Turn­bull names ‘mad’ in­sur­gents

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - JOE KELLY SI­MON BEN­SON

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

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