Waleed Aly’s impassioned editorial on Islamic State and the Paris attacks was perfect. Yet how good would it have been if such insight had come from our national leaders rather than a TV presenter, writes Terry Barnes.
The latest opinion poll results will make Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull very happy. According to the Fairfax Ipsos poll published on Monday, the Coalition leads Labor by 48 per cent to 29 on primary vote; by 56 to 44 on two-party preferred, and Turnbull himself has a net approval lead over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of a whopping 81 points.
The last time a PM enjoyed such a huge net approval lead over his opposite number was back in 2009, when Kevin Rudd ran rampant over the then hapless Liberal leader, one Malcolm Turnbull.
Watch Aly’s full speech here:
The Ipsos poll was taken, in part, over last weekend, after news broke of Friday’s dreadful night of terror in Paris. Fortuitously, Turnbull was in Berlin as the French capital endured one of its darkest nights. His response was correct and businesslike. He called on the French embassy in Berlin to express the horror and condolences of all Australians. He worked through the night, and the weekend, to ensure Australia’s national security response was sound, and sought to reassure Australians every possible precaution was being taken to protect us at home and abroad.
He then went to the G20 summit in Turkey, consulting with US president Barack Obama, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius and other world leaders.
To his great credit, Turnbull also pointed out to Insiders’ Barrie Cassidy that the hideous atrocities in Paris have counterparts in Turkey, Lebanon and the suspected downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt by the Islamic State terror group. He grasped that Paris was not just a huge attack on the West and its way of life, but part of a wave of terror reaching across the civilised world.
In other words, Turnbull followed meticulously the political leadership textbook. He responded, he reassured, he acted. He looked decisive and in charge, just as Abbott did in July last year when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian rebels. It’s what prime ministers do.
In times as grave as these, it is not enough, however, to apply the mechanics of leadership. What’s also needed is someone who can inspire a worried nation, to show passion beyond the bureaucracy exterior and bring people of all backgrounds, and faiths, together in common cause against a shared shadowy foe.
Tellingly, what needed most to be said in the aftermath of Paris came not from Turnbull or another politician, but from Muslim academic and presenter of Channel 10’s news chat show The Project, Waleed Aly. A left-wing political scientist and TV personality, Aly is not normally someone earning the praise of someone from the conservative right, but his Paris editorial on national television nailed it.
Quoting Islamic State’s own words against it, Aly made an impassioned plea for unity — indeed for community — and understanding over hate and fear. He said that IS wants to split the world into two camps, fomenting “a global war between Muslims and everyone else… They want countries like ours to reject the Muslims and vilify them.”
If you didn’t see it on Monday night, go online and watch, particularly Aly’s most telling points that speak to all of us: