Malcolm Turnbull Kevin Rudd

Tony Abbott

The era of the political assassin is over, and thank God for that.

August 27

I always suspected that the instant [Turnbull] didn’t have the top job he’d want to go.

August 29

Malcolm Turnbull

Julia Gillard — whom I admire in many ways — Julia, even though she was living with her boyfriend without the benefit of the closure as it were, for political reasons said ‘I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman’. And my predecessor and opponent in the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott — who’s sort of a right-wing character, to say the least — he had the same view. And I was to say they were both wrong, but at least he was sincerely wrong.

September 21

When you stop being prime minister, that’s it. There is no way I’d be hanging around like embittered Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott. Seriously, these people are like, sort of miserable, miserable ghosts.

September 28

Kevin Rudd

Dear Malcolm. A quick reality check on ‘miserable ghosts’: First, having told the world you’ve left politics behind, you seem to be in the media every day talking about it. Second, in case you didn’t notice, I left parliament for New York City five years ago. Why not come over for a cuppa?

October 1

Paul Keating

[Malcolm Turnbull’s] capitulation to conservatives on the republic says all that needs to be said about Malcolm’s wider ambitions for the country. He attacks Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott as ghosts, yet if you needed to know what Malcolm Turnbull truly believes in, what he would die in a ditch over, you would need a microscope to help you find it.

October 2

If there’s a lesson from the current war of words between former prime ministers, it’s that the best way to ensure a serene life after politics is to get a job. 

At 79, John Howard is too old for that, of course, but he does busy himself writing books. Howard generally stays above the interpersonal fray but is happy to comment on issues of public controversy and is always willing to march back into the culture wars. Bob Hawke offers the occasional comment but is also distancing himself in old age.

Paul Keating has become very vocal about policy issues dear to him — usually around the economy and particularly superannuation — after a period of relative silence in the years immediately after 1996, but has never been backward in offering free character assessments about politicians or ex-politicians for whom he has little time. This includes former PMs such as Tony Abbot and Malcolm Turnbull, or those on his own side, like former NSW Labor figure John Robertson.

Kevin Rudd devotes himself to being an international affairs dilettante, but can’t resist sniping at various targets, including Rupert Murdoch — whom he once ostentatiously cultivated — and Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull, a man of even greater personal means, hasn’t needed to work in decades, but has taken to the role of ex-prime ministerial sniper with relish in the brief time since the Liberal Party dispensed with his services.

And Tony Abbott — well, he’s built up a very generous parliamentary super, but can’t think of anything to do but stay in politics on the backbench, where he’s happy to make pointed comments about his successors.

Then there’s Julia Gillard. Gillard has a couple of jobs — chair of both the Global Partnership for Education and Beyond Blue, as well as some visiting professorships here and overseas. Gillard is almost completely silent about contemporary politics, and has had very little to say about her former colleagues since she left politics in 2013. Her one political act in retirement was to appear at Labor’s 2016 campaign launch. Even former opponents now single her out as as example of how to be an ex-prime minister. Perhaps because she’s too busy being things other than an ex-politician.