‘Blew up the government’: Malcolm Turnbull challenges plotters in defence of his government

“I have left the parliament. So I can’t be a threat to Scott Morrison or anyone else. I’m not even in the parliament. I’m not in the party room anymore,” he said.

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He said he had deliberately said little after being toppled and wanted to give Mr Morrison “clear air” to do his job, playing down the idea that Mr Morrison had plotted against him or directed some to vote against him to bring him down.

“I take Scott at his word. The insurgency was led by Peter Dutton, was obviously strongly supported by Tony Abbott and others. Scott did not support it and he’s said that publicly,” he said.

Mr Turnbull blamed the instability caused by the coup leaders for fuelling fear among ordinary MPs who voted for change to end the uncertainty.

He named Mr Dutton, Mr Abbott, Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield, Michaelia Cash, Greg Hunt, Steve Ciobo, Michael Keenan and Angus Taylor for the spill.

Malcolm Turnbull has named Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott among the main plotters to oust him.

Malcolm Turnbull has named Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott among the main plotters to oust him.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“They effectively blew up the government,” he said.

“And that created a situation of enormous instability.”

He said this meant that Liberal MPs were “frightened” and “intimidated and bullied” into the final vote.

“So there are some people who would have voted for the spill not because they wanted me to stop being prime minister, but they wanted the destabilisation to stop,” he said.

In a key statement on media coverage that destabilised his government, Mr Turnbull confirmed that he was told News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch said “Malcolm’s got to go” in the lead-up to the spill.

Mr Turnbull said he was told this remark by Seven Network chairman Kerry Stokes after the media mogul had a conversation with Mr Murdoch.

“Kerry Stokes, he’s given an account of this conversation to many people, he said to Rupert: ‘That’s crazy, Malcolm’s doing well in the polls, he’s way ahead of Bill Shorten. Why would you want Bill Shorten to be prime minister?

“To which, according to Kerry, Rupert said: ‘Oh, well, three years of Labor wouldn’t be so bad.’

“I can’t work that out. I can’t explain that.”

Mr Turnbull said he spoke to News Corp head Rupert Murdoch about his publications coverage of his government.

Mr Turnbull said he spoke to News Corp head Rupert Murdoch about his publications coverage of his government.Credit:ABC

Mr Turnbull confirmed that he spoke to Mr Murdoch during the week of the spill to complain about media coverage by the company’s newspapers.

“He said it was really Lachlan’s responsibility, but he’s always said words to that effect in recent years. I’m not suggesting that isn’t right.”

Mr Turnbull dismissed Mr Dutton by saying he made no clear case for the challenge, unlike Mr Turnbull himself when he stood in public before challenging Mr Abbott in September 2015.

“He said he wanted to take the GST off power prices. That might be a justification for bringing a submission to cabinet. It’s hardly a justification for overthrowing the government,” Mr Turnbull said.

He also chided former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce for not helping the government in the Wentworth byelection campaign by fuelling leadership instability in the Nationals and proposing the Snowy 2.0 hydro scheme be replaced by a coal-fired power station.

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“I believe the byelection was lost in the last week. It was a pretty messy week for the government,” he said.

Mr Turnbull blamed the “it’s OK to be white” vote in the Senate and Mr Morrison’s proposal to move the Australian embassy in Israel.

“What happened in that last week was the swing against the Liberal Party was accentuated and accelerated,” he said.

One audience member, Louise Dunbar, said she initially thought Mr Turnbull had a vision for Australia, but was disappointed.

“You were ineffectual, not able to make the hard decisions, nor confront the media to argue your case, unengaged [sic] with the public and biding your time towards the end,” she said.

“I would like you to take responsibility, and not blame anyone else for this. You had the opportunity, and you blew it. What do you say to the Australian public?”

Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump at the White House in February. The former PM says he was able to keep Australia free from tariffs imposed by the US President.

Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump at the White House in February. The former PM says he was able to keep Australia free from tariffs imposed by the US President.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Turnbull listed achievements including record jobs growth, economic growth, reduced personal income tax, reduced company tax, changes to school funding and record funding for health and pharmaceutical benefits.

He added that he prevented Australia suffering from the increase in steel and aluminium tariffs imposed on other nations by US President Donald Trump and also kept the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal alive.

To mixed applause and murmurs of criticism from the audience, he also noted that 5000 same-sex couples had married since his government oversaw marriage equality after a postal survey last year.

On climate change, he talked up the adoption of solar power because of the falling cost of solar panels, but said this required long-term planning for energy story including pumped hydro.

“If you wanted to build a new dispatchable power station, if you said you wanted to deliver 1000 megawatts of power continuously, and you wanted to do that from new sources, I do not believe that you would build, today, a coal-fired power station,” he said.

He said that applied regardless of issues about climate policy and carbon risk, because renewable generation was so cheap.

On Nauru and asylum seekers, Mr Turnbull noted that Labor put people in detention centres by failing to stop boat arrivals.

“I was able to negotiate a deal with Barack Obama to resettle refugees from Nauru and Manus into the United States,” he said.

“Rather controversially, and with some difficulty, I was able to hang onto that deal with President Trump, and, at this stage, between 400 and 500 people have been resettled.

“So my track record, as far as Nauru and Manus is concerned, is I kept the boats stopped, I did not put anybody on Nauru and Manus, but I ensured that hundreds were taken off and resettled without getting the boats started again.”

He praised Mr Morrison for knowing the policy area and being able to continue that momentum.

David Crowe is the chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Source: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/politics/federal/blew-up-the-government-malcolm-turnbull-challenges-plotters-in-defence-of-his-government-20181108-p50ewc.html

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