Australia’s election campaign took a personal turn on Monday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull telling voters how his father raised him alone after his mother walked out.
The multi-millionaire from Sydney’s wealthy eastern suburbs posted an emotional online video tribute to his late father Bruce, saying: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dad.” Turnbull said most of his childhood was spent with his father after his mother left them while he was still in primary school.
“We didn’t have much money, he was a hotel broker and for most of that time he was battling,” he said in the video released today. Asked whether the posting was designed to counter opposition claims that he was out of touch with ordinary Australians ahead of July 2 polls, the prime minister tugged further on the heart strings.
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“When my mother left us, we had nowhere to live,” he told reporters in Melbourne, “Dad rented a flat and didn’t have any furniture. I think the only bit of furniture we had left was my bed so he had every reason to be a bit unhappy, to say the least. Yet he never, ever said a bad word about her. He never uttered a critical word of my mother in all of those years.”
Turnbull said that after his parents both died — his father was killed at age 56 in a plane crash and his mother died in 1991 — he found letters the pair sent each other over the years.
“The letters, they were filled with sadness and reproach and you know, ‘How could you do this?’ and ‘Why did you do that?’ and the back and forth,” he said.
“I thought, what does it say about a man? What does it say about his love that he could sit down and write letters like that, pouring out his heart and then turn to his little boy and say, ‘Your mother is the greatest woman in the world and she loves you more than anything’. What a man. What a great man.”
The Facebook video, which has been viewed more than 500,000 times, touched a nerve with many. But one voter, who called herself a “nice grandmother”, questioned what it had to do with policy issues, adding: “Sorry I’m not voting for Mr Turnbull’s father.”