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Malcolm Turnbull Is Losing Popularity, But Says He Is Australia’s Happiest Ever PM

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ratings are at an all-time low, but he says he's the country's happiest ever government leader.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on September 15, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. Malcolm Turnbull will become the 29th Prime Minister of Australia after he defeated Tony Abbott 54 votes to 44 in a snap leadership ballot on Monday night. Julie Bishop remains deputy leader of the Liberal party following the spill.  (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on September 15, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. Malcolm Turnbull will become the 29th Prime Minister of Australia after he defeated Tony Abbott 54 votes to 44 in a snap leadership ballot on Monday night. Julie Bishop remains deputy leader of the Liberal party following the spill. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull isn’t wowing voters down under, with approval ratings at an all-time low of 34 percent, but he’s not letting it get him down.  

Critics say he hasn’t done enough to curb climate change. They claim he has done little to help the thousands of refugees being detained in inhumane conditions on islands off Australia’s coast. And they say he’s hesitated on marriage equality because he’s afraid of upsetting conservatives, despite earlier promises that legalizing same-sex marriage would be a priority.

But none of this seems to matter much to Turnbull, who loves his job so much that he told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday that he is the country’s happiest ever prime minister.

“I’m sure there have been better prime ministers, but there’s never been a happier one,” he said in the interview.

His assertion raises a brow, considering this summer he nearly lost his title in the same election that saw his Liberal Party lose a dozen parliamentarians. But as long as Turnbull just keeps doing his best and keeps coming into the office each day, he doesn’t seem to think see anything wrong with how things are going.

“I am a convivial person,” he said. “I like being out and about; it’s one of the reasons I like public transport,” he said. “It is my lot in life in to be criticized but I am joyful subject of criticism and I am determined to do better.”

At least the criticism that Turnbull faces is largely policy-related, unlike his predecessor Tony Abbott, the prime minister who was embarrassingly ousted from power in September. Abbott had a reputation for putting his foot in mouth; he publicly said that a group of female Australian politicians had “sex appeal.” He also questioned the legitimacy of consent in sexual relationships.

“I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think are both, they both need to be moderated, so to speak,” he once said.

As for climate change, Abbott told an Australian radio host that his problem with windmills is that they are “visually awful” and “make a lot of noise.”   

But Turnbull? He’s happy to just keep chugging along as he plummets in the polls. When asked straight up if he still likes being prime minister, he said “I love it.”

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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