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Malcolm Turnbull

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The Honourable
Malcolm Turnbull
Malcolm Turnbull November 2015.jpg
29th Prime Minister of Australia
Assumed office
15 September 2015
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove
Deputy Warren Truss
Preceded by Tony Abbott
Leader of the Liberal Party
Assumed office
14 September 2015
Deputy Julie Bishop
Preceded by Tony Abbott
In office
16 September 2008 – 1 December 2009
Deputy Julie Bishop
Preceded by Brendan Nelson
Succeeded by Tony Abbott
Minister for Communications
In office
18 September 2013 – 14 September 2015
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Preceded by Anthony Albanese
Succeeded by Mitch Fifield
Leader of the Opposition
In office
16 September 2008 – 1 December 2009
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Deputy Julie Bishop
Preceded by Brendan Nelson
Succeeded by Tony Abbott
Minister for the Environment and Water
In office
30 January 2007 – 3 December 2007
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Ian Campbell
Succeeded by Peter Garrett
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Wentworth
Assumed office
9 October 2004
Preceded by Peter King
Personal details
Born Malcolm Bligh Turnbull
(1954-10-24) 24 October 1954 (age 61)
Sydney, Australia
Political party Liberal Party
Other political
Spouse(s) Lucy Hughes (m. 1980)
Children Alex
Residence The Lodge (Canberra)
Wolseley Road, Point Piper (Sydney)
Alma mater University of Sydney
Brasenose College, Oxford
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]
Website Official website
Malcolm Turnbull ITU 2014 cropped.jpg This article is part of a series about
Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister of Australia

Coat of Arms of Australia.svg

Malcolm Bligh Turnbull (born 24 October 1954) is the 29th and current Prime Minister of Australia. He became Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party in 2015 and has been the Member of Parliament for Wentworth since 2004.[2]

Turnbull attended Sydney Grammar School before going to the University of Sydney, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws. He then attended Brasenose College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, where he attained a Bachelor of Civil Law. Before entering politics, Turnbull worked as a journalist, lawyer, investment banker and venture capitalist. In 1993, he became the Chair of the Australian Republican Movement, serving in the position until 2000.

Briefly Minister for the Environment and Water in the Howard Government in 2007, Turnbull was elected Leader of the Liberal Party in September 2008, becoming Leader of the Opposition. In November 2009, his support for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme proposed by the Rudd Government split the Liberal Party, and in a ballot the following month Turnbull lost the leadership to Tony Abbott by one vote. Initially intending to leave politics, Turnbull remained in Parliament and eventually became Minister for Communications in the Abbott Government in September 2013.

On 14 September 2015, after consistently poor opinion polling for the Government, Turnbull challenged Abbott for the leadership and won the subsequent ballot by 10 votes.[3] He was sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia the following day and formed the Turnbull Government.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Malcolm Turnbull was born in Sydney on 24 October 1954 to Bruce Bligh Turnbull and Coral Magnolia Lansbury. His maternal grandmother, May Lansbury (née Morle), was born in England.[5][6] His father was a hotel broker and his mother was a radio actor, writer and academic and a second cousin[7] of the British film and television actor Angela Lansbury.[5][8] They separated when Turnbull was nine, with Turnbull's mother leaving first for New Zealand and then the United States.[9] Turnbull was then raised by his father.[10][11][12]

Turnbull spent his first three years of school at Vaucluse Public School. He then attended the St Ives preparatory school at Sydney Grammar School as a boarder. In senior school he was a boarder at the former Randwick campus[9] of the school while attending classes at the main College Street campus.[13][14] on a partial scholarship.[9][14][15] He was senior school co-captain in 1972, as well as winning the Lawrence Campbell Oratory Competition,[citation needed] excelling particularly in the literary subjects such as English and history.[9][16] However, contrary to certain sources,[15] Turnbull was not the dux of his graduating year at Sydney Grammar.[17] In 1987, in memory of his late father, he set up the Bruce Turnbull means-tested scholarship at Sydney Grammar, which offers full remission of fees to a student unable to afford them.[14]

In 1973 Turnbull attended the University of Sydney and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (majoring in political science)[citation needed] in 1977 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1978.[18][19] During his studies, he was active in student politics, serving as Board Director of the University of Sydney Union.[20][21] He also worked as a political journalist for Nation Review, Radio 2SM and Channel 9 covering state politics.[22]

