Home Australia Doctor Faustus and Malcolm Turnbull: Some Parallels

Doctor Faustus and Malcolm Turnbull: Some Parallels

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

By James O’Neill*

In the late 16th century the English playwright Christopher Marlowe wrote an Elizabethan tragedy, most commonly referred to as Doctor Faustus.  The play contained some memorable lines that have passed into common usage, often with the user being unaware of their literary origins.  The tragic tale of Doctor Faustus has been likened to that of the Greek fable of Icarus, one whose hubris thought he could fly to the sun, only to have his waxen wings melt and for him to plummet to his death.

In watching the contemporary Australian political scene one is often reminded of the “tragical history” of Doctor Faustus as we play out a modern Elizabethan tragedy.  In the play, the character of Faustus is approached by two Angels, one Good, the other Bad.  Although initially torn between the two, he is eventually won over by the Bad angel, captivated by the possibilities such an alliance might bring.  He strikes a bargain with Lucifer: in exchange for 24 more years on earth and magic powers he must give his body and soul to Lucifer as payment.

The time eventually comes when Faustus announces his intention to renounce magic and repent, but he is unable to do so.  When his allotted 24 years have nearly expired he realizes that he gave up his soul for no good reason.  He is dragged off to Hell where he is to forever remain.

An argument can be made that the present Prime Minister shows some remarkable parallels with Doctor Faustus.  A man known for his cleverness, urbanity and eloquence, he espoused progressive views on a range of topics.  They were argued with force, eloquence and passion.  Too progressive, it would seem, for many of his own colleagues who replaced him as party leader with a man with almost no redeeming features, but with sufficient destructive negativity to win an election against a divided and demoralized foe.

What may make an effective Opposition leader does not necessarily translate into effective Prime Ministership, and so it proved.  Turnbull staged a comeback after 30 successive negative opinion polls for the man who had replaced him.  He came back to power with astronomically high ratings and a matching level of expectation from a public eager for a change both in tone and policy direction.

In order to regain the leadership however, promises had to be made, the details of which have never been disclosed, but the content of which can be inferred from the history of the nearly two years that have followed.

Where there had once been a progressive man of conviction, arguing for an imaginative and innovative government there remains but a hollow shell.  On issue after issue there is overwhelming evidence that in order to recapture the leadership, Turnbull had made a Faustian bargain with a reactionary cabal whose policy stances make a mockery of any claim that they are “representatives” of the wider community in whose name they have claimed their place and their privileges.  In the seat of Warringah for example, a recent poll suggests that 70% of its electors want marriage equality, yet their member espouses views shared by a small minority of the population.

We are now subjected to a charade masquerading as government.  Any resemblance to evidence based policy is purely coincidental.  There is continuing chaos, a refusal to make decisions on matters the public desperately want dealt with and overwhelmingly support in a manner different from what Ministers are proposing, and a pathetic litany of self-serving statements that convince no one.

This once principled and forceful advocate for progressive change now pleads that he is a “strong leader”, and one “joined at the hip” to a foreign power whose vital interests diverge radically from those of Australia, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, and who cannot even bring himself to campaign for an issue he professes to believe in.

Like Doctor Faustus he may eventually seek to repent selling his principled soul for the temporary gratification of prime ministerial power.  The tragic irony is that in forfeiting his principles that power is no longer his to exercise.  He is constantly the captive of an antediluvian rump who undoubtedly despise him.  Only the absence of an electorally viable alternative within his own party enables him to hold onto what few crumbs of moral authority remain.

Like Faustus he will very soon be dragged off, if not to hell, then to electoral oblivion by an angry and deeply disillusioned populace.  There will be no Good Angel to rescue him from the consequences of his own hubris. Like Faustus, he is blind to his own salvation.  There is no sweet Helen to make him immortal with a kiss.

Again like Faustus, Turnbull was “ravished by magic” and turned to the dark arts of political survival at all costs when law, logic and science could no longer persuade him.  His political epitaph may well echo that of Mephistopheles

“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God

And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,

Am not tormented by ten thousand hells

In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

He has only himself to blame.

*Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.  He may be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au


Photo credit: ABC


  1. “On issue after issue there is overwhelming evidence that in order to recapture the leadership, Turnbull had made a Faustian bargain with a reactionary cabal whose policy stances make a mockery of any claim that they are ‘representatives’ of the wider community.”

