of the few Liberals who reached across the political divide, perhaps out of a sense of deep empathy. One example when he went to offer his condolences to Julia Gillard after the death of his father, or when he broke up at the end of the eulogy for Gough Whitlam in parliament imagining Gough being re-united with Margaret.
Turnbull has shown many times to have poor political judgement, and this ‘we were not rich’ electoral strategy is another example of it. However it doesn’t mean that his feelings of grief, that he may still have, should be mocked.