Top politician’s university report-card released: has anything changed? 27



View Profile

If there’s one good thing to come out of the Dyson Heydon controversy, it’s this… Previously confidential documents have been released, including the reports cards for one of Australia’s most important politicians.

In 1979, Malcolm Turnbull was at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar. He was 25 and just a little bot cocky according to the Oxford don who wrote his report card.

“He has begun to find his level and to stretch his ability. This has dented his arrogance usefully, but I expect it will bounce back,” wrote Sir Edgar Williams of Rhodes House.

“He has the manner of a likeable rascal but I hope that there is more to him than that. Assuredly he does not suffer from shyness.”

It’s fair to say the Australian people hope “there is more to him than that” too, considering he is the preferred politician to lead the country at the moment.

A second report card a year later showed a remarkable improvement in the communication minister’s humility, with the don’s comments showing that behind every man with potential, there is an extraordinarily patient woman, in this case Lucy Hughes, daughter of Sydney barrister Tom Hughes, a former Liberal attorney-general.

“[Turnbull] found his level better in his second year when he was most happily married to an able and very nice wife and he found his B.C.L [bachelor of civil law] contemporaries in some instances abler than he is,” the warden noted.

“He buckled to and made a decent fist of it and now returns to Sydney having used Oxford well. He is less of a know-all than when he arrived but he is always going to enter life’s rooms without knocking, I would suppose, and his engaging ways will yield him a welcome, if not an immediate seat at the [Rhodes] council table.

“He is a good contributive personality with great good sense, much humour and quite a lot of ability – though not essentially of an academic sort.”

Mr Turnbull graduated from Oxford with honours in 1980.

The report cards were found among the confidential documents of former NSW governor Sir Roden Cutler. They were stored at the state archives and released for public access 30 years after he left office in 1981.

Do you think the don’s assessment of young Malcolm Turnbull holds true today? Does it describe the makings of a man who could lead the country?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I thought he had potential once upon a time! Not any more though, maybe he needed to keep some of that cockiness, his Political Ambitions got in the way.

  2. The Dyson Heydon scandal, is a disgrace Tax payers are paying $80 million for the Royal witch hunt and Heydon himself is getting $3 million of tax payers money to sit there and be biased

    5 REPLY
    • either way this man has tarnished his career , some will always see him as biased now, myself included

    • Very deceptive behaviour on Heydon’s part. He’s a long term mate of Abbott’s, and happened to be on the board who gave Abbott his Rhodes scholarship. It’s all a bit dodgy

  3. Turnbull has a dazzling smile and he still has a lot school boy charm, I find him far easier on the eye than Abbott but I don’t like his politics

  4. Good news today if you have been following the Kathy Jackson case, she has been ordered by the court to repay the union $1.4 million and The HSU is seeking that charges be laid against her. She was Abbott’s poster girl but anyone who has has ever been in a union smelt a rat straight away with this woman

    2 REPLY
  5. Turnbull has a number of qualities that make him stand out in comparison to Abbott. Turnbull has a personality which allows him to appear at ease with people. Abbott on the other hand appears wooden and looks ill at ease and hesitant. Turnbull understands communication, the digital age and how to use it. Hence he has the ability to communicate ideas and positions at all levels. Abbott is the direct opposite. His poor communication skills have been blatantly obvious. Turnbull understands economics. This in todays world is an important trait for politicians. Abbott on the other hand is an economic ludite. His lack of economic understanding meant he was next to useless when it came time to sell the budget. This is one of the most important jobs for a Prime Minister. All in all Turnbull has most of the qualities that make up a Prime Minister. Perhaps his most endearing quality is the fact that the people of Australia like him. Can’t say the same for Abbott.

  6. I agree, Anne. To the small “l” liberals, Turnbull should be a shoe in but the party appears to be run by the hard right where snall “l” liberals are only just above the Labor party.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *