Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is currently putting the finishing touches to his political memoirs. Now he’s come up against an unexpected hurdle, gleefully reported by the Australian media.
Despite not having read the manuscript, the publisher’s insurers have advised they don’t want a bar of it and have withdrawn from any libel cover.
Turnbull has never hidden his bitterness at being rolled. One can assume he will be particularly scathing at those who engineered it, particularly the ghastly Tony Abbot who I correctly forecast on this site, would lose his normally safe Liberal seat in the recent election. But the underlying insurers concern is the spate of million dollar plus libel awards in recent years in Australia. All of these but one strike me as justified and that, to an actress, was subsequently cut back hard on appeal.
The media have always sought special privilege on this front, claiming they’re guardians of an honest society and protectors against wrongdoing in high office. Those claims are correct. What’s not correct is their demand for special privilege. To that I simply say they’re free to write exposés of wrongdoing and long may they continue. But don’t tell lies and libel people and they have nothing to fear.
I’ve a mind, subject to reading the manuscript, to offer the libel cover to the publishers.
Robust political comment is characteristic of our democracy and politicians know it’s give and take and accept it uncomplainingly as going with the territory. Turnbull is an intelligent man and will hardly be prone to lies. He will also know the difference between mere abuse and libel. One thing’s certain and that is in politically obsessed Australia it should be a best-seller.