A Bigger Picture by Malcolm Turnbull

Reviewed by
June–July 2020, no. 422
Buy this book
Judith Brett reviews 'A Bigger Picture' by Malcolm Turnbull

A Bigger Picture

by Malcolm Turnbull

Hardie Grant Books, $55 hb, 704 pp

Buy this book

A Bigger Picture by Malcolm Turnbull

Reviewed by
June–July 2020, no. 422

Malcolm Turnbull looks us straight in the eye from the cover of this handsome book, with just a hint of a smile. He looks calm, healthy, and confident; if there are scars from his loss of the prime ministership in August 2018, they don’t show. The book’s voice is the engaging one we heard when Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott in July 2015 and promised a style of leadership that respected people’s intelligence. He takes us from his childhood in a very unhappy marriage, through school and university, his astonishing successes in media, business, and the law, his entry into politics as the member for Wentworth, and ends with his exit from parliament.

It is a Sydney story, full of the Sydney identities Turnbull worked with as he made his name and fortune: Kerry Packer, of course, but a host of others, and the politicians, like Neville Wran and Bob Carr, who were his friends. Like the young Paul Keating, Turnbull sat at the feet of Jack Lang. The stories of his successes, friendships, and enmities before he entered politics are lively and well told, but they have a rehearsed feel, the jagged edges worn away. The book’s energy is in his three years as prime minister (2015–18) which occupy more than half the book.

Judith Brett reviews 'A Bigger Picture' by Malcolm Turnbull

A Bigger Picture

by Malcolm Turnbull

Hardie Grant Books, $55 hb, 704 pp

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Comments (2)

  • I enjoyed reading Judith Brett’s review of Malcolm Turnbull’s book. I agree that Turnbull turned out to be a disappointment, his ability to institute a progressive agenda stymied by the vocal few on the far right of the Liberal/National Coalition, in thrall to coal interests and unable to imagine a different Australia. But as to Judith Brett’s assertion that the ‘booming Australia of the 1950s’ should rank as an ‘exciting time’ compared with the present day of Turnbull’s reference, I must disagree. It was a time when women’s roles were severely curtailed by society and by law. Only misty-eyed white men want to revert to that time. I do however remember the excitement of Gough Whitlam’s election in 1972. Now that brought real, tangible change, for women in particular. And memorable because I voted for the first time. For Whitlam, of course.
    Posted by Judith Masters
    07 June 2020
  • Judith Brett references Paul Keating's assessment of Malcolm Turnbull as being 'brilliant, utterly fearless but without judgement', which only reminds me of another time he described him as 'Poor old Malcolm - all tip and no iceberg'. This leads me to consider that in at least this respect Turnbull bears no comparison to Gough Whitlam, who was a politician of conviction, not simply borne along by the times but one who put his stamp on them and made them his own. Turnbull certainly had style, but very little substance.
    Posted by Wayne Eaton
    26 May 2020

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