Miranda Devine Abbott jihad comes out of the shadows
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has had a busy week actively undermining the Prime Minister, and his hypocrisy is not lost on his colleagues who fear he is jeopardising marginal Coalition seats
LAST week Tony Abbott’s insurgency against Malcolm Turnbull finally came out of the shadows. No more mealy-mouthed pretence that the former PM is just being the best possible “Member for Warringah”.
No, Abbott (pictured) is doing what he does best, as the opposition leader tearing down a Prime Minister. Last week, by labelling the PM “tricky”, he even sought to blunt the Government’s strategy of portraying the other Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, as “shifty”.
No wonder Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg laughed a little hysterically on the Today show on Friday when host Ben Fordham brought up Abbott’s claim the PM was being tricky about migration.
“Tony Abbott is always going to cut across what the Prime Minister has been saying lately”, said Frydenberg, an Abbott loyalist in the 2015 coup.
“I thought he was a member r of the team,” said Fordham.
“You haven’t been paying at- tention”, laughed Labor’s An- thony Albanese.
“Aren’t the Prime Minister r and Tony Abbott both on the e same team?” said Fordham.
“I think you’re covering up the e biggest secret in sport, mate,” said d Frydenberg.
Everyone knows the enmity y between Abbott and Turnbull is s beyond the point of no return.
Last week Turnbull showed the e strain of having to shadowbox an n enemy he cannot name with an n emotional outburst at a press con- ference.
It was the week Abbott’s jihad d reached a crescendo.
His Pollie Pedal charity ride, per- fectly coinciding with the 30th Newspoll, was reminiscent of his election campaigns, with doorstops staged for the camera each day.
In this case, high-viz was swapped for maroon Lycra and a route carefully chosen through the Latrobe Valley to showcase his attack on Turnbull over energy policy.
In five days Abbott did a dozen interviews. On Monday, to mark Turnbull’s 30th Newspoll loss, Abbott told Ray Hadley on 2GB, “it really is something for Malcolm to explain, why it applied for me but shouldn’t apply now”.
That night Abbott told Sky News’ Paul Murray: “Are people enthusiastic about this Government?”
On Tuesday, he warned 3AW’s Neil Mitchell of “damaging blackouts in Victoria” if the Hazel-wood power plant was not kept open.
On Wednesday, on Ben Fordham’s 2GB program, he attacked the PM and Julie Bishop op for being “very clever with words”, having their “knickers in a twist”, and being at odds with Peter Dutton. “A sensible government” wouldn’t behave this way. On Thursday, he told 2CC’s Tim Shaw: “No one would pretend there aren’t things that could be better … my problem with the National Energy Guarantee is that it puts a higher priority on reducing emissions than reducing prices”. Which was the opposite message to Frydenberg’s National Press Club address the day before, prioritising prices and energy security. That night Abbott was interviewed by his former chief of staff Peta Credlin. Friday morning he was on 2GB with Alan Jones, decrying subsidies for renewables and saying Turnbull had to force AGL to keep the Liddell power station open: “No sensible government can see a vital piece of national infrastructure taken out of the sy system for the private profit of a parti ticular company”. The hypocrisy is not lost on colle leagues. What he never mentions is th that it was prime minister Abbott who legislated the Renewable Energy Target and signed up Australia to the Paris climate agreement. And it was prime minister Abb bott and his Treasurer boasting to th the G20 about their asset recycling p policy which led to the fire sale of L Liddell by the NSW government to AGL in 2014. The policy gave states incenti tive payments to sell off assets if th they spent the money on infrast structure before 2019. That was h how Liddell came to fund Sydn ney’s dog of a light rail project. Never mind that the AGL sa sale was opposed by the Australi lian Competition and Consumer Commission. Chairman Rod Sims warned it would be bad for consumers because three companies would control 80 per cent of electricity generation and 90 per cent of the retail market.
He also warned against Abbott’s asset recycling incentive, as the lure of payments risked state governments taking action to lessen competition.
AGL announced its plans to close Liddell in April, 2015, and prime minister Abbott did nothing.
Can you blame Frydenberg for tearing out what’s left of his hair?
But because he’d laughed at Abbott’s wrecking, he got the full Alan Jones payback on Friday: “Josh … you sold yourself out to get the job.”
It is a dire situation for Coalition MPs, especially marginal seat holders.
Trish Worth, a former Howard MP for the marginal seat of Adelaide and former parliamentary secretary to Abbott, says he is “letting down his colleagues and helping Labor … it’s extremely selfish [for someone] in a safe seat”.
“Anyone I talk to in the parliamentary wing sees him as a spoiler … if I was a marginal seat holder I would gather the others and tell him you’re hurting us.
“They should be putting their colleagues and, quite frankly, their country first because Shorten and his union mates would be very bad for Australia.”
The irony is that, for all the claims that Abbott is standing up for conservative values, his war on Turnbull threatens to wipe out the best of the next generation of conservative MPs, most of whom have marginal seats.
Only Shorten wins.