Mr Harbourside Mansion flays Mr Bungonside Yarralumla

Mr Harbourside Mansion flays Mr Bungonside Yarralumla

OPINION: Malcolm Turnbull’s “know your place” speech was terrific, writes TESS LAWRENCE.

If Malcolm Turnbull is “Mr Harbourside Mansion”, then Bill Shorten is surely Mr Bungonside Yarralumla.

Frankly, I’m surprised the prime minister tolerated the Leader of the Opposition’s irritating taunt for so long.

The politics of envy makes for facile and ugly political posturing.

In a lacerating excoriation of his opponent during last week’s Question Time, Turnbull dusted off his archived formidable debating skills to flay, demolish and humiliate Shorten, downsizing him to the hypocrite he is known to be, when it comes to social climbing and nuzzling into the armpits of billionaires.

Like many others, I have heard the cruellest and crudest jokes about Shorten’s neediness for acceptance into the moneyed echelon of society, spew from the mouths of Labor politicians and party supporters themselves .

He has made no secret of the fact that he is bitterly disappointed that he was not elected Prime Minister and sworn in at Yarralumla during the time when his mother-in-law, the unanimously respected and much-loved Quentin Bryce was Australia’s governor-general.

The truth has long been out there about Bill.

Playing to the gallery and no doubt buoyed by the unanimous cheering of his front and back benches, Turnbull, like a once submerged Houdini, at last seemed to have extricated himself from the shackles that bound him to the uber conservatives of the LNP.


Turnbull went in for the Bill kill.

It wasn’t a dirty blow like the left hander biff boxer Anthony Mundine snuck into Danny Green in the first round at the Adelaide Oval when he wasn’t looking, the week before.

But whilst Turnbull’s side of the House was rapturous and raucous, on Bill’s subdued side of the House, no-one amongst his own rent-a-crowd was laughing — not that I could see.

In fact, there was a comparative deathly and eerie silence; a sense of forboding no doubt, of inarguable blowback.

The least resistance came from Shorten himself. His uneasiness was palpable.

You could see it on his admonished face. He had no comeback. Nowhere to hide. Denials would be preposterous.

He was unable to defend even himself, let alone his Party. The caterwauling on the otherside of the House had indeed got his tongue.


He would have heard the din of deathly silence from those supposed to be on his side – his defenders – and known their silence was tacit assent. Turnbull’s damning exposê that Shorten was/is a social climber and sycophant are known knowns.

But Shorten’s lame responses – including the next day when, in true comedy satire form, he appeared on camera wearing a fluoro vest – are all impairments to parliamentary democracy.

We need contenders of equal stature and capabilities at least. We people and democracy is best served this way.

He has never been Turnbull’s equal, verbally.  But never was this inadequacy more exposed than on this day.

But in truth, for so long, Turnbull’s parliamentary performance has been lacking in vigour and energy, let alone, wit.

How strange that there was no real uproar or outrage at Turnbull’s verbal assault on their leader’s character and motives; no offence taken when offence was meant.


Like much of Shorten’s everyday whining repetitive drone, “Mr Harbourside Mansion” was a recyled term.

He may be incapable of original thought.

He nicked it from that impressive alpha female so often depicted as a political she-devil, Peta Credlin, former PM Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff who openly claims responsibility for single-handedly regaining power for the NLP.

Credlin herself has never forgiven Turnbull for demoting her from his chief-of-staff to deputy chief-of-staff, upon succeeding Brendan Nelson as Opposition Leader.

Wealth alone ought not to engender hatred or envy, political or otherwise.


It is not a crime to be rich or own a mansion, any more than it is a crime to be homeless and poor. It is the how and why and wherefore — and what one does with money that matters. And much good can be done; much good is done. It’s what we all do with whatever we’ve got that matters.

People who are rich are not necessarily bad or good people. People who are poor are not necessarily bad or good people. But we are all influenced by the human condition and our shared humanity and inhumanity.

Surely, as part of the human family, our aspirations should be to strive towards economic equity and social justice.

I remember that decades ago, the late and not always great Kerry Packer, media mogul and billionaire for whom Turnbull and I have both worked, telling me once that Australians had inherited the attitude of outdated British unionists locked in a time warp, instead of the American attitude towards wealth.


