15 Sep 2015

Australia's new PM is rich, famous and ambitious

9:54 am on 15 September 2015

Malcolm Turnbull has successfully challenged Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership, but who is Australia's 29th prime minister?

Malcolm Turnbull speaks after his victory over Tony Abbott.

Malcolm Turnbull speaks after his victory over Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP

Rich and famous, combative and ambitious, Malcolm Turnbull has lived a life full of glittering success and his political career is now at its peak after he deposed Tony Abbott as the Liberal party leader last night.

A successful former lawyer and businessman, Mr Turnbull is now one of the richest politicians in Australia, having made the Business Review Weekly Rich 200 List several times.

Malcolm Bligh Turnbull was born in Sydney on 24 October, 1954. His mother was Coral Lansbury, author and English literature academic who, after separating from her husband Bruce, worked in the US.

He attended a state school as a child and later received a scholarship to attend a private high school. After studying law at the University of Sydney, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to further his studies at Oxford University.

Mr Turnbull briefly worked as a journalist for several outlets, including The Sunday Times in the UK, before embarking on his law career.

Malcolm Turnbull in 2007

Malcolm Turnbull in 2007 Photo: AAP

One of his biggest achievements was defending former British spy Peter Wright in the "Spycatcher" case in the 1980s. Mr Wright wrote a memoir about his time in MI5, and the British government banned its publication in the UK. Mr Turnbull successfully overturned the ban.

His cross-examination of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong forced a pivotal admission that the British government would lie to protect national security.

The following year, in partnership with Neville Wran and Nicholas Whitlam, he set up a merchant bank which quickly attracted establishment clients.

He went into the technology business in the 1990s, and co-founded one of the biggest Australian internet service providers at that time, OzEmail.

Mr Turnbull chaired the Australian Republican Movement from 1993 to 2000 and was its high-profile public face in the 1999 referendum.

When it failed, he savaged John Howard as "the prime minister who broke this nation's heart".

Malcolm Turnbull makes his maiden speech in Australia's parliament in 2004.

Malcolm Turnbull makes his maiden speech in Australia's parliament in 2004. Photo: AAP

In 2003, as the Liberal Party's federal treasurer, Mr Turnbull ran for preselection against sitting MP Peter King in the inner-Sydney seat of Wentworth. After furious branch-stacking on both sides, Mr Turnbull won the electoral seat where he grew up and where he continues to live with his wife Lucy Hughes, who was the first female Lord Mayor of Sydney.

He quickly rose through the parliamentary and party ranks, serving on various committees. He was briefly the environment and water resources minister in Mr Howard's government before his party's coalition lost to Labor in the 2007 federal election.

He was elected as leader of the opposition in 2008, but a year later faced two leadership challenges, losing the second one narrowly to Mr Abbott by a single vote.

Mr Turnbull's downfall was attributed to his views on climate change and support for an emissions trading scheme.

However, his credibility was also severely damaged when he attacked then-PM Kevin Rudd over an email purportedly showing corruption, but which was later found to have been faked by a top civil servant. The "OzCar affair" damaged his standing with his colleagues and the public.

Malcolm Turnbull in 2010

Malcolm Turnbull in 2010 Photo: AAP

Throughout his career in public life, Turnbull has championed a succession of progressive causes. As well as pushing for Australia to become a republic, he has supported gay marriage and the apology to the stolen generation and climate change - none of which has endeared him to Liberal conservatives.

With the government trailing Labor in 30 successive polls and Abbott's personal popularity as prime minister languishing recently, Turnbull made his move.

The 2016 election is less than a year away and with the government's prospects looking increasingly grim, enough of the party's conservatives decided that winning was more likely with Turnbull in charge.


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