Last Friday, at 3pm on September 25, 2020, Peter Coroneos asked Former PM Malcolm Turnbull to talk about geopolitics, the Internet and democracy, with the just-over one hour event that can be seen in full, embedded from YouTube, at the end of this article.
I invited Peter to share his thoughts on what was a fascinating discussion that I believe is well worth your time to watch, for both men had an intelligent discussion on geopolitics, lessons from history, US-Sino relations, thoughts on US President Donald Trump, the Internet, NBN and more.
Here are Peter's thoughts on his deep dive into the unthinkable with Australia's 29th Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull:
"The first was his conception of our region as being more correctly seen as a “mesh” rather than a hub and spoke model, with the two obvious hubs being Washington and Beijing. A mesh configuration of power relationships gives greater recognition to the secondary powers including those of Japan, India, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Canada, etc. who collectively account for about a quarter of the world’s population. Turnbull doesn’t see our choice as being binary as others have observed, but rather as a collective of mutual interests, ultimately serving humanity as a whole. I like that idea because it gives us an avenue to pursue that is more regional and more constructive, although he remains convinced that the US security alliance will remain at the bedrock of our defence posture.
"The second observation was how much better placed China is to lead (than say the US) on environmental issues — in spite of their previous poor record. He reminded us of the economies of scale that will support alternative energy like solar, some of which is based on Australian innovation. I pointed to China’s current 5 year plan for which there are 33 targets, of which 16 are environmental and all of those are mandatory. If anyone can get this done, he ventured, it’s China — largely because of its political structure, and the risk of a popular uprising should the place become unliveable. So the Chinese leadership has the both incentive and the power to make major strides, reaching carbon neutrality as they now proclaim by 2060. He recognises that without this kind of outcome the rest of the planet is toast. Whether free market, democratic systems will deliver similar outcomes in time is less certain.
"Finally, his defence of what I called the NBN ‘revision’ - which he said was no revision at all but was always part of the original plan, would have been unconvincing to many. He could have made an easier job of it to observe the changing circumstance of the pandemic as a huge demand driver, and the historically low cost of capital justified the Governments’s change in approach to full fibre to the premises. I offered these two options, but he preferred to stick to his narrative, that the plan was always to get a network built first and upgraded later once the revenues started flowing. Viewers can form their own conclusions about his account.
"I knew I was asking a lot to consider in one hour not only the problems facing our region but also a constructive pathway forwards. It was my aim through inviting a leadership perspective to give people some clarity as to the future and some basis for hope. I’m not sure we got there entirely, but for my part it’s helped crystalise some ideas, around what a pragmatic response to regional tensions might look like. Future dialogues like this might help us fill in some more of the blanks", Peter Coroneos concluded.
You can watch the entire exchange at YouTube here or directly embedded below:
About the speakers
Australia’s 29th Prime Minister (2015-2018) had international careers in law, business and the media before entering politics at the age of 50.
As Prime Minister, he reformed Australia’s personal income tax, education and childcare systems, oversaw the legalisation of same sex marriage and announced the construction of the biggest pumped hydro scheme in the southern hemisphere.
Globally, Mr Turnbull played a leading role in reviving the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP-11) after the United States withdrew. He also struck deals with US Presidents Obama and Trump to accept refugees who tried to arrive in Australia illegally by boat.
As a lawyer, Mr Turnbull successfully defended former MI5 agent Peter Wright against the British Government in the “Spycatcher” trial before entering business where he enjoyed a successful career with Goldman Sachs and launched multiple technology based businesses in Australia.
Since leaving politics, Mr Turnbull has resumed his business career, including as a senior adviser at KKR and speaks regularly at global conferences.
International Vice President of the Cybersecurity Advisors Network and CEO of Icon Cyber. Best known as former longstanding CEO of Australia's Internet Industry Association.
Twice invited to the White House to brief the Obama Administration's national cyber security leadership on an industry wide anti-botnet scheme pioneered in Australia. Peter is an author and recognised authority on cyber policy.
He had (until recently) passionately believed in the power of the internet to transform societies for the good, and strived for over 20 years to contribute to defining, promoting and extending the level of trust necessary for this to occur. Now he's not so sure, although his faith in humanity remains intact.