We Went Looking for Stuff That Turnbull Actually Achieved

We didn't find much. Just some buildings he cut ribbons on.
August 29, 2018, 2:46am
All images by the author, except the one on right which is via Shutterstock

As Malcolm Turnbull exits the same way he entered (via a backstabbing coup), let’s spend a moment recalling all the things our 29th Prime Minister stood for, and all the things he achieved…

After spending a moment trying to recall something, or anything, I turned to Google and here’s what I found: In three years Turnbull ditched the knights and dames titling fiasco that sunk Abbott. He introduced some company tax cuts, and initiated an expansion of the the Snowy River Hydro Scheme (perhaps his singular environmental achievement). He also oversaw the excruciating process of securing same sex marriage, along with the Royal Commission into child sex abuse. And he promised to apologise to survivors later this year—which is something ScoMo will now handle.


So Turnbull achieved some stuff, apparently, but these achievements could have also happened without him. Because it’s not like he took a courageous lead on same sex marriage, or that corporate tax cuts were a unique policy to come from the Liberal Party. No, Turnbull mostly spent three years trying to avoid a leadership spill, while history just dribbled on without him. And this really begs the question: was he personally responsible for anything… at all?

Malcolm's former office

So to find out, I headed to his electorate, where his legacy will presumably be most remembered.

The Division of Wentworth is one of the Liberal Party’s safest seats. The area is home to six out of the 10 richest suburbs in Sydney, and is about the same size as Norfolk Island—or just slightly bigger than Macau. Malcolm Turnbull has been been the Federal Member for Wentworth since 2004, and as I discover he’s been extremely busy there—cutting ribbons on new buildings and public BBQs.

My first stop on the Turnbull’s Tangible Achievements Tour was the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst. There I found school kids and a group of Chinese tourists wandering through three levels of history. But most importantly, as I walked through the door, I was greeted by a plaque attributed to The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP. Because it was here that Turnbull opened their permanent exhibition titled “The Holocaust,” in March of last year.

I was about to discover on this tour that Turnbull officiated a lot of building openings for the Jewish community. This came as no surprise—Wentworth is, after all, home to the biggest Jewish population in all of Sydney, while the former PM has also previously bragged about his Jewish roots. Wait, Turnbull’s Jewish? Yes. Well, sort of. The former PM has long been a staple at Jewish community functions and in 2013 announced that his mother claimed Jewish ancestry. And he'd apparently cut a ribbon for the Jewish Museum, which was something only Wentworth’s federal MP could have done.

Turnbull’s chuminess with the Jewish community was also immortalised at Waverley Park in Bondi, which is not your average neighbourhood park. It’s pimped out with an oval, a few netball courts, a kiosk, a dog park, and a community garden. It also caters for all the local soccer mums and “netball dads” (don’t worry, Morrison doesn’t live here) who congregate on weekends. There’s also the memorial gardens in honour of war veterans.

Then, nestled in the shrubs nearby was a plaque our ex-PM helped install in 2014. It commemorated some tragic number of Jews killed as part of the Holocaust in Babi Yar, Ukraine.

Turnbull also oversaw the opening of another building run by a Jewish organisation nearby. I went over to take photos but they asked me to leave in case the article “embarrassed Mr Malcolm Turnbull.” And then there was another Jewish institution building that welcomed Turnbull for a photo op earlier in the year, but they also didn’t let me take photos.

Our richest-ever PM did occasionally branch into other demographics though, cutting the ribbon for this luxury $115 million nursing home. The place lets the oldies go out in style with a bar, a spa, a cinema, a harbour-view rooftop, and a constant cycle of guest entertainers dropping by. And this sweet plaque was by far the swankiest, with its own little stone wall and a glorious gate.

And that was all of the tangible things Turnbull contributed to Australian society during his three years as Prime Minister. Two memorials for the Holocaust and one plaque outside a nursing home. It’s soon likely that we’ll remember him only by these mementos and perhaps Barnaby’s baby. And I’ve got to say, it was a sobering experience walking through Turnbull’s soon-to-be former electorate—sobering in the sense that it doesn’t take much to be an Australian PM these days.

Let’s just hope I don’t have to take a walk around the Shire for ScoMo in another three years. Or less.

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