Australia’s 29th prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has battled a public perception that his wealth puts him out of touch with ordinary Australians. On Monday, Liberal Party members voted 54 to 44 to replace Tonay Abbott with former party leader and communications minister Turnbull, who had called for the leadership ballot just hours earlier amid flagging opinion polls for the two-year-old conservative coalition government. The change could signal a different Australian response to climate change and allow for a more moderate agenda that could include recognition of gay marriage. Here are a few details on Turnbull, who is scheduled to be sworn in Tuesday.
A QUICK RISE: He worked as a journalist, lawyer, investment banker and venture capitalist before he was elected to Parliament in 2004 to represent the Sydney electoral division of Wentworth, the wealthiest in Australia. He was always assumed to have his eye on the top political prize, which he has achieved in a relatively quick 11 years.
WEALTHY IMAGE: The 60-year-old is probably the second wealthiest member of Federal Parliament after mining magnate Clive Palmer. His nickname is “The Silvertail,” a pejorative Australian term for the wealthy and privileged elite. Cartoonists tend to depict him wearing a top hat.
THE REPUBLICANS: As a lawyer in the 1980s, he became a household name in Australia when he blocked a British government attempt to prevent Australian publication of “Spycatcher,” a memoir by former British intelligence officer Peter Wright. He later led the Australian Republican Movement, which argues for severing Australia’s constitutional ties with Britain and appointing an Australian citizen as president. The status quo was maintained in a referendum in 1999, largely because Australians were divided over whether the president should be appointed by the government or popularly elected. His sometimes abrasive style was blamed by some as contributing to the referendum’s failure.
FAMILY LIFE: His father Bruce Turnbull was a Sydney hotel broker who became a single father when his wife Coral Lansbury, a radio actress, academic, cousin of the British actress Angela Lansbury, abandoned the family when Turnbull was 9 years old.
Turnbull’s wife Lucy Turnbull is a former Lord Mayor of Sydney and her father Tom Hughes is a prominent Sydney lawyer and a former Attorney-General in a conservative federal government. Turnbull was educated at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney before attending Brasenose College, Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar.