by UnHerd
Friday, 12
June 2020
Video
16:05

Malcolm Turnbull: Trump is not a conservative

Freddie Sayers speaks to the former Australian Prime Minister
by UnHerd

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.

Join the discussion


  • Now the “Liberal party was left wing initially, they are also “blue”, in USA liberal means left wing and they are blue too. You see it is all Turnbulldust. Turnbull seemed to me to be left wing, he seemed to be acting for the “elite”, the ones who run the world, so badly.

  • I remember seeing European news saying Turnbulldust would be prime minister of Australia before it was considered in Australia. It is a hoax fake thing.

  • Whatever your knowledge of Australia and its politics it is important to recognise the value of education and experience in current commentary. Having lived in Australia for many years and having little in common with Mr Turnbulls individual political views he stands out here as a considered and erudite commentator on contemporary issues relevant to his country and to others. We must avoid division in all communities. Another well paced and well chosen contribution. I look forward to reading his book!

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