politics

Malcolm Turnbull's new video proves single dads can be heroes.

He’s being painted as a battler. A not-quite-rags to oh-so-many-riches story of a single dad raising his kid under tough conditions.

The father – a man abandoned by his beloved wife.

The son – a lonely boy who desperately missed his mum, but was never led to believe that she didn’t love and cherish him.

The father who would have done anything for his son and who made him the man he is today – the Prime Minister of Australia.

It’s the tale we have woken to today, the latest narrative in the election campaign.

“I wouldn't be where I am today without my dad.” Image via Facebook.

In the video, narrated by Malcolm Turnbull the prime minister tells of his "battler" father who raised him single handily after his wife left him.

“I wouldn't be where I am today without my dad,” he wrote in a message that accompanied the video.

Mr Turnbull tells us of his early life: “We didn’t have much money, he was a hotel broker and for most of that time he was battling like a lot of people are, a lot of single parents are, certainly.

“And he did well after a while; in the latter part of his life he ­kicked a few goals after a lot of ­effort.

“He was incredibly loyal, very, very strong, very disciplined.

“I was the main object of everything he wanted to achieve. He was very focused on doing what was right for me.”

Mr Turnbull with his mother Coral Lansbury.

Mr Turnbull said his father ­had always spoken in “the most glowing terms” about his mother.

“I didn’t feel I missed out on anything because I had lots of love - a father who was very strong and very loyal and filled with love, who never left me in any doubt that he loved me more than anything — anything — on Earth.”

We like single dads. We like to paint them as heroes.

We like to coo over them at the school gate and virtually high-five them when they speak of just how tough they do it.

It’s a narrative that is successful. We share pictures of them braiding their daughter’s hair, we put them on a pedestal for placing their lives on hold to raise their children. For their sacrifice.

Quite often we bestow them with a level of sympathy that we can’t quite seem to find for single mothers.

We often see them as abandoned, left behind, as the ones who need empathy and help, as battlers just for being a dad doing it solo.

And that’s exactly the picture of Bruce Turnbull we get from this video.

When Malcolm Turnbull's mother left them he was nine-years-old, the lives of the two left behind were turned upside down.

It was rough time in the young boy’s life. Image via Facebook.

Mr Turnbull told The Australian in an interview last year that before she “cleared out” he begged her to reconcile with his father, but it had no effect.

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It’s a distressing image, a young boy begging his mother not to leave them. But it’s a character-building image as well isn’t it? An image that begins to paint a picture of a man who is used to facing challenges.

His mother, Coral Lansbury, took every single thing they owned, except her son’s bed - she even took the cat.

Mr Turnbull admits that later in life his father did well. Image via Facebook.

It was rough time in the young boy’s life. A year before he had, on scholarship, been sent to a boarding school in the Sydney suburb of St Ives. He hated it and at one stage he tried to run away.

He told Australian Story in 2009:

"[My father] had every reason to feel very let down by my mother because of the circumstances and the fact that when she left, you know, the little flat we were living [in] Vaucluse was sold, and we didn't have anywhere to live. There was a degree of financial hardship associated with all this. Bruce, nonetheless, never spoke ill of her. He always talked her up, and he … rather confused me I think about whether she was actually leaving or just going away on holiday … in his own way, [he] tried to ease me into the knowledge that she was going…”

He continued: “I have letters of his that he wrote to her filled with reproach and bitterness. 'How could you leave us? How could you leave your son?'… And she kept them, which is interesting. A lot of people would have destroyed them. She kept them, and I got them when she died. But he wrote her those letters of reproach and then would put down the pen after writing that letter, sealing it up, and then he'd say to me in the next breath as it were, 'Your mother loves you, she hasn't really left you. No, she's just gone to New Zealand to do some studies, she'll be back. She's coming back, don't worry. Everything's OK.'"

Critics have called the video desperate, saying after weekend polls showing Labor and the Coalition neck and neck, and the PM is playing “his poor dead single dad” card - but others have called it warm and inspirational.

But it is worth looking past the pure election spin of the video - an attempt to break down an image of an “elite” wealthy prime minister far removed from the rest of us - and, if you can, remove your politics from the lens you view it through, because it can remind us of some important things.

It can show us that single parents can successfully raise happy, fulfilled successful people.

It can show us that children respect the way parents speak about each other in a divorce - that Bruce Turnbull forever made young Malcolm feel loved by his mother.

And it can show us that some stereotypes are there for a reason. Single dads really can be heroes. Making a child feel loved is a job well done, no matter what side of the political spectrum you sit it's nice to acknowledge that.

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