Bondi View

Malcolm: the man behind the politics

He opens the door like he opens conversation: firmly and with a sense of purpose.

Arriving promptly at 9am, Federal MP Malcolm Turnbull enters Bondi Icebergs. The bistro is closed but Malcolm pulls the strings and the floor manager welcomes him in. “Make yourself feel at home,” says the floor manager.

For the Shadow Minister of Communications, Wentworth is not only his home but where he is most happy. Growing up in small flats around Vaucluse and Double Bay, Malcolm would swim at North Bondi Surf Club with his father, Bruce Turnbull, and he came to realise that the geography of Wentworth was as “varied” and “engaging” as the locals he would meet.

“I’ve always lived here and I enjoy going on walks around the area,” Mr Turnbull smiles.

“I just revel in the diversity of it – to think that you can go from Rose Bay to Potts Point and you’re in completely different precincts … We’re very lucky here and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve got to work hard to protect and preserve the environment that we live in.”

When it comes to environmental policies, Malcolm’s door is open to local issues surrounding conservation. Following his experience as the Federal Minister for Environment and Water Resources in 2007, Malcolm became a community advocate opposing the expansion of the marina in Rose Bay, campaigning against the floating helipad at Darling Harbour, and protecting local heritage sites such as Fitzroy Gardens in Potts Point.

Entering the September 7 Wentworth election, a key objective for Mr Turnbull is reducing the cost of living pressures through stronger economic management. He links the importance of a robust economy to childcare provisions in Wentworth. Mr Turnbull believes a more accommodating childcare system should increase workforce participation.

“Two things that [we] need more of in this area are childcare and aged care … We’re very alert to the need to make childcare more available,” he says.

“The key element in our childcare policy is that Productivity Commission reference, [which] will enable us to properly assess things like greater support for in-home care … because obviously the institutional childcare system is really straining.”

Mr Turnbull says Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s new ‘Paid Parental Leave’ policy demonstrates the Coalition’s commitment to families in providing an improved childcare system, particularly in light of lack of supply in Wentworth.

Last year, 17 of the 19 childcare centres in Bondi were full and there are currently over 900 names on waiting lists in Waverley alone.

Mr Turnbull acknowledges the significance of Bondi to the Federal Government, as an iconic asset on par with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

“Some years ago, I secured $2 million to help Council do the upgrade of Campbell Parade,” he says. “Bondi is much more than a local beach – Bondi is an international tourist destination.

“That imposes great burdens on pre-eminently Waverley Council, because they’ve got to fund something that is visited by the whole world from the rate base of Waverley, hence it’s appropriate for there to be federal support.”

Mr Turnbull is a supporter of Waverley Council’s Plan of Management for Bondi, arguing the key issues Waverley Council faces revolve around parking and traffic management.

“The big cost there is obviously shifting the parking off the beachfront underground, and I think most people would regard that as a very good move because that would make the beachfront much more attractive,” he says.

Having held the seat of Wentworth since 2004, Mr Turnbull says honesty and clarity of expression are critically important for a politician, especially in maintaining a balance between over-simplification and making policy ideas comprehensible.

“I think where a lot of politicians get into trouble is by trying too hard to be something that they’re not, [and] the public see through inauthenticity very quickly,” he says.

In the 40 years since Malcolm first joined the Liberal Party in 1973, his greatest lesson as a politician has been opening the door and displaying his true self.

“The most important thing I’ve learnt in politics is that you just have to be yourself … I try very hard to be straight, forward, [and] clear in what I say,” he says.

“Above all, be true to yourself, and if you think that just sounds like so much waffle, I don’t think the alternative works either. From a more pragmatic point of view, I don’t think that’s bad advice.”

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