- Tony Abbott promised “no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping” when he lost the Liberal Party leadership.
- Epic fail.
- With Malcolm Turnbull’s authority as leader now seriously undermined, Abbott has proved yet again his unrivalled ability to destroy opponents.
A little under three years ago, as Tony Abbott prepared to vacate the Prime Minister’s job for Malcolm Turnbull, he famously said: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.”
He’s done the opposite ever since. Time and time again. And this week has seen more classic Abbott, emboldening disgruntled MPs almost by the hour with his open hostility to Turnbull.
It culminated in the spill of the Liberal Party leadership this morning and Peter Dutton challenging the Prime Minister. Turnbull won 48-35: a win, but a mortal wounding. Had Dutton flipped just seven more MPs he would be putting together a Cabinet.
Through the process Abbott appears to have channelled his inner Paul Keating, who once said to former Coalition leader John Hewson: “I want to do you slowly”.
Having backed the Paris climate agreement back in 2015 when he was PM, Abbott started pushing Turnbull to abandon emissions reduction targets in July, including copying Turnbull into a tweet on Sunday, justifying his own change of position.
Emissions targets that made sense three years ago when all countries were supposed to be in Paris and we didn’t need policy change and wouldn’t face economic dislocation do not make sense now. @TurnbullMalcolm take note.
— Tony Abbott (@HonTonyAbbott) August 19, 2018
Yesterday, Turnbull gave Abbott what he wanted, announcing he wouldn’t put the emissions component of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) to the parliament because it didn’t have the full support of the party – despite the fact that just last week, the party room has signed off on the policy.
And what was Abbott’s response to Turnbull’s concession?
Wrecking, undermining, sniping.
“What we want to know is, where are this Prime Minister’s convictions?” he told ABC Radio’s AM on Monday night.
“We always thought that he was convicted on climate change issues. I think he probably still is. And it was a conversion of convenience this morning.”
Abbott posited whether the PM would “do a deal with the Labor Party”.
That’s a very deliberate jab, given a decade earlier, Turnbull did cut a deal with Labor when Opposition leader and Abbott rolled him over it.
Energy policy in Australia has been in chaos ever since.
And now it’s threatening to bring down Turnbull a second time — despite the PM surviving Tuesday’s vote — with so many of the circumstances an echo of nine years earlier.
Abbott’s former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, now a presenter on Sky News, was last night also condemning Turnbull for doing what she’d also be calling on him to do.
TONIGHT ON #Credlin: 'You can buy expertise, but you can't buy principles.
'That's the Prime Ministers fundamental problem and that's why the Liberal Party is facing its worst crisis in its history – a crisis not just of leadership, but of belief.'
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) August 20, 2018
But not everyone in the Coalition is impressed.
Nationals MP Damian Drum is among those calling on Abbott to go.
“He vowed that he wouldn’t be a wrecker – and that’s exactly what he’s been, a wrecker,” he said.
“He needs to get out of the joint.”
When Keating made his “do you slowly” comment in Parliament in 1993 – a year before Abbott joined the Opposition benches – the then-PM continued with what now reads like a manifesto for a disgruntled Coalition backbencher.
There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see those ashen-faced performances; I want more of them. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm out of this load of rubbish over a number of months. There will be no easy execution for you.
Now that’s how you wreck.
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