Friday, 15 March 2013

NBN: Turnbull's Barrister Tactics

Mediawatch recently got stuck into the ABC's own Nick Ross, including for an outburst recorded at 'Kickstart' conference. Turnbull had trotted out some B/S and Ross laid down a detailed and passionate rebuttal.

It (finally!) struck me that all along Turnbull has been playing Barrister: he doesn't answer questions or even acknowledge inconvenient facts. He's an expert at this game, and at Kickstart broke Nick Ross: he'd riled him for two years, long enough that he lost his cool and said something "stupid" in the heat of the moment. Which meant Turnbull "won".

As well, Turnbull & the the Coalition have released NO details of their policy: this is the root of most of the current noise & fury in the discourse, it's all speculation.

Turnbull has only made generic/motherhood statements about his NBN policy:

  • We will deliver "Cheaper to the taxpayer", "more quickly", and "more affordably to the customer". For a while I seem to recall claims of faster, too.
  • "we will prioritise those in most need"
  • "we will do it more efficiently"
  • "we will use existing technologies where available"
Barristers stock-in-trade is speaking without saying anything, but making the listener think they have.
This supports what they do: Make a convincing case for whomever hires them.

I wondered at the time, when Abbott tasked Turnbull with "kill the NBN", how he would cope with that, railing against Technology and Services he'd supported. It's just a job, it doesn't matter - this is the psychological adjustment that all Barristers have to make to cope with the cognitive dissonance of forcefully putting a position in which they might just not believe, but is antithetical to their personal views.

Barristers will take any side and strongly argue that case: it's what they do...
We don't actually know what Turnbull thinks, just what he says/writes, which I'm starting to give very little heed to.

Turnbull uses many tricks to not answer and sound like he's said something [and more, this is not my field of expertise]:
  • deflection, 
  • misdirection, 
  • conflating & confusing issues,
  • irrelevance, 
  • misleading, 
  • misquoting (half-truths, inapplicable models) and 
  • attack or "blame the questioner or victim".

Turnbull has succeeded brilliantly by having Nick Ross accused of poor journalism, when what's happened is:
a) there is NO policy detail and
 b) when questioned, he skilfully attacks the questioner and turns things against them. Just as he "took apart" witnesses in the courtroom.

So what we saw on Monday night was the result of 2 years of persistent stonewalling and unwarranted attacks taking its toll on an honest journalist. Nick Ross is not accused of asking the right questions and not giving up when he didn't get answers,  but when he was overcome with frustration, overstepping his employers guidelines.

Turnbull could have started his campaign by being truthful: "I will answer that when we release our detailed policy just before the next election. In the meantime, I can say ..."

The $37 Billion Question is: will Turnbull being "slippery and tricky" rebound on him and the Coalition? In a perfect world,, it might. But Politics is far from Perfect or Just.

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