    Bullseye, James.

  2. I don’t entirely go along with your idea, that Turnbull may once have been a idealist for the people’s sake. From what I have experienced and read Malcolm Turnbull has always worked towards rewards for himself by representing the advantaged or capitalistic minority.

  3. James, An excellent, if somewhat depressing, summation of PM Malcolm (“Twisten”) Turnbull’s political fall from grace, though we might now say with the benefit of hindsight the fall did not require a parachute. To be sure, the man assumed the prime ministership based on an ABT (anyone but Tony) reaction from both his own party and the electorate at large, and he was I guess for many an ‘improvement’ of sorts on that middling reactionary monarchist the Mad Monk. In everything from his stance on gay marriage to his stand on the Korean-US standoff, Turnbull has demonstrated he is nothing more than a political lackey, more style than substance, a hollow man, headpiece filled with straw (apologies to TS Eliot). More than anything though, whilst it may not quite match that which is occurring on the far side of the Pacific Pond, the current malaise afflicting Australian politics which you’ve brought into sharp relief seems to be terminal.

    As might be expected in such a milieu, the Labor opposition (its own previous turns on the government benches being no less ignominious and/or ineffective than the current regime) is waiting in the wings for Turnbull and his “Ship of Fools” government to lose complete credibility and then capsize rather than to actually win office by offering the long-suffering electorate something that is truly worth voting for, and actually sticking to the script thereafter. In the same vein, the Labor Party too long ago entered into a similar Faustian bargain of the type you mentioned, gleefully exchanging principle for power, and mistaking [the] unalloyed arrogance of power for genuine political conviction.

    As I have often opined to anyone who cares to listen — whether one (ahem) dresses to the left or dresses to the right — we are poorly served by our political classes. The divide between our genuine hopes and expectations for our country and its future and the integrity and competence of said “political classes” — both qualities which are requisite commodities if we are to realise those “hopes and expectations” for ourselves and future generations — becomes wider and wider with each election cycle. Your article brings this depressing reality home in spades!

    • “captive of an antediluvian rump who undoubtedly despise him”. Classic James. Also–Maybe Mr Turnbull should have listened to Brae Antcliffe back in 2007 or 2009 (I think). He was informed by the barrister about the collapse of Building 7, and various other facts regarding the false flag of 9-11. Twice I believe. But Malcolm chose to scoff at this revelation.
      I hope the now prime minister will one day look back and think, “If only I had listened, I could have chosen a path of integrity'” instead of the “lost” one James describes so well.

      • Faustus indeed.
        Funny how history comes to the surface as I note a reference by Dee to my communications with Mr Malcolm Turnbull, my local Federal member for the electorate of Wentworth in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.
        Mr Malcolm Turnbull is now the Prime Minister of Australia.
        To clarify, perhaps it is time to put some history on the record.
        When Malcolm was firstly standing for the Federal seat to be our representative in Parliament, he often spruiked for votes with his team outside Edgecliff railway station.
        Just before the election in 2004 I spoke to him outside the station and asked him if he knew about building No 7 and the questions relevant to its collapse.
        He denied any knowledge of building No 7.
        Over the following month and indeed for years, I updated him on the advances carried out in regard to building No 7 and the exposures in regard to the unscientific official 911 ‘tin foil hat nutters’ conspiracy theory. That information included some video CDs delivered to his office at Bondi Junction at that time.
        I received one and only one reply in January 2005 and none since
        Many messages were copied to other members and media.
        Then came the next election; 2007 from memory and again there was our Mr Turnbull our local representative in our Federal Parliament spruiking for votes outside Edgecliff railway station with an assistant.
        I approached and asked him if he had examined the circumstance of building No 7 and there was a negative reply.
        From recollection I also asked him many people we had killed in Iraq so far…….no reply.
        Well I passed and went into the station entrance to the ticket machine.
        Never underestimate the natural acoustics of an entrance tunnel.
        Best I recall hearing was:
        Mr Turnbull to his assistant.
        “Did you see who that was”.?
        As he walked across the entrance to his assistant.
        “That was Antcliffe”.
        Then some sniggering between the two.
        I turned from the machine and approached our local parliamentary representative and gave him a interesting dressing down…….but politely.
        From 2007 to his victory over Abbott I frequently included him in updates on the 911 government fairy tale.
        In 2008 he was invited to meet with informed 911 experts from the US attending the March 911 conference at Tattersalls Club in Sydney and even to pop over to my place and converse with them, as they were staying in my home.
        It is a handsome walk form his to my place but he could have driven.
        No courtesy of a response from our local member to the invitation was noted by me.
        Same thing happened in November 2008 when there was another 911 conference in Sydney.
        Speakers at the conference included Professor Jones (found the therma(i)te in the WTC dust) and Richard Gage (ae911truth.org)
        Unfortunately Jones received news of his father’s passing on the Friday night and we had to get him onto a plane for home on the following Sunday after his address.
        [From memory there was a half page article in the SMH on 19th November 2008 with a photo of Gage and Utzon jnr. raising the question of building No 7.]
        There was also a short report that NIST had explained the collapse of 911……. Yea right! just like this, as an example.