In 1978, Turnbull won a Rhodes Scholarship[23] and attended Brasenose College, Oxford, where he studied for a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from 1978 to 1980, graduating with honours. While at Oxford, he worked for The Sunday Times and contributed to newspapers and magazines in the United States and Australia.[24] While at Oxford, a university don wrote of Turnbull that he was “always going to enter life’s rooms without knocking”.[25]

Professional career[edit]

After graduating with honours from Oxford, Turnbull returned to Australia and began working as a barrister. He left the bar in 1983 to become general counsel and secretary for Australian Consolidated Press Holdings Group, from 1983 to 1985. During this time he defended Kerry Packer against the "Goanna" allegations made by the Costigan Commission.

In partnership with Bruce McWilliam he established his own law firm, Turnbull McWilliam. During 1986 Turnbull defended Peter Wright, a former MI5 agent who authored the book Spycatcher, and successfully blocked the British government's attempts to suppress the book's publication. Turnbull later wrote a book on the trial.[26]

In 1987, he established an investment banking firm, Whitlam Turnbull & Co Ltd, in partnership with Neville Wran (a former Labor Premier of New South Wales) and the former State Bank of New South Wales chief executive, Nicholas Whitlam (son of Gough Whitlam, a former Labor prime minister). Whitlam parted company with the others in 1990 and the firm operated as Turnbull & Partners Ltd from then until 1997, when Turnbull moved to become a managing director and later a partner of Goldman Sachs.

Turnbull was a director of FTR Holdings Ltd (1995–2004), chair and managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia (1997–2001) and a partner with Goldman Sachs and Co (1998–2001).

In the 1990s, Turnbull was chairman of Axiom Forest Resources, which conducted logging in the Solomon Islands under the trading name Silvania Forest Products. The latter's work was described by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau as a "clear-felling operation", and the then Solomon Islands Prime Minister Solomon Mamaloni reportedly threatened to close it down for "constant breaches of logging practices", according to a critical article in the Solomon Times.[27][28]

Turnbull oversaw the expansion of Australian Internet Service Provider OzEmail from 1994 to 1999, at which point the company was sold to then-telecommunications giant MCI Worldcom and his stake was reportedly worth nearly A$60 million.[citation needed] In the same year he used his software and investment company FTR Holdings Ltd to take positions in a number of Internet businesses including WebCentral and[29]

In May 2002, Turnbull appeared before the HIH Insurance royal commission and was questioned on Goldman Sachs's involvement in the possible privatisation of one of the acquisitions of the collapsed insurance company. The Royal Commissioner's report made no adverse findings against him or Goldman Sachs.[30]

Political career[edit]

Early political involvement[edit]

Turnbull first showed interest in entering the Australian Parliament in 1981. He stood for Liberal Party preselection for the seat of Wentworth in the eastern suburbs of Sydney in the 1981 Wentworth by-election; however he was beaten by Peter Coleman.[10] He let his membership of the Liberal Party lapse in the 1980s, and rejoined in late 2000.[31] Turnbull was Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party and a member of the party's federal and New South Wales executives from 2002 to 2003, and was also a director of the Menzies Research Centre, the Liberal Party's research centre.

In 1993 he was appointed by Paul Keating as Chairman of the Republic Advisory Committee, charged with exploring ways of moving Australia to an overtly republican form of government by removing the British Queen from Australian government.

Australian Republican Movement[edit]

From 1993 to 2000, Turnbull was the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement. He was an elected delegate at the Australian Constitutional Convention 1998 in Canberra in February.[32] At the Convention, Turnbull cautioned against mixing the roles of president and prime minister, advocating a parliamentary republic, and supported the bi-partisan appointment republican model adopted by the convention.[33]

Turnbull was active in the unsuccessful 1999 referendum campaign to establish an Australian republic as chairman of the Yes Committee. He published a book on the campaign, called Fighting for the Republic. When the referendum failed, Turnbull accused incumbent Prime Minister and Monarchist John Howard of "breaking the nation’s heart".[34]

In 2000 Turnbull retired as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement. Turnbull left the board of Ausflag in 1994 after being asked for his resignation and in 2004 joined the Australian National Flag Association.[35]

Election to Parliament[edit]

Turnbull in 2005

In 2003, Turnbull announced that he was again seeking a parliamentary seat.[citation needed] In early 2004 he won another hotly-contested battle for Wentworth, defeating Peter King, the sitting Liberal member. Following his de-selection, King stood for the seat at the 2004 election as an independent candidate. As a result, the traditionally safe Liberal electorate was turned into an electoral wildcard, with the contest for the seat becoming a three-person race between Turnbull, King and Labor candidate David Patch. During the campaign, Turnbull spent over A$600,000 on the campaign.[36] The Liberal primary vote fell ten per cent, and Turnbull won on King's preferences.

