Malcolm Turnbull has said he still regrets making 30 lost Newspolls the marker to roll Tony Abbott but maintains he has the confidence of his colleagues “and no one is suggesting I don’t”.
The prime minister’s detractors have been counting down to the loss of the 30th consecutive Newspoll since Turnbull used the milestone to announce his ultimately successful leadership challenge against Abbott in 2015.
Turnbull attempted to brush off Monday’s result, which has Labor leading the government 52 to 48 on the two-party preferred measure, as not being important to Australians.
“I can assure you I have addressed it – I regret … making the remarks about 30 Newspolls at the time but what I promised to do was to provide economic leadership and traditional cabinet government and I have done both,” he said. “I do have the confidence of my colleagues … and no one is suggesting I don’t.
“What Australians want us to focus on is their jobs. They want us to focus on their childcare services, they want us to focus on schools, they want us to focus on hospitals and health, they want us to focus on national security and they want us to ensure that great jobs remain in Australia … They don’t want me to focus on personalities or the politics.”
Bill Shorten, who is in Western Australia with the shadow infrastructure minister, Anthony Albanese, agreed Australians did not want to be talking about polls.
“I don’t define my success, or indeed my job, by what Newspoll does,” he said. “I actually think the Australian people want us to focus less on the polls and personalities and a lot more on what we do for the people. It is Mr Turnbull who said that 30 Newspolls is a definition of success. That’s his problem.”
Shorten was forced to address fire from his own side after Kevin Rudd took to social media to criticise “Bill ‘I’m with the coup’ Shorten” for his role in previous Labor leadership challenges.
“The reality is that we’ve learnt from our mistakes,” Shorten said. “I think if you look at who would win the gold medal of disunity, it would be the Coalition. They can’t sit in the same room as each other.”
Abbott, whose Pollie Pedal charity event route placed him in coal country when the 30th Newspoll was due, had some words of wisdom for his political rival, acknowledging government was hard and “Malcolm Turnbull and I know this better than anyone”.
“One of the differences between me and some of my colleagues is that if I’ve got something to say I don’t ring up a journalist and whisper poison into their ears, I say it up front openly and put my name on it,” Abbott said. “I think that is something that we need to see more of in our politics. We need to see honesty, we need to see integrity and we need to see people say what they mean and do what they say.”
Coalition MPs have been trotted out to defend Turnbull, dismissing the Newspoll marker as the reason for dumping Abbott and hinting at issues within cabinet – something Abbott has previously denied.
Andrew Laming told ABC Brisbane radio there were “other reasons” the party room had been aware of at the time, while Mathias Cormann said it was not “unusual for incumbent governments … being behind in the polls”.
“I mean we’re not actually that far behind, truth be told,” he said.
Peter Dutton told 3AW he had been honest about his ambition to be prime minister but he would not be acting to topple Turnbull.
“I think people are best to be honest about their ambitions,” he said. “There’s 149 people in federal parliament – I’m one. I think the other 148, if they were being honest, would tell you that if the opportunity came their way they’d be interested as well.”
Asked directly whether he supported Turnbull as leader, Abbott loyalist Eric Abetz made it clear he believed using Newspoll as a marker was “inappropriate” both then and now.
Abetz told Sky the leadership was a decision for the party room and he was a “Liberal party loyalist” who respected that decision.