After weathering the most vitriolic and personal attack of his parliamentary career at the hands of the Prime Minister on Wednesday, Bill Shorten responded by accusing Malcolm Turnbull of staging the rant to defend his job.
Mr Turnbull unleashed a blistering attack on the Opposition Leader in Question Time, calling him a “simpering sycophant” and a “parasite” who yearns for his own harbourside mansion.
Speaking on ABC’s 7.30 later that evening, Mr Shorten attempted to brush off the verbal onslaught by saying he feels sorry for the Prime Minister.
“I feel a little bit for him at the moment as he is under great pressure,” the Labor leader said.
“The drums are beating in the corridors of Canberra about whether or not he will remain as Liberal leader and I think he is showing pressure.
“I think Mr Turnbull showed he is about defending his own job.”
Mr Turnbull’s spray came at the end of Question Time after Mr Shorten launched his own barbs at the PM, accusing him of attacking families, attacking standards of living, and of being tough on pensioners and soft on banks.
“The Prime Minister is seriously the most out-of-touch personality to ever hold this great office of Prime Minister,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Turnbull’s response, which led to the rare display of Coalition members thumping their desks, was brutal and an effort to counter attacks on his personal wealth just days after he revealed his $1.7 million donation to the Liberal Party.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Shorten was a “would-be tribune of the people” and accused him of rising to prominence by networking with prominent Melbourne businessmen like Richard Pratt.
“There was never a union leader in Melbourne that tucked his knees under more billionaire’s tables than the Leader of the Opposition,” he said.
He lapped it up, yes, he lapped it up. He was such a sycophant, a social-climbing sycophant if there ever was one.”
The Prime Minister accused Mr Shorten of “knocking back Dick Pratt’s Cristal” and looking forward to living at the personal expense of taxpayers.
“This sycophant, blowing hard in the House of Representatives, sucking hard in the living rooms of Melbourne, what a hypocrite,” Mr Turnbull said.
“They call themselves the Labor Party; well Mr Speaker, manual labour is a Mexican band as far as they are concerned. Most of them have never done a day’s work in their lives.”
Watch Malcolm Turnbull’s Question Time speech
VIDEO: TURNBULL smashes SHORTEN out of the park! pic.twitter.com/PSbLe2OlUr
— Paul Murray LIVE (@pm_live) February 8, 2017
Appealing to the backbench
Mr Shorten told 7.30 the PM’s rant was mainly for the benefit of his colleagues, particularly those on the far right.
“Does anyone seriously in politics think his pressured performance was anything other than appealing to his backbench?
Mr Shorten acknowledged he was a good friend of the late billionaire Richard Pratt.
Labor attacks ‘slippery’ PM
Labor politicians earlier used Question Time to attack Human Services Minister Alan Tudge for his handling of Centrelink’s much-criticised debt-recovery program.
The opposition’s Linda Burney asked Mr Tudge why a 67-year-old pensioner was incorrectly told she needed to repay money to the government, causing her stress and anxiety.
The program will now be investigated by a Senate committee to determine why thousands of Australians were incorrectly told they needed to repay money.
Mr Shorten said he expected Mr Tudge would stand up in Question Time and say “I’m sorry, we got it wrong”.
“In Labor we don’t think every Centrelink recipient is a cheat,” he said.
Mr Shorten called the Prime Minister a “slippery figure” and said Coalition ministers had avoided questions about planned changes to welfare and childcare.
He asked Mr Turnbull whether it was true more than 1 million families would have their family payments cut under legislation introduced to Parliament on Wednesday.
The federal government has combined a range of stalled and revised welfare measures into a single bill to try to force nearly $4 billion in savings through the Parliament.
“No matter how often you duck and hide, we will get the number out of you,” Mr Shorten said.
– with ABC