In recent times, we have borne witness to the age of politicians exiting the Parliamentary stage in an unruly and bitter manner. Harboring only malice and contempt for those who put them in positions of power, these individuals put their true nature on full display, often resorting to unwarranted vile attacks on those they should be grateful to. In doing this, they expose themselves as no more than tragic ghosts, hanging around the political scene like a bad smell, attempting to squeeze anything they can out of their political careers in the hope of maintaining even a shred of relevance.
This is the attitude of Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a man who has gone the way of Kevin Rudd, resigning from Parliament after a loss, and using the time since to ruthlessly attack his own colleagues, his own Party, the government that he led. Since his “retirement” from politics, Turnbull has chosen to continue to play politics, popping up every so often to tell Prime Minister Scott Morrison how he should be running the country as if he still considers himself PM. With the poorly timed release of his memoir A Bigger Picture, Turnbull has recently been on the press junket, albeit choosing to appear on media outlets that will not challenge him as such, rather giving him open slather to denigrate his enemies, with the ABC even allowing him to make derogatory and sexist remarks towards political commentator Peta Credlin unchallenged. Rather than going out with his reputation at least somewhat intact, Turnbull has chosen to forego maintaining any dignity whatsoever, tearing to shreds what little humility he had left.
Over the years since Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd left the Parliament after suffering an election loss, he has made it well known that he wishes to remain relevant. He has also made known his utter hatred for the Murdoch owned media, to which there is a sweet irony given Rupert Murdoch himself endorsed Rudd for PM prior to the 2007 election. Rudd has made numerous appearances on various media outlets, in which he has attacked the Murdoch press, the government and the Prime Minister. Most recently, he appeared on Sunrise and once again denounced the Murdoch print media. Additionally, in an editorial written for The Economist, he labelled US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a move which was deserved given the way the WHO have acted throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, a “lunatic decision”. Rudd has also attempted to become the Secretary General of the United Nations, a position he failed to attain due to the Turnbull government’s decision not to nominate him, however has just recently attained a position on the International Monetary Fund external advisory group, again linked with the United Nations, a position which will no doubt fuel his attacks on the government. Rudd’s relentless attacks on those who run this country, and his obsession with the Murdoch media, has resulted in his becoming what we in the political world now refer to as a miserable ghost.
Much like Turnbull and Rudd, former Liberal Opposition Leader John Hewson has also been hanging around the political scene like a miserable ghost. His failure to win the so-entitled “unlosable” election became relevant yet again last year when Bill Shorten suffered the same fate. In recent times, Hewson has strayed from Liberal lines, writing articles and making appearances on the ABC to peddle the climate agenda. In fact, just this week, Hewson penned an article using the current health crisis to push climate change and believing the “science”, something that could be viewed as opportunistic. Like Hewson, both Rudd and Turnbull have also pushed climate change as a major world issue, when there are more pressing matters at hand. All three of these miserable ghosts refuse to go quietly and maintain some dignity, unlike two other former PMs of recent times who have done just that.
If Turnbull, Rudd, and Hewson were to look to anyone for an idea of how they should be acting post-Parliamentary life, they should look no further than former Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Both these former PMs have gone on to do good after their time in Parliament came to an end. Since leaving office, Julia Gillard has become the Chair of Beyond Blue, using her platform to help those struggling with their mental health, no doubt saving lives through this work. For this, she should be applauded. Tony Abbott has followed a similar path of helping people, continuing what he has done for many years, even while he was still in Parliament, through volunteering as a firefighter. This is something he has done for over fifteen years, and continues to do now, serving his community and saving homes and lives in the process. Like Gillard, he should be applauded for the work he does. Both these former PMs are doing work that paints them in a positive light and garners great respect from the wider community, rather than moping around attacking their former colleagues and those that work hard to keep this great country running.
If anything is to be taken from the actions of former Prime Ministers following their departure from the Federal Parliament, it is that being humble and using your platform to engage in positive work is far more respectable than hanging around the political scene like a miserable old ghost, tragically attempting to haunt those who you think have wronged you. For the latter only carries a single fate: loss of dignity, loss of respect, and a tragic, miserable life.