Turnbull finally breaks his silence
MALCOM Turnbull's former colleagues were scathing of his failure to publicly endorse Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate for his vacated seat of Wentworth in last year's by-election.
Many blamed the ousted prime minister's deafening silence as a contributing factor to the party's embarrassing defeat to independent Kerryn Phelps.
Now, Mr Turnbull has offered his first election endorsement since then, to New South Wales Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith.
Mr Notley-Smith is the sitting member for Coogee, a seat he won in 2015 on a slim margin of 2.9 per cent.
In a video shared by Mr Turnbull on Facebook last night, he delivered a ringing assessment of his friend's achievements in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
"He's delivered over eight years," a smiling Mr Turnbull said, walking down a local street with Mr Notley-Smith.
"The light rail, record funding into the Prince of Wales Hospital, he's delivered record funding into local schools.
"He's delivered for our community in the eastern suburbs in a way that's never been done before. He is a champion for this community. He knows it. He loves it. He's part of it. That's why I'm backing Bruce."
The ringing assessment came as the BBC aired a wide-ranging interview with Mr Turnbull in the United Kingdom, in which he described his ousting from the top job in August last year as "madness".
Mr Turnbull said he was removed because his own party did not want him to win the next election.
"Basically, you could argue that their concern was not that I would lose the election but rather that I would win it," he told journalist Andrew Neil on BBC program Politics Live.
Mr Turnbull said the Liberals were just two points behind in the public polls, and ahead in internal polling of marginal seats.
Mr Notley-Smith shared the former PM's video on his own Facebook page this morning, with the simple caption: "Thank you Malcolm."
The clip, viewed 29,000 times since it was posted yesterday, attracted a slew of negative comments on Mr Turnbull's profile.
Some pointed out his failure to publicly back Mr Sharma during the crucial Wentworth by-election, with one saying "you and your family have lost all credibility in Australian politics" and another adding "just go away".
"Where was your support video for Dave Sharma, Malcolm?" one said.
Another added: "What did you not like about Dave Sharma? Or did you deliberately ensure your party lost your seat?"
Despite the commentary, Mr Turnbull remains popular in his local community. He and wife Lucy live in a multimillion-dollar harbourside mansion in Point Piper and the ex-PM has been swamped at the few community events he's attended in recent months.
That affection from constituents was also blamed for the Liberals' loss in Wentworth last year, seen as a punishment for rolling a sitting prime minister.
In a brief statement accompanying the video, Mr Turnbull described the March 23 vote as a "crucial" election, with polling showing the Liberal Party is dead equal with Labor on a two-party preferred basis.
The NSW government is bracing itself for a potential voter backlash, similar to that seen in the Victorian election late last year, where some normally safe seats were battered.
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