On Tuesday, Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in at the Government House in Canberra as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia, the country’s fourth since 2013. Turnbull defeated Tony Abbott in a “sudden and extraordinary” ballot by the Liberal party lawmakers, reported The Australian. The former communications minister Turnbull bested Abbott in a vote of 54 to 44.
In his first public comments since being ousted, Abbott, 57, told a slew of reporters, “This is a tough day but when you join the game, you accept the rules.” Abbott served as Australia’s Prime Minister for a two years.
Turnbull, of course, is optimistic. The timing of Turnbull’s election—the decision occurred on the second day of Rosh Hashanah—was especially fortuitous since Turnbull allegedly has Jewish roots.
“My mother always used to say that her mother’s family was Jewish,” Turnbull, 60, told Australian Jewish News in 2013. When asked if this piece of information had impacted him as an individual, shaping his views, he responded with, “Yes, maybe.”
In 2008, Turnbull—a former lawyer and investment banker (apparently the richest prime minister in Australia’s history) who grew up in the eastern suburbs of Sydney—sung a similarly consistent tune, reported The Times of Israel:
Turnbull had told another paper in 2008 that his mother told him when he was a child that “some of her ancestors, which were a mixture of people from the UK and Europe, were Jewish or of Jewish background.”
“Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. She wasn’t always the most reliable source of information, I’m afraid. And she may not have been sure herself,” he told the Wentworth Courier at the time. If it were true, “then that’s great,” he said.
“Maybe (I’ll look into it) at a later time of my life, but I’m very focused on the here and now, and I’m more interested on what the current generation of Turnbulls are doing, not what the ancestors did,” he said.
Around this time last year, anti-Semitic leaflets were distributed to Jewish households in Wentworth, his constituency in New South Wales, the wealthiest in Australia, for which Turnbull has served as a Member of Parliament since 2004. “This hateful rubbish has absolutely no place in Australia,” an outraged Turnbull vented in a public statement.
With one hand on the bible, Turnbull faced the Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove, during his swearing-in ceremony and recited his oath: “I, Malcolm Turnbull, swear that I will well and truly serve the people of Australia.”
Tess Cutler is an intern at Tablet.