Bill Shorten
Australian Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten speaks at his election night party in Melbourne, July 2, 2016 on Australia's federal election day. Reuters/Jason Reed

Malcolm Turnbull took to denouncing Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in the Parliament on Wednesday. Among other accusations, the prime minister targeted Shorten’s association with billionaires.

Referring to the opposition leader as “a social-climbing sycophant,” Turnbull said Shorten was a hypocrite who sucked up to some of the country’s wealthiest businessmen – including Richard Pratt, Solomon Lew and Lindsay Fox – and, on the other hand, claimed to be a hardworking man of the people. “There was never a union leader in Melbourne that tucked his knees under more billionaires’ tables than the Leader of the Opposition,” Turnbull said.

Shorten has publicly talked about his friendship with Pratt, who passed away in 2009. Pratt Holdings contributed $830,000 to the Liberal Party, making it one of the largest donors, while giving Labor just $20,000.

“I reckon he probably talked about that (job creation) with Dick Pratt and Solly Lew and Lindsay Fox and all the other billionaires he liked sucking up to in Melbourne on their corporate jets,” Turnbull said. “Or did he give them the attack on the rich, down with anyone that has got a quid? No, I think he just sucked up to them. I think he says one thing here and another thing in the comfortable lounge rooms of Melbourne.”

Turnbull’s attack had come on the heels of Shorten criticising the prime minister over the Government’s proposed changes to family payments. Shorten said numerous Australians would be affected by the change. He added the budget savings were being carried out by reaching into the pockets of millions of Australian families, and not of the rich.

He said Turnbull was “being so out of touch that his hopelessly divided government punishes family, pensioners, carers and new mums while giving $50 billion handout to business and big banks.” He invoked Turnbull’s nickname, “Mr Harbourside Mansion,” which was coined by Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin, referring to the prime minister’s waterfront mansion at Point Piper.

Following Turnbull’s attack, Shorten said it was not only Turnbull’s comments that agitated him. “There were two arguments today. I was fired up about one million families losing family payments... and Mr Turnbull was clearly fired up about saving his job,” Shorten said, speaking with 7.30. “This may sound a little incongruous, but I feel a little bit for him at the moment as he is under great pressure.”

Turnbull’s comments also came in the wake of South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi’s departure from the party. “Malcolm demonstrated that he’ll bare his teeth and call Shorten out for what he is,” Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said, speaking with the Daily Telegraph. “Yesterday just reinforced the Prime Minister’s prowess on his feet in the chamber.”