Mal’s back-tweet driver son causes pain for Libs

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - AN­NIKA SMETHURST

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.

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