'He knows exactly what he is doing': Malcolm Turnbull is seething at Tony Abbott

Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott in 2015. Photo: Stefan Postles / Getty.

“He knows exactly what he’s doing. I’m not going to go into what private conversations I have with him but he knows exactly what he’s doing and so do his colleagues.”

This was Malcolm Turnbull’s response this morning when confronted about a supposed conversation Tony Abbott had with Cory Bernardi, the Senator who recently quit the Liberal party, about a potential return to an Abbott leadership.

It followed a speech last night in which Abbott set out an alternative platform for the Coalition in a clearly calculated attack on Turnbull’s leadership.

Abbott said: “Why not say to the people of Australia: we’ll cut the RET, to help with your power bills; we’ll cut immigration, to make housing more affordable; we’ll scrap the Human Rights Commission, to stop official bullying; we’ll stop all new spending, to end ripping off our grandkids; and we’ll reform the Senate to have government, not gridlock?”

Abbott also told Andrew Bolt in an interview on Sky News that the Coalition could “drift to defeat if we don’t lift our game”, and questioned Turnbull’s decision to live in his private home rather than at Kirribilli House, the official Sydney residence.

Turnbull responded in an interview on Melbourne’s 3AW this morning, defending his record to interviewer Neil Mitchell and highlighting some of the failures of the Abbott government in the process. Turnbull said:

Can I tell you something? We are acting and we are getting things done. We are getting things done, we are getting things done which we couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t get done in the last Parliament.

I have not talked about abolishing the life gold pass for former MPs and ministers. I have abolished it.

I haven’t talked about reforming parliamentary entitlements and politicians’ expenses. I have set in place the biggest reform in that area in a generation. I have set up an independent parliamentary expenses authority.

I haven’t talked about restoring the rule of law to the building sector. I have done it.

I had the courage, not just to give speeches, but to act. I went to an election. I took the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to an election. I won the election.

Mitchell played a recording of comments from Abbott in 2015 in which Abbott said he didn’t want to be a “thorn in the side” of political leaders and that it was “the responsibility of all decent Australians” to try and make it easier for prime ministers to do their jobs. Mitchell asked if Abbott was now “behaving in a decent fashion”.

Turnbull responded that he was trying to work on behalf of Australians but concluded: “I think that tape sums it all up very well Neil. There’s nothing further for me to add.”

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