Environment Minister[edit]

Announcing his cabinet reshuffle on 24 January 2006, the prime minister, John Howard, promoted Turnbull from the backbench to Parliamentary Secretary, with special responsibility for water, at the height of the 2000s Australian drought.[37] In this new capacity he reported directly to the prime minister. On 26 September 2006, Howard announced the creation, within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, of the new "Office of Water Resources" to address the problem of drought in Australia. Turnbull was given charge of this office until he was elevated by Howard as Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in January 2007.

In his position as Environment Minister, Turnbull approved a proposed A$1.7 billion Bell Bay Pulp Mill in Tasmania's north, near Launceston.[38] Turnbull's approval of the Bell Bay Pulp Mill project of Gunns Ltd came on 4 October 2007 and followed a report by the Government's chief scientist Jim Peacock on the project's potential environmental impact, which requires the project to meet 48 "strict environmental" conditions.

In February 2007, Turnbull was criticised for claiming a government allowance of A$175 a night and paying it to his wife as rent while living in a townhouse owned by her in Canberra.[39]

During the 2007 election campaign, Turnbull announced that the then Government would contribute A$10 million to the investigation of an untried Russian technology that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even when there are no clouds. The Australian Rain Corporation presented research documents written in Russian, explained by a Russian researcher who spoke to local experts in Russian.[40] Although Turnbull claimed that Australian Rain Corporation was Australian-based, investigations revealed that it was 75 per cent Swiss-owned. It was also revealed that a prominent stakeholder in the Australian Rain Corporation, Matt Handbury, is a nephew of Rupert Murdoch. Turnbull has refused to answer questions regarding Handbury's contribution to the Wentworth Forum, the main fund-raising organisation for Turnbull's 2007 election campaign.[40]

In 2007, Turnbull promised that his government, if elected, would grant same-sex couples death benefits in Commonwealth superannuation schemes, a promise similar to one made three years earlier, during the 2004 federal election campaign.[41]


With no electoral competition from former incumbent MP Peter King, as there had been in 2004, Turnbull retained his seat at the 2007 election gaining a two-party 1.3-point swing in Wentworth,[42] despite a 5.6-point swing away from the coalition in the state, and a 5.4-point swing nationwide.[43] Prime Minister Howard had lost his own seat of Bennelong, and on 25 November 2007, Liberal deputy leader Peter Costello announced he would not seek the party leadership. Turnbull declared his candidacy later the same day, and was considered a favourite by many.[44] He lost to Brendan Nelson, in a 45 to 42 vote. Nelson in turn appointed him Shadow Treasurer.[45]

Shortly afterwards, fellow opposition front bencher Nick Minchin suggested that Turnbull's failure to consult with party colleagues before declaring his opinion to the media on such issues as an apology to the Stolen Generations cost him the leadership.[46] This led to a disagreement between the two and culminated in Minchin privately telling Turnbull that he was "too f***ing sensitive."[47] In May 2008, Turnbull attacked the 2008 Australian federal budget, concerned by increased taxes on luxury cars and certain alcoholic drinks, citing possible increased inflation.[48]

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

Turnbull (centre) with Helen Coonan (left) and Julie Bishop (right) in July 2009.

On 16 September 2008, Turnbull was elected party leader, 45 votes to 41. The same month, he confessed that he had smoked marijuana in his younger days, becoming the first Liberal leader to make such an admission. He said he now thought it was a very bad idea because the drug could be damaging.[49] In early 2009 Turnbull appointed Chris Kenny, a former Downer staffer and Advertiser journalist, as his chief of staff.[50]

