Turnbull names ‘mad’ insurgents
Malcolm Turnbull has blamed Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott of masterminding the insurgency that “blew up the government”, revealing that he didn’t anticipate the push against him and claiming he could have won the next election.
In his first set-piece media appearance since being dumped from the leadership on August 24, Mr Turnbull blamed a handful of “insurgents” for removing him as prime minister, arguing that it had been “crazy” and an act of “madness”.
The former prime minister said Mr Dutton and senior ministers including Greg Hunt, Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash, Mitch Fifield, Angus Taylor and Steven Ciobo had orchestrated the push against his leadership. He argued they should provide an explanation for their actions.
“The only people who can answer that are the people who engineered the coup. They are people like Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt and Mathias Cormann, the people who voted for the spill,” Mr Turn- bull told a special edition of the ABC’s Q&A.
“I did not anticipate that people would act, particularly cabinet ministers, would act so self-destructively. It never occurred to me that those people would act in a way that was going to be so damaging both to the government, to the party and, frankly, to the nation.”
Mr Turnbull, who claimed the legalisation of same-sex marriage as one of his leading achievements, said Scott Morrison had “dealt himself a very tough hand of cards” but accepted he had not played a role in moving against him.
“He took advantage of a situation that was created by others,” he said. “That is how he’s presented the circumstances himself, and I’m not in a position to
contradict that or question that”.
Arguing that he was in a position to win the next election, Mr Turnbull said the partyroom was aware of internal polling that showed favourable numbers for the government in the final days of his prime ministership.
“In our own poll we were 52-48 ahead,” he said. “So there’s no question the government was doing well. We were thoroughly competitive. And we were in a position where we had every chance, every prospect, of being able to win the election.”
Following the defeat in the Wentworth by-election, the new Prime Minister suggested that Mr Turnbull’s refusal to campaign for his replacement, former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma, could have been the difference in what was a narrow loss.
Mr Turnbull defended his decision not to intervene, arguing that it would have been a negative for the government.
He blamed the poor result on a horror final week leading into the by-election, including the government having to apologise for supporting Pauline Hanson’s “It’s OK to be white” motion in the Senate, and a backlash over the possible relocation of Australia’s embassy in Israel.
“I did support Dave Sharma,” Mr Turnbull said. “Every day Dave and Scott Morrison and others repeated and the media repeated that he had our support.
“My judgment was that were I to be campaigning or be particularly visible in any way in the Wentworth by-election, it would be unhelpful to Dave Sharma’s prospects, but also it would not have been very helpful for me maintaining my own peace of mind. I believe the by-election was lost in the last week.”
Mr Turnbull, who defended his Snowy 2.0 hydro energy project, said he ran a “very traditional cabinet government” and consult- ed with his colleagues, including on the National Energy Guarantee, which triggered a backbench revolt against his leadership.
“It had gone through the cabinet at least three times, it had gone through the partyroom several times,” he said. “I was very careful to make sure that I brought the party together. One of the most important things as leader is to keep the party together.”
Tensions have been strained between the former and current prime ministers since the spill. Sources close to Mr Turnbull claim the “penny had dropped” and that he now suspected Mr Morrison of working the numbers for himself in the days leading up to the first leadership challenge from Mr Dutton.
The legacy war boiled over again last week when, in a radio interview, Mr Morrison accused Mr Turnbull of going beyond his brief in discussing trade and Jerusalem with the Indonesians during his trip as an envoy to Bali.
Mr Turnbull responded almost immediately on social media, refuting Mr Morrison’s claims and revealing that he had been briefed ahead of his trip by Mr Morrison himself and given scope to address those very issues. The slap-down resulted in a forced public clarification from Mr Morrison who conceded that Mr Turnbull was correct.
Mr Morrison has also hit back at suggestions that he was working to muster support for himself before Mr Turnbull’s leadership became terminal.
He claimed he had not voted for a spill of the leadership and only put himself up as a contender to prevent Mr Dutton getting the job, and is privately furious at what he now believed was a purposeful campaign by Mr Turnbull to prevent him succeeding.
‘Were I to be campaigning or be particularly visible … in the Wentworth byelection, it would be unhelpful’ MALCOLM TURNBULL
Malcolm Turnbull on the ABC’s last night Q&A
Malcolm Turnbull on last night: ‘One of the most important things as leader is to keep the party together’ Q&A