CANBERRA, Sept 15, 2015:
Malcolm Turnbull, an urbane former investment banker who supports marriage equality and action on climate change, was sworn in as Australia’s 29th Prime Minister on Tuesday, a day after ousting longtime rival Tony Abbott in a party room coup.
Turnbull, a Rhodes Scholar who previously led the Australian Republican Movement, was sworn in by Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the representative of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, Australia’s head of state.
Turnbull’s Liberal Party and its junior coalition partner the National Party won a landslide election in 2013, but Abbott was jettisoned by his party after a series of perceived policy missteps and destabilising infighting.
Turnbull, 60, a former tech entrepreneur, merchant banker and lawyer, had long been viewed by the public as a preferred prime minister.
On the surface, Turnbull has much in common with Abbott. Both are middle-aged white men who attended prestigious Sydney schools before becoming Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University. Both worked as political journalists for a time.
A closer look shows marked differences, not the least of which are their positions on the political spectrum.
Abbott shocked many Australians by making one of his first acts as prime minister the reintroduction of knighthoods and damehoods, bestowing the honour on British Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip, a move seen by many as outdated.
Turnbull, meanwhile, was the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement for several years.
An erudite favourite on political chat shows, Turnbull has increasingly stuck his head above the parapet in recent months, voicing his opposition to Abbott’s conservative stance on gay marriage and a carbon tax.
However, he risks disappointing supporters of his more progressive views as he attempts to appease the right wing of his Liberal Party, which forms the conservative coalition government alongside the smallerNational Party.
Turnbull, a former leader of the Liberal Party who was ousted by Abbott in opposition in 2009, also has the handicap of wealth and perceived privilege.
Abbott is a former boxer who set social media alight earlier this year when he chomped into a raw onion on a farm visit. Turnbull, in contrast, is admired by the urban elite.
The opposition Labor Party was quick to paint the one-time partner at Goldman Sachs as a “slick merchant banker” who is out of touch with the general public.
Turnbull’s wealth was boosted by his involvement in internet service provider Ozemail, the first Australian tech company to list on the Nasdaq. He bought a stake in the company in 1994 for A$500,000 ($356,450.00), selling it five years later for A$57 million ($40.6 million).
Labor lawmaker Jason Clare labelled him “a multi-millionaire who lives in a pink mansion on Sydney Harbour”. The tabloid Northern Territory News trumpeted “Rich dude becomes PM” on its front page.
Turnbull is expected to focus on his strong business credentials to turn the spotlight away from controversial issues like Abbott’s tough refugee policies and back onto the faltering economy — and how to give it a jumpstart.