Turnbull: Give that man an onion

James Riley
Editorial Director

The sight of Malcolm Turnbull rabbiting on at a media doorstop as if he had Tony Abbott’s hand up his back was a remarkable thing to behold. He should be embarrassed.

Imagine a Prime Minister suggesting that an Australian Federal Police raid on an Opposition staffer’s office and home somehow meant Labor is soft on border protection.

Really. By the time he reached this stunning conclusion, I thought he was going to take a raw onion from his pocket and eat it. He was in Tasmania after all.

The NBN was always going to be a huge issue in this election campaign. I just didn’t think it was going to take the Stasi-like entrance of the AFP to put it under the spotlight.

Leaving aside the shortcomings of the Turnbull Government’s NBN – and there are many – this ridiculous incident has applied a blowtorch to government.

Watching Malcolm Turnbull turn himself inside-out to find a bent rationale as bizarre justification for an outrageous police action will disappoint many people. It simply did not pass the sniff test.

Even in a campaign where the electorate has gotten used to being fed scripted bullshit day-in and day-out, this was a shocking performance. Let’s step through the logic, sentence by sentence, as he explains the police raids.

“What Labor is doing is seeking to attack the integrity of the Australian Federal Police.”

“That is a shameful thing to do.”

“Labor should be ashamed of themselves.”

“You know you can’t trust Labor on national security.”

“We know where they stand – or don’t stand – on border security.”

This is not parody. It is the actual transcript. Really. Can someone please pass the Prime Minister an onion?

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin gave a assurances during a press conference that it had acted wholly-independently in initiating the raids. But the whole issue is so hopelessly politicised it became a hollow assurance.

As David Havyatt, an InnovationAus.com columnist and former Labor staffer to both Jason Clare and Stephen Conroy, said in his column the raids were prompted by the complaints to AFP of the NBN Co.

But the company appears to have been selective about which leaks it wants investigated, and which leaks it is happy to let slide.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accepted the assurances of the police commissioner – but says the original complaint had been engineered by the government, meaning the raids that acted on the complaint were ultimately orchestrated by government.

Mr Shorten said: “I have made it clear that this investigation was requested by the NBN Co, the flagship of Malcolm Turnbull’s time in government. This government cannot distance itself from the actions of the NBN Co.

“It is inconceivable that this government business enterprise is acting like a sort of a rogue gunman unbeknown to government what they’re doing.”

Labor had sought to make the NBN a more mainstream issue during this campaign, but it could not have expected it to land so spectacularly in its lap.

Communications spokesman Jason Clare was happy to point to the technology shortcomings, the cost low-outs and the long delays to the Turnbull NBN rollout as the spotlight was turned so spectacularly on it.

“It is very damaging, very embarrassing to Malcolm Turnbull,” he said. The past 24 hours had “shone a bigger light than ever before on the abject failure of Malcolm Turnbull to build the NBN.”

“No wonder the NBN Co wanted to silence these whistleblowers. Malcolm Turnbull has butchered the NBN. Instead of the NBN Co getting police in to investigate (whistleblowers), they should be out there fixing it.”

You have to make hay while the sun shines, I suppose. And on this issue, these AFP raids have ensured that the sun will shine, shine, shine.

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