Thursday 02 Jul 2020 | 22:50 | SYDNEY
Thursday 02 Jul 2020 | 22:50 | SYDNEY

NSS: The Opposition Leader response


Sam Roggeveen


8 December 2008 17:25

When Malcolm Turnbull assumed the office of Opposition Leader in September, the evidence (or lack of it) suggested he was an unknown quantity when it came to foreign policy and national security. So what can we now say of Turnbull's views on these matters, based on his reply to the Prime Minister's National Security Statement (NSS)? Not a lot, in my view.

Unlike the Prime Minister, Turnbull did not attempt to move terrorism from the high place it held in the Howard Government's security calculations. Turnbull referred to terrorism as 'the main contemporary threat to free societies such as our own', which seems a pretty faithful interpretation of the Howard/Downer view, and surely an overstatement.

It was disappointing that Turnbull did not try to wrestle with or refute Rudd's broader definition of security. Turnbull may believe very strongly that it is wrong of Rudd to bring terrorism 'back to the pack' in the ranking of security threats, but if so, he never said why.

That is perhaps a hint that Turnbull is still making up his mind on such issues, a view reinforced by the fact that the speech stuck to some pretty well-rehearsed lines of Opposition attack on the Government's foreign policy, and took a slightly unexpected turn toward water and food security near the end, issues with which Turnbull became familiar as a Minister in the last government.

I would judge this as a safe speech from a man who has been preoccupied with other matters and is yet to turn his mind to foreign policy in a substantive way. That is perhaps a little frustrating for policy wonks like me, but is politically a perfectly sound judgment.