June 12, 2020 - 4:05pm

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia from 2015-2018, doesn’t hold back in this wide-ranging interview with Freddie Sayers.

We cover everything from the Black Lives Matter protests to rising China and the absence of conservatism in much Right-wing thought. Singling out Donald Trump as someone who is “clearly not a conservative”, the two-time Liberal Party leader explains what he learned about the president from his time in office. Some key quotes:

On statues

  • “I’m not a fan of tearing down statues
 you can tear down a statue, but you can’t tear down the history”.

On Black Lives Matter

  • Supports the movement but hasn’t “had the opportunity” to take the knee.

On China

  • “China has changed its approach in recent years to bullying and bellicose rhetoric”.
  • “Wolf warrior diplomacy is counter-productive”.
  • “Trump is using China as a way to deflect from his failures with Covid”.
  • Says US-China relations risk “falling into the Thucydides Trap”.
  • No need for relations to “become any more intense”.

On 5G

  • “I’m not saying that Huawei is spying for China, but if they’re required to, they will have to”.
  • “Surprised” by the British government’s decision to grant Huawei access to key infrastructure.
  • “Most people in the Five Eyes Intelligence World would say that Australia has taken a more prudent approach”.

On Dominic Cummings

  • “Going to Barnard Castle to check your eyesight seems like a pretty wild thing to do”.
  • “It’s important that the Prime Minister is not seen as being under the dominion of another”.

On conservatism

  • Boris could “place Brexit within the tradition of practical, patriotic British conservatism”.
  • But “most people who claim to be conservatives nowadays wouldn’t know the difference between Edmund Burke and Tony Burke” [Labour politician in Australia].
  • “Many conservatives are the absolute antithesis of conservatives”.
  • Instead there is “a lot of Right-wing, nativist populism flying around, which doesn’t respect institutions”.

On Trump

  • Trump is “clearly not a conservative”.
  • The most “idiosyncratic president in history”.
  • Describing him as a “bully” is like saying “the Pope’s a Catholic”.
  • Expected Trump to be “changed by the office”, but this was “confounded”.
  • Found him “practical, pragmatic and business-like” in personal dealings.