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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26159

Senator ROBERT RAY (3:13 PM) —I have been cogitating on the curse of Wentworth. I cannot remember the theme from Tales of the Unexpected but I have just been running my memory back over the great Liberal members for Wentworth. Remember Mr Peter Coleman? He lost his seat in a state election when he led the Liberal Party. What a flop he was in this federal parliament. He was followed by Dr Hewson, another great Liberal Party flop and no longer ever mentioned in the Liberal Party, and then by Mr Andrew Thomson—so bad that they had to dump him—and then by Mr King—so bad that they dumped him. Now we have the latest candidate, Mr Malcolm Turnbull. How much lower could you go—Bill Heffernan maybe? I am not sure. They have had this succession of flops. It is the curse of Wentworth.

Let us listen to what the Liberal Party have had to say about Mr Turnbull over the last day. When all these questions were put to the Prime Minister, we got the petulant one-word answer, `No'—no rushing by the Prime Minister to defend Mr Turnbull, just a trembling of the shoulders and the one word, `No.' Then, of course, the foreign minister was asked today about Mr Turnbull. He described Mr Turnbull as `just a candidate'. What a slap in the face. It does not matter that at one stage he was national treasurer and fundraiser for the Liberal Party; today he becomes `just a candidate'. However, Mr Costello, when asked about Mr Turnbull, said:

If he was properly quoted, his comments do not embarrass the government at all.

That has been parroted by the acolyte of the Treasurer in this chamber. Mr Costello never misses a chance to try to line up a vote. I have some advice for Mr Costello. When he is in the leadership ballot, Mr Turnbull is not going to vote for him; he will vote for himself—of course he is going to be in the ballot. Maybe this is a ploy by Mr Costello to get his second preferences. What have the other Liberals said about this? Mr `doorstop interview' himself, who is on the news every day—and this is the only way he can get publicity—Mr Warren Entsch, says of Mr Turnbull:

He's wrong, it is as simple as that.

He says that he has `all the qualities of a mongrel dog except loyalty'. Then we have another government MP, another recidivist, Mr Alby Schultz, saying:

Instead of getting himself a physical trainer he should get someone who could teach him a little about politics.

Finally, the coup de grace comes from Senator Ron Boswell. He says:

He's going to go on a steep learning curve when he gets down I think.

I think he means when Mr Turnbull gets down here to Canberra. Clearly Senator Boswell will not be his grammatical coach. We have heard all this comment today on Mr Turnbull. The curse of Wentworth continues. I have been pondering this: why would Mr Turnbull try to work both sides of the street? Was it just his inexperience and indiscretion?

Senator Faulkner —He certainly did it in his branch stacking—he worked both sides of the street.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Well, of course. It cost a lot of money to buy this seat—2,000 memberships paid, all the research, all the television stuff and the production of leaflets. This cost an absolute motser. Then I thought, `No, this is Sydney politics. This is something that is alien to me.' What Mr Turnbull is looking at—

Senator Brandis —Ask Senator Faulkner about Sydney politics.

Senator ROBERT RAY —I will; in fact I often do. I thought, `I think I know what this is. Mr Turnbull has worked out that Mr King may disloyally ignore his traditions in the Liberal Party and oppose him at the next election.' So what this is about—it is very cunning, I think, and I respect it—is Mr Turnbull making a pitch for Labor Party preferences. There is no question about that. I have to respect that. I have always had something to do, as has Senator Faulkner, with the allocation of preferences. So I say to comrade Turnbull, `This is a good start—attacking the government over their Iraq policy. This will give points in the bank. You have earnt brownie points here. No, we can't promise you our preferences today, but keep up the good work. Keep up the good fight. If you're obsequious enough to us, we might just allocate our preferences to you.' I do not think they will be of much use because I think we will finish first or second in the electorate, but just in case we slip into third place, we have a choice. And what a horrible choice we have: Turnbull or King. (Time expired)