In a wide-ranging interview with the Brisbane Sunday Mail , Peter Dutton unleashed on Malcolm Turnbull. His comments were calculated and cuttingly to the point.
‘Malcolm had a plan to become prime minister but no plan to be prime minister’, Dutton told the newspaper. ‘He didn’t have John Howard’s touch or judgment nor his ability to convey a message’.
‘I have no doubt Malcolm will rue the day he stormed in to the party room and declared the leadership open expecting to get a resounding vote… His low vote destroyed him without any challenge necessary’, Dutton said. He defended his decision to take up Turnbull’s thrown-down leadership gauntlet, claiming the end result, a PM that wasn’t Turnbull (though it is Scott Morrison not Dutton), made it worthwhile.
The Dutton interview is a must-read. On Turnbull and the damage he was doing as PM to the Coalition cause, and has wreaked since his deposition, Dutton is on the button.
But just as Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft were so keen to come out this week and dump on their disgraced colleague David Warner in cricket’s biggest week of the year, was Dutton’s silly season intervention really necessary?
All it did was remind a disillusioned electorate about the chaos in Liberal ranks, and give golden copy to grateful journos in the deadest news week of the year.
Dutton was right in dismissing contemptuously Turnbull’s political abilities and judgment – the deposed PM indeed ‘did not have a political bone in his body’ – yet his going public so intentionally raises questions about Dutton’s own political judgment.
In that god-awful Leadership Week, Turnbull was arrogant, stupid and deluded in springing a sudden leadership vote on the Liberal party room in the expectation it would silence dogged critics including Tony Abbott, but without consulting his senior colleagues, including Dutton, who had backed him loyally despite their long-held misgivings. His manipulation of the leadership ballot rules (or lack thereof) to deny Dutton, if not save himself, was an act of selfish bastardry. But Dutton rashly took the dare when he wasn’t assured he had the numbers nor, as it emerged as the week unfolded, a pre-planned manifesto of his own for the prime ministership.
Having been talked up as the anti-Turnbull by some media commentators and colleagues as the great conservative hope, did he believe his own hype too readily? And did he not see that as decent a bloke as he is up close, the general electorate is not the Liberal party room and might just possibly not warm to him as its prime minister?
It seems lack of political self-awareness is not just a Turnbull trait but, in fairness to Dutton, he is far from the only Coalition MP with that problem. Given the disgraceful and undeserved goading he has been getting from Turnbull and deluded Turnbull disciples including renegade MP Julia Banks, it’s not surprising he has lashed out, but he still would have been wise to have kept his own counsel.
Dutton should not have spoken out now. If he had to say anything at all, he should have saved it for his memoirs, or at least until the dust of the looming election has settled. Besides showing the Turnbullites’ attacks have got under his skin, all he has done by speaking so frankly now is remind angry voters that however bad Turnbull was as PM (hint: plenty bad), the totally unnecessary chaos, damage and mutually-assured destruction of the Leadership Week fiasco was worse. That week was an unmitigated disaster for the Liberal party that should never have happened but can never, ever be undone.
Bill Shorten, wherever he is, must have thought he’d got a belated Christmas present. He is the only beneficiary of all this.
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