Despite leaving politics, former PM Malcolm Turnbull just can’t stay away from the headlines. After making a series of controversial comments in New York last week, he’s now come under fire from another former leader.
Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating is the latest to launch a scathing attack on Turnbull – this time taking aim at his efforts to make Australia a republic.
Speaking exclusively to Fairfax Media, the former leader of the Labor Party explained Turnbull did so little when it came to the republic movement when he was in power. Despite being the head of the Australian Republic Movement in the ‘90s, Keating accused Turnbull of giving in to conservatives on the matter.
“His capitulation to conservatives on the republic says all that needs to be said about Malcolm’s wider ambitions for the country,” Keating exclusively told Fairfax Media, as reported in The Age. “He attacks Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott as ghosts, yet if you needed to know what Malcolm Turnbull truly believes in, what he would die in a ditch over, you would need a microscope to help you find it.”
Turnbull had branded former prime ministers Rudd and Abbott as “miserable ghosts” during a speech to young leaders in New York last week.
“When you stop being prime minister, that’s it,” he said in a recording, obtained by Nine. “There is no way I’d be hanging around like lipid [an insoluble fat] Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott. Seriously, these people are like, sort of miserable, miserable ghosts.”
Those comments attracted attention from Rudd, who took to Twitter with a message of his own for Turnbull.
“Dear Malcolm. A quick reality check on ‘miserable ghosts’: 1st, having told the world you’ve left politics behind, you seem to be in the media every day talking about it,” he wrote. “2nd, in case you didn’t notice, I left parliament for NYC 5 years ago. Why not come over for a cuppa?”
Dear Malcolm. A quick reality check on "miserable ghosts": 1st, having told the world you've left politics behind, you seem to be in the media every day talking about it. 2nd, in case you didn't notice, I left parliament for NYC 5 years ago. Why not come over for a cuppa? pic.twitter.com/1hjeIJLnDJ
— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) October 1, 2018
In terms of Turnbull and his republic desires, Keating explained he had three years in power and “failed to show a skerrick of leadership” when it came to Australia becoming a republic.
In 1995, Keating proposed a plan for a head of state to be elected by both houses by a two-thirds majority at a joint sitting of Parliament. At the time, he revealed hopes for Australia to become a republic by 2001, and warned against any model that proposed a popularly elected president – insisting appointment by Parliament would provide “effective safeguards in respect to the calibre and non-partisanship of candidates”.
Earlier this year, he slammed Turnbull along with Rudd, Abbott and former prime ministers John Howard and Julia Gillard for not doing enough to severe ties with the British monarchy and establish a republic.
Speaking to The Australian at the time, he singled out Turnbull, who was the prime minister at the time.
“He has little or no policy ambition and commensurably little imagination, no system of prevailing beliefs,” Keating told The Australian. “Was (his republicanism) just Malcolm being another chameleon doing another chameleon act as he has on so many other things? You know, I was real but is Malcolm real?”
Turnbull addressed the issue in 2017, explaining a republic should only come after the reign of the Queen, but Keating told The Australian it was “a denial of responsibility”.