Perhaps, after his dust-up Donald Trump just 10 days ago, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was looking to come home and kick the dog.
Today during Question Time, he made Labor leader Bill Shorten that dog calling him “a social-climbing sycophant” and “parasite” who liked to drink champagne with billionaires.
The aggression in Turnbull’s swingeing personal attack on Shorten appeared to surprise both sides of politics. But delivered like a Braveheart war cry, it soon had the government benches thumping the desks and roaring their support for the PM just 24 hours after losing one of their own, Cory Bernardi, to the senate crossbench.
After Shorten niggled Turnbull as “Mr Harbourside Mansion” and “out-of-touch”, the PM bit back.
“There was never a union leader in Melbourne that tucked his knees under more billionaire’s tables than the leader of the opposition,” Turnbull said, painting a picture of Shorten at the late businessman Dick Pratt’s house Raheen – the former residence of Catholic archbishop Daniel Mannix – drinking Cristal champagne.
Whether intentional or not, there’s an additional layer of sting to that picture that makes the attack both bitter and personal. Pratt was godfather to Shorten’s first wife, Deborah Beale.
“All the lectures, trying to run a politics of envy, when he was a regular dinner guest at Raheen, always there with Dick Pratt, sucking up to Dick Pratt. Did he knock back the Cristal? I don’t think so,” Turnbull mocked.
“He lapped it up, yes, he lapped it up.”
Labor was attempting to attack the government over childcare reforms that have now been linked to $8 billion in welfare cuts when Turnbull hit the nuclear button in a performance to rival Paul Keating or Julia Gillard’s “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man” speech against Tony Abbott.
Turnbull turned Shorten’s barb about harbourside mansions – a epithet coined by Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin – back on him.
“He comes in here and poses as a tribune of the people. Harbourside mansions? He’s yearning for one. He’s yearning to get into Kirribilli House. You know why? Because someone else pays for it,” Turnbull scolded.
“This man is a parasite. He has no respect for the taxpayer. He has no respect for the taxpayer, any more than he has respect for the members of the Australian Workers’ Union he betrayed again and again.
“He sold them out. He sold them out. Some of the lowest-paid workers in Australia — cleaners working at CleanEvent. He sold out their penalty rates and what did they get? They got nothing.
“What did the union get? Cash, money, payments. He sold them out in return for a payment to the union.”
After only just winning an election against an opposition leader most observers already thought was unelectable, 2017 will be a make or break year for Turnbull’s leadership as he fends off those on his own side of politics who would drag him down as eagerly as Shorten.
Since he became leader, Turnbull has offered the public persona of a genial Malcolm which ran counter to the many stories of a more pugilistic man in private confrontations.
Today he signalled he’s not going down without a fight.
And perhaps it was the start of “real Malcolm”. After all, the PM’s tried everything else so far and nothing’s seemed to work.
— ABC News 24 (@ABCNews24) February 8, 2017