How so?

He explained it this way:

In America if I’m the boss and drive my big car into the parking lot, the worker’s attitude will be “One day, that’s going to be me – only I’m going to be driving a bigger and better car.”

In England, if I’m the boss and drive my Roller into the parking spot, the union official will blow a whistle and say ‘”Right, down tools, everyone out brothers ” like the TV show “On the Buses” and demand that everyone has a Rolls Royce otherwise they won’t go back to work. 

In the meantime, somebody will run a two-bob down the side of the car and scratch it to pieces.”

Although attitudes have changed in some aspects, we get the gist of what Packer was on about.

He has a point worth condering and debating.


There is no need for anyone in this world to be poor — or starving, or without clean drinking water.

Last month, in its ‘An economy for the 99%’ report Oxfam released the dispiriting statistic that eight of the world’s richest men had the equivalent monies of the

“… 3.6 million people who make up the poorest half of humanity.”

In her introduction, Oxfam’s International Executive Director, Winnie Byanima, said:

It’s obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty; it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.  

Across the world, people are being left behind. Their wages are stagnating yet corporate bosses take home million dollar bonuses; their health and education services are cut while corporations and the super-rich dodge their taxes; their voices are ignored as governments sing to the tune of big business and a wealthy elite.


Indeed, the prime minister’s criticism of the obscene salary enjoyed by Australia Post’s Ahmed Fahour’s $5.6 million salary as “ too high” is entirely justified.

Given that Australia Post is owned by the government and thus belongs to we Australians, how dare Australia Post try to keep Mr Fahour’s pay a secret from us.

Here’s a couple of reasons why from that Oxfam report:

our broken economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite at the expense of the poorest in society, the majority of whom are women. The richest are accumulating wealth at such an astonishing rate that the world could see its first trillionaire in just 25 years.  To put this figure in perspective – you would need to spend $1 million every day for 2738 years to spend $1 trillion.   

Public anger with inequality is already creating political shockwaves across the globe. Inequality has been cited as a significant factor in the election of Donald Trump in the US, the election of President Duterte in the Philippines, and Brexit in the UK.

We will be next. It is already happening. Not all are inclusive of the human family, consider the intellectually constipated anti-Islam Q Society of Australia Inc.

On Friday night, Senator Cory Bernardi consummated last week’s defection from the Liberal Party with the first official speech as his own one man conservative party.

Turnbull’s tirade against Shorten caused an ongoing media maelstrom that has rather overshadowed poor old hunky dory Cory’s debut.

There is a plethora of far right sleeper cells vying for toxic hearts and mindless bigots and racists.

Yesterday’s Galaxy poll in the Courier-Mail cited Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party as soaring from 16% to 23% in a mere 12 weeks in Queensland.

Now indeed in the time for all good parties to come to the aid of men and women.

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Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence

Tess Lawrence is a broadcaster, journalist advocate and specialist in ethical media services and crisis management and consultant in media strategy, contentious multi-cultural, interfaith, human rights and issues of injustice. She has taught at a number of institutions, including Deakin University in Ethics and New Reporting and is a forensic researcher and analyst (communications) and implemented, underwrote and directed the campaign seeking santuary for the surviving Iraqi soldiers responsible for the rescue of Australian hostage Douglas Wood. Tess Lawrence was the first female feature writer 'allowed' to sit in the previously all male newsroom at the Melbourne Herald. She has the distinction of travelling around Saudi Arabia sans a male chaperone and sought sanctuary in ' the empty quarter ' in the company of the bedu who protected her from regime spies as she spent time in the desert after the first Gulf War. She was nonetheless arrested three times by the religious police. She remains a defiant ' adulte terrible ' and is a passionate advocate of citizen journalism and believes it to be an authentic voice of the journalist as witness. She is in awe of the young hearts and minds of the pan Arabist children of the revolution. She is about to launch a campaign for journalist Julian Assange to be the next Dr Who. She is addicted to English Mars bars and loves her Aunty Audrey to bits. Although a lapsed Catholic, she still lights candles in memory of her beloved Boxer dogs Bunyip and Gumnut. She is besotted with Australian marsupials and unashamedly incorporates words such as ' cobber ' and ' drongo ' in her political reports and analyses.