Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull have been dubbed as Australia's answer to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull have been dubbed as Australia's answer to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Photo from Facebook

Are the Turnbulls the new Bill and Hillary Clinton?

TWO women warmly embraced Australia's new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, after he dethroned Tony Abbott in a late-night coup. One was his deputy, Julie Bishop. The other was his wife, Lucy, a former Lord Mayor of Sydney with a formidable reputation as a lawyer, writer, businesswoman and philanthropi

The Turnbulls have been dubbed Australia's answer to Bill and Hillary Clinton. While Lucy is less extrovert than Malcolm, she matches him in intellect, wit - and ambition. Highly successful in their respective fields, they have together amassed an estimated A$186m (£86m), according to local media.

Leading patrons of the arts, and gold-plated social scene A-listers, the couple have been married for 35 years - and are still besotted with each other. He has a larger-than-life-sized portrait of her in his parliamentary offices. "Lucy is one of those few people who light up every room," he told a women's magazine last year.

From a distinguished legal and political dynasty, Lucy Turnbull has been a company chairman and a board member of numerous companies, charities and arts institutions. She became Sydney's first female Lord Mayor in 2003, and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2011 for service to the community, including fundraising for medical, social welfare and educational causes.

"I have never seen myself as an appendage [of Malcolm], as anyone who knows me will tell you," she told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011. "My roles have sometimes been less visible, but we were a very good team."

She watched on as her husband was sworn in as Australia's 29th Prime Minister by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove - a ceremony during which Mr Turnbull, a staunch republican, swore allegiance to the Queen.

Then it was straight down to business, with Mr Turnbull fronting his first Question Time as Prime Minister. Having dispatched Mr Abbott less than 24 hours earlier, after successfully challenging him for the leadership of the conservative Liberal Party, he praised his predecessor graciously.

"Tony has discharged his role as Prime Minister... with enormous distinction and achievement," he told the House of Representatives.

Earlier, Mr Abbott surfaced for the first time since his humiliating defeat in the leadership ballot. During an emotional media conference, he accused some of his Liberal colleagues of "treachery", adding that the media - which was liberally briefed by his critics - had "connived at dishonour by acting as the assassin's knife".

However, in a clear reference to Labor's Kevin Rudd, who waged a relentless campaign to destabilise Julia Gillard after she replaced him as Prime Minister in 2010, he also promised to make the transition as smooth as possible.

"There will be no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping," he said. Mr Abbott gave no indication of his future political plans. His new seat on the backbenches was empty during Question Time.

Mr Turnbull, meanwhile, faced tough questions on climate change and same-sex marriage - two policy issues on which his supporters are hoping he will show his socially progressive colours. For now, at least, they have been disappointed. Treading cautiously, probably in an effort to avoid further alienating disgruntled right-wingers in his own party, the new Prime Minister signalled that he would stick with the previous government's policies, including a referendum on same-sex marriage.

It remains to be seen whether he will soften policy on asylum-seekers. But that, too, seems unlikely. He praised Mr Abbott for policies which, he argued, were enabling Australia to resettle an extra 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Mr Turnbull will announce his new Cabinet later this week, and he is expected to include more women.

The Turnbulls will soon move into their official residences in Canberra and Sydney. These palatial homes are usually a perk of the job. For Malcolm and Lucy, though, they represent a step down from their family home: a waterside Sydney mansion with swimming pool and private jetty.

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