Mal’s back-tweet driver son causes pain for Libs
PROLIFIC tweeter Alex Turnbull has made it clear he thinks the coal mining industry exerts too much influence over the Liberal Party.
But it was another form of influence – his own unelected voice – that had government staff and senior bureaucrats feeling the pressure in the final months of father Malcolm Turnbull’s government.
The Sunday Mail can reveal the outspoken son was invited to join a private WhatsApp group on energy policy shortly after the 2016 election.
From his home in Singapore, where he manages a hedge fund, Alex took an active role in the group chat where senior advisers, department officials and his dad discussed energy policy.
“For him (Alex), energy is obviously a personal interest,” one former staffer said. “But we just thought, great, now we have to deal with Alex too.
“Where does the ripple of opinion stop? Surely there are enough experts, department advisers, political advisers and ministers involved.”
In the 15 weeks since Mr Turnbull was dumped from office, the famously tempestuous ex-PM has done his fair share of sniping. But it is the fury of the wronged son that has really fuelled the Government’s ongoing pain.
Within days of the August coup, Alex declared he would be speaking his mind after years of constraint. The Harvard graduate and father of two has been true to his word, bombarding a ravenous political public with tweets and interviews in which he defends his father’s legacy, vents about Liberal MPs and climate policy, attacks journalists and commentators he believes precipitated the leadership spill, and even endorsing Labor’s candidate in the critical Wentworth by-election. Senior Labor sources claim Alex has gone so far as to deal directly with Labor officials during that campaign and in the weeks since.
This week, the 36-year-old came under fire for a vile tweet about the sex life of conservative commentator Janet Albrechtsen, after she described him as a “sore loser”. Eventually he offered a backhanded apology that further insulted Albrechtsen, deleting the tweet.
Mr Turnbull made no secret during his political career that he relied on the advice and wisdom of his close-knit family. Staff said his wife Lucy, son-in-law James Brown, daughter Daisy and even his father-in-law Tom Hughes – a former attorney-general – were influential. But only Alex really pushed into the inner circle.
“Malcolm relied on his family but in the Gonski (WhatsApp) group, we didn’t have Daisy involved,” one former staffer said, referring to the fact Mr Turnbull’s daughter Daisy, a teacher, wasn’t consulted on education policy. “It’s one thing to float the balloon at a family barbecue, it’s another to have them directly involved with the discussion.”
One former staffer defended Alex’s “strong opinions” but said he didn’t influence policy.
“He expressed his views but I wouldn’t say it was over the top,” he said.