        Faustus indeed!
        B. Antcliffe. BA. LL.B.
        Double Bay.


        • Slight error, the second 911 conference was in November 2009. That was when Richard Gage was here and able to meet Utzon. Jnr.
          Amanda keller also gave Gage a run on her FM morning program that awakened many. But not a politician!

          • Thank you very much B Antcliffe for PUTTING THIS ALL ON THE RECORD. These leaders have had the opportunity many times to listen and be aware of the information.

          • But dear Dèe, they havè contnued for over 14 years to create widows of our soldiers and orphaned thousands of children from the safety of their house.
            When will, they go to the ‘front’ for the agendas of their killers and thieves?

  4. They must have been interesting times during the reign of QE1. Marlowe was just one of a list of occult connected characters that arose as the New World across the Atlantic gestated. A New World born of occult symbolism from the goddess Columbia guarding New York Harbour to Isis inspired Washington DC to Hollywood in the west. And as occult simply means hidden, in a physical world such as ours we should start with the question, hidden by whom, instead of grasping at imagery of ghosts and goblins, and angels and devils introduced by those favourite writers of QE1’s court. As such, it is unlikely Turnbull sold his soul to anything unreal. A better interpretation is that he has always been the same ambitious control freak hatched by an education system that rewards left brained limitation over right brained expansion. An education founded on reciting capacity instead of thinking ability. Anyone who bothers to think, ie school failures, can clearly see the greatest threat to society is ambition, which is what owns all big end of town souls. The ghosts and occult are thrown up by the control freaks to divert the masses from that obvious fact.

  5. Parliament House is filled with many Doctor Faustus’ that have crossed the floor to side with the Bad Angel … “captivated by the possibilities such an alliance might bring.”

    • There it is, the ‘House of Faustus’!
      The questioning member is now one of the Prime Minister’s cabinet members contributing to cabinet debate and decisions on whether we continue with the US to carry out ‘the neocon plan’, pre 911, exposed by General Wesley Clark to Amy Goodman to take down 7 countries in 5 years, including Syria and Iran.

  6. Faustus has many relatives James.
    We are borrowing money from bankers as the politicians increase our debt and paying interest to the bankers.
    Think ABC and SBS!
    Maybe Pauline will be able to require the ABC to disclose what we are paying the ‘Faustus’ gang at the ABC.
    Why does Jonathon Faine, his staff and office space at ABC come to mind?
    After all, it was his conversation with Kevin Bracken that inspired the follow up by Josh Frydenberg’s question in parliament to PM Gillard, (logged below)
    Time to dispose with the Faustian groupies and sell our ABC house of Faustus to Murdock.
    Time to remind readers of Anthony Lawson’s exposure of the ‘Faustians’ lies with a replay of the Bracken-Faine publicly financed ABC ‘phone in’ disgrace in October 2010.

  7. Currios?
    We have here below some alleged facts reported that are signifacent for our country and our democratic values and freedoms..
    But nothing from the ‘ motherhood’ theorists’ who often appear on gumshoe comments..
    Facts are a problem?
    Theories and motherhood comments appear to be a distraction and means of avoiding the facts, evdence, conclusions and consequences of examing reality.
    So who are our regulars who fear reality?

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