In May 2009, Turnbull attacked the 2009 Australian federal budget, in particular the means testing of the private health insurance rebate.[51] The following month, Godwin Grech, a Treasury official, alleged that a car dealer with links to the Labor Party had received preferential treatment under the OzCar program, sparking the 'OzCar affair'. That day Turnbull stated that Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan had "used their offices and taxpayers' resources to seek advantage for one of their mates and then lied about it to the Parliament" and that they needed to explain their actions or resign.[52] On 22 June the e-mail Grech had provided to the Liberal Party to support this allegation was found to have been faked by Grech; later admitted by Grech,[53] and an Australian National Audit Office inquiry on 4 August cleared both Rudd and Swan of any wrongdoing.[54] Turnbull's handling of the OzCar affair led to a large decline in his and the Liberal Party's approval ratings in opinion polls.[55]

On 24 November 2009 a party room meeting was held to discuss the Rudd government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). Turnbull instructed the party to support CPRS despite significant disagreement among his colleagues.[56] There was even a suggestion that some Liberal Senators should vote to "guillotine" debate and force an immediate Senate vote on the CPRS bill. (If the Senate rejected the bill, this would have given the government a double dissolution trigger.) In response the next day, MPs Wilson Tuckey and Dennis Jensen made a leadership "spill motion" which if successful Kevin Andrews would have stood to challenge Turnbull for the liberal party leadership.[57] The rebellion continued, though – many front bench Liberals resigned from the shadow cabinet, including Tony Abbott.[58]

On 1 December 2009, a spill motion was carried. Turnbull lost the subsequent leadership ballot to Abbott, 42 votes to 41 on the second ballot.[59]

Shadow Minister[edit]

After the leadership vote, Turnbull said he would serve out his full term as member for Wentworth.[60] On 6 April 2010, he announced he would not seek re-election.[61] However, on 1 May 2010 he reversed his decision,[62] convinced by the former Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, to remain in parliament.[34]

At the 2010 federal election, Turnbull was re-elected with a swing of over 11%[63] and was subsequently brought back to the front bench as shadow communications minister.[64] At the 2012 Alfred Deakin Lecture on digital liberty[65] he spoke out strongly against the Australian government's proposed two-year data retention law.[66]

In July 2012, Turnbull was criticised for saying that civil unions should be accepted as a first step toward same-sex marriage in Australia. Turnbull supports same-sex marriage and a conscience vote for Coalition MPs on the issue. However, Tony Abbott did not allow a conscience vote on the issue. Turnbull said that countries that have allowed same-sex marriage, such as the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom first had civil unions.[67]

Communications Minister[edit]

On 9 April 2013, Turnbull and Tony Abbott announced their party's alternative National Broadband Network (NBN) plan.[68] The new plan is a modified and scaled-down NBN with "fibre to the node" (FTTN) then last-mile by copper cable.[69] The new policy developed by Turnbull contrasted with the previous Liberal Party position, which had called for the dismantling of the NBN should the Liberal Party win the 2013 federal election. As such, the policy allowed the NBN to continue irrespective of the result of the election, although it did so in a different form from what was previously being built.[69] In 2014, Turnbull announced that the Vertigan Report, a cost-benefit analysis of providing fast broadband to regional and rural Australia through wireless and satellite services, revealed that it will cost nearly A$5 billion and was expected to produce only A$600 million in economic benefits – a return of just 10 per cent. In spite of the economic cost, Turnbull stated that subsidising broadband to regional areas is "fiendishly expensive" but said there was no other option.[70]

Turnbull brokered a deal between the government, NBN Co and Telstra in December 2014 whereby NBN Co acquired Telstra's copper network and hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) which shall be used to deliver the NBN. Further, Telstra and NBN Co are to work together on the FTTN trial which involves 200,000 premises.[71] In August 2015, Turnbull revealed that the overall end cost of the network build would likely expand up to an additional $15 billion, with NBN Co. likely to take on the additional expenditure as debt. Though still cheaper than the original Labor Party NBN policy, which would have delivered faster download speeds, the peak funding requirement under the current model is between $46 billion and $56 billion.[72]

Prime Minister of Australia[edit]

Turnbull sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove

Following persistent leadership tensions, on a 9 February 2015 a spill motion was moved against Tony Abbott. Although the spill motion was defeated 61 votes to 39, Turnbull had been thought to be considering a leadership run if the spill motion had succeeded, telling reporters before the vote that "if for whatever reason the leadership of a political party is vacant then anyone, any member of the party can stand, whether they be a minister or a backbencher, without any disloyalty to the person whose leadership has been declared vacant."[73][74]

