Malcolm Turnbull a wonder to behold: John Howard showers praise on new PM

Mutual admiration: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former prime minister John Howard during the launch of the John Howard Walk of Wonder at Questacon in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Former prime minister John Howard on one of his legendary morning walks. Photo: Andrew Taylor

Turnbull praises generous Abbott

A new Liberal prime minister would be prepared to walk on hot coals – or clear across the waters of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin –  for the sort of blessing John Howard was bestowing.

John Howard mentored Tony Abbott. Now John Howard had moved on to Malcolm Turnbull – you could call it a Walk of Wonder.

“I congratulate the Prime Minister, I congratulate Malcolm Turnbull on the enthusiasm that he brings to the cause of the future,” declared Mr Howard.

“We need optimism in this country, we need optimism about our human future, we need optimism about our economic future and we also need optimism about the capacity of the men and women and children of Australia to tackle issues of science and issues that will shape the lives we live.

“We have every reason to believe we can have a future that exceeds in great bounty the happiness and success of the past.

“I think our Prime Minister has struck entirely the right note in talking about this being a most exciting time in which to be alive.”

Mr Turnbull’s optimism, in his first parliamentary week as Prime Minister, was, you could be sure, growing in intensity by the moment.

He had, of course, heaped not inconsiderable veneration upon Mr Howard, introducing him as “the greatest prime minister with the possible exception of Robert Menzies.”

“I learned so much from John Howard. Every day I’m Prime Minister I’ll be benchmarking everything I do against how John Howard would have handled these challenges,” Mr Turnbull enthused.

“John Howard was the gold standard, absolutely the gold standard, in Australian government.”

Mr Howard was back in Canberra – and on days like these, it seems as if he might never have left – to launch a ramble around the parliamentary triangle in the cause of science.

Questacon, Canberra’s immensely popular national science and technology centre, has established the John Howard Walk of Wonder, an hour-long exploration of Canberra’s monumental district around the rose gardens, lawns, treed avenues and institutional buildings, complete with explanations about natural science – whether sound always echos, or why lichen grows only on one side of a tree.

It is named for John Howard because he was such a famed walker during his years as prime minister, outfitted in a green and gold tracksuit, his feet a blur.

Questacon provides a map of the walk, and, as the social media world took about half a second to note, the map looks eerily similar to the outline of a machine pistol. This may have proved awkward for the man who introduced Australia’s gun laws, but on a day like this, it seemed churlish to raise the matter.

This was, in truth, a starting pistol for the walk of a new Liberal Prime Minister, and John Howard seemed only too happy to press the trigger. All that optimism, a new future awaiting. A wonder to behold.

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