PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 41713

Remarks at the Launch of “God is Good for You”

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 03/08/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41713

Subject(s): NSW Parliament House, Sydney


Well thank you very much Paul, and above all, this is - alright I guess I'll have to stand on it I'll tower above everybody.

Above all thank you to Greg for writing this fantastic book. It's great to be here with Scott and with John Howard and is Kristina Keneally here? There she is. Hello, how are you? One of the handful of Australian politicians who's been trained in theology, in fact, as Greg notes in his book.

Now Greg's book is a really outstanding piece of work. I encourage everyone to buy lots of copies. Good Christmas presents, birthday presents, above all make sure that he signs them. Do that. Do you know why? A signed book cannot be returned. I'm sure his publisher will be very thankful if you do that. The great author John Howard nods in approval of the importance of that.

Now when Greg and I first spoke on the book I reflected on and I quoted Lynton Crosby's old Australian bush saying, "When your neighbour starts quoting the Bible, start counting your cattle". So I've always been very strongly of the view that we are judged, all of us are judged, by what we practice not what we preach.

What we preach is a bit like an election policy statement. It's a promise of what you're going to do but the voters and your own conscience and your God will judge you on what you do and what you deliver. Consistency in delivery is important in every aspect of life and whether it is in politics or in your personal life or in the way you deal with others.

Paul talked about love. Ultimately God is love, that is ultimately the centre of the message whether of the divine message whether it is in the Old Testament, the Torah, or whether it is in the New Testament whether it was written in Hebrew or in Greek. It is the message, is the divine messenger of all times and all ages.

And it is a mystery. And that is what makes it so compelling. As I said in the book to Greg, just as poetry is that which cannot be translated so faith is that which cannot be explained.

At the heart of faith is a mystery and that is why it is so important and that is why the centre is love.

Greg's book has a number of interviews with politicians and prominent people. It's got a particularly poignant last chapter about Anthony Fischer's extraordinary struggle with illness. It's got wonderful sections about more contemporary manifestations of Christian practice.

Whether it is the revival of monasticism in Tasmania that Paul Whittaker spoke about or whether it is the or whether it’s the Focolare Movement in the Catholic Church or whether it is the Pentecostal Planetshakers which the Treasurer is very familiar with.

It is a great read. It also deals with church history, it explains the compelling nature of monotheism, it addresses the question but doesn't answer it, perhaps that could be Greg's next book, as to why is it, why is it that now in this age where so many people have moved beyond religion, so many people would say this is a post-religious environment, why is it that religion is at the heart of more controversy than ever before? Maybe that's too bold a claim.

But certainly a very key question that we have to ask ourselves and particularly so powerfully in the context of the Middle East about which Greg writes in this book. Most powerfully, he talks about Jonah going to Nineveh to preach to, as we know from the Bible to encourage the inhabitants to turn away from their sins and Jonah has reservations about that because he would rather the Lord had smited the people of Nineveh rather than get them to lead more exemplary lives.

But as Greg observes, Nineveh is not far from where Mosul is nowdays. There used to be 100,000 Christians in Mosul now there are no more. Isn't that an extraordinarily tragic tale that in these modern times, replete with technology that could barely be imagined a few generations ago, perhaps even a generation ago there are so many parts of the world where people of different faiths have lived together with relative harmony in hundreds and in some cases thousands of years, now they can no longer do so.

Have we become more technologically advanced, more sophisticated, more connected but at the same time less tolerant?

And if the answer to that, it's certainly in many parts of the world the answer to that must be yes therein lies perhaps and it's easy for me to say this to Greg, perhaps there lies Greg your next book, because you would understand as few people that I know that would be better able to look into the heart of that problem than you.

I thought I would leave you before I introduce Greg, I actually suggested to Greg that I interview him but he shook his head in horror. Just goes the sauce for the goose is not also sauce for the gander.

I want to emphasise that while the material of our politicians and leaders is obviously featured in the papers of The Australian and elsewhere that is only a small part of the book. This is a really valuable book and I encourage everybody to read it.

But there is a chapter in the book in which Greg writes about the Old Testament, and it reminded me actually of something I said in my maiden speech about language in faith because I talked about how in my electorate of Wentworth which obviously has a large Jewish community, it has a Greek Orthodox community. It has many faith communities.

I observed that God's praises are sung in my electorate in the language of the Old Testament and of the New Testament and on St. Patrick's Day in the language of the Angels themselves, which is of course Irish, at least according to the Irish.

This is a beautiful passage and I'll just quote this. Greg writes, "Here is the passage that George Orwell thought represented Biblical writing at its best in which he witheringly contrasted with the flaccid bureaucratic writing of his day," and it's from Ecclesiastes, "I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

It's a very important, beautiful language, St James Bible of course, beautiful message and a reminder that misfortune, mischance can always befall us and a reminder that all of us, all of us, no matter how hard working we are or how intelligent we are or how dedicated to our work we are.

All of us must recognise that our good fortune is in large part exactly that, good fortune and something we have not deserved. Hence the injunction to be generous and to show love to others through philanthropy.

He also has a beautiful passage from the book of Micah where Micah the prophet tells people what God really wants from them and Greg quotes this passage. Micah writes, "He has told you O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require you but to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God."

Or as I summarised it perhaps in my discussions with the Greg for the book, to be and live like a mensch. Thank you very much.

Transcript 41713