Despite the defeat of the spill motion, questions over Abbott's leadership continued, with the Government consistently performing poorly in opinion polls. On 14 September 2015, after 30 consecutive Newspolls had put the Liberals far behind Labor, Turnbull resigned from the Cabinet and announced he would challenge Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party.[75] Turnbull stated that Abbott "was not capable of providing the economic leadership we need" and that the Liberal Party needs a "style of leadership that respects the people's intelligence."[76][77] In the subsequent ballot of Liberal MPs, Turnbull defeated Abbott by 54 votes to 44.[78] He was sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia the following day.[4][79]

On 20 September 2015, Turnbull announced an extensive reshuffle to form the Turnbull Ministry. Notably, he increased the number of female Cabinet Ministers from two to five and appointed Marise Payne as Australia's first female Minister for Defence. The number of Cabinet Ministers rose from 19 to 21. On Turnbull's key policy differences with Abbott, particularly climate change, republicanism and same-sex marriage, he stated that there would be no immediate change before any election.[80] The Nationals successfully negotiated a total of $4 billion worth of deals from Turnbull, as well as control of the water portfolio, in exchange for a continued Coalition agreement.[81][82]

On 2 November 2015, Turnbull announced that the Queen had approved the Government's request to amend the Order's letters patent and cease awards of Knights and Dames in the Order of Australia, after Cabinet had agreed that the titles were not appropriate in the modern awards system.[83][84]

Women's Safety Package[edit]

On 24 September 2015, Turnbull made his first major policy announcement as Prime Minister. Together with the Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, Turnbull announced a "$100 million package of measures designed to provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence".[85] Minister Cash also suggested that the government was considering denying American singer Chris Brown a visa due to his highly publicised domestic violence offence in 2009. Turnbull stated that Cash had "very brilliantly expressed the thoughts of the government".[86] Brown was later denied entry to Australia.[87]

Personal life[edit]

Turnbull and his wife, Lucy Turnbull, a former Lord Mayor of Sydney, in January 2012

Turnbull is married to prominent businesswoman and former Lord Mayor of Sydney Lucy Turnbull AO, née Hughes. They were married on 22 March 1980 at Cumnor, Oxfordshire, near Oxford by a Church of England priest while Turnbull was attending the University of Oxford.[88] They and their two children, Alex and Daisy, live in Sydney.[89]

The use of Bligh as a male middle name is a tradition in the Turnbull family. It is Turnbull's middle name as well as that of his son. One of Turnbull's ancestors was colonist John Turnbull, who named his youngest son William Bligh Turnbull in honour of deposed Governor William Bligh at the time of the Rum Rebellion.[90]

Turnbull and Lucy became grandparents in September 2013, when their daughter Daisy gave birth to a boy named Jack Alexander Turnbull-Brown.[91]


Raised Presbyterian, Turnbull converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002.[92] However, he has found himself at odds with the church's teaching on abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage.[93][94] Turnbull supported legislation relaxing restrictions on abortion pill RU486 and he also voted for the legalisation of somatic cell nuclear transfer.[95][96][97] He did so despite the vocal public opposition to both proposals by Cardinal George Pell, the then-Archbishop of Sydney.

Personal wealth[edit]

In 2005, the combined net worth of Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull was estimated at A$133 million,[98] making him Australia's richest parliamentarian[99] until the election of billionaire Clive Palmer in the 2013 election.[100][101]

Turnbull made the BRW Rich 200 list for the second year running in 2010, and although he slipped from 182 to 197, his estimated net worth increased to A$186 million, and he continued to be the only sitting politician to make the list.[102] Turnbull was not listed in the 2014 list of the BRW Rich 200.[103] As of 2015, his estimated net worth is in excess of A$200 million.[104]



Published works[edit]

Turnbull has written several books on the republican debate, as well as his experiences during the Spycatcher trial. Notable examples of his writings include:

See also[edit]


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Non-profit organization positions
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Thomas Keneally
Chair of the Australian Republican Movement
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Ian Chappell
Parliament of Australia
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Peter King
Member of Parliament
for Wentworth

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Ian Campbell
Minister for the Environment and Water
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Peter Garrett
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Wayne Swan
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Julie Bishop
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Tony Abbott
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Prime Minister of Australia
Party political offices
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Leader of the Liberal Party
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Tony Abbott
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Tony Abbott
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