Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on the ministers who turned against him to explain why they chose to “blow up the Government” in such a “destructive” way.
- Mr Turnbull named nine figures he believes were key to his ousting
- Former PM denounced the culture of Federal Parliament as “very, very blokey”
- He held up economic growth, lower taxes and legalising same-sex marriage as some of his greatest achievements in office
During a one-hour appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program, a calm-but-defiant Mr Turnbull told the audience he still could not explain why he was rolled as prime minister, and claimed he did not see it coming.
“I think those people who are responsible for taking a successful, competitive government and literally blowing it up need to have an explanation,” he said.
“The reality is, people have got to be adults and be accountable.”
For the first time, Mr Turnbull named nine key figures in the insurgency — Peter Dutton, who led the challenge, and backers Tony Abbott, Greg Hunt, Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield, Steve Ciobo, Michaelia Cash, Michael Keenan and Angus Taylor.
“It never occurred to me that those people would act in a way that was going to be so damaging both to the Government, to the party and, frankly, to the nation,” he said.
“It was so obvious that the coup, the insurgency, was going to be destructive.
“It was so obvious that there was not going to be any upside to it — and of course that’s what’s turned out.”
Mr Turnbull also took aim at some of the conservatives within the Liberal Party who tried to exploit his government’s slim majority for their own gain.
“What you’ve seen increasingly from the right, even if they’re not in the majority, they’ll say ‘if you don’t give us what we want, we’ll blow the show up’,” he said.
“That is intimidating and that is bullying, and that was at the heart of the coup back in August.
“That is a real threat to the Liberal Party.”
Scott Morrison appeared to stay loyal to Malcolm Turnbull during the week of the spill in August. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)
The former prime minister also confirmed the ABC’s report about the discussions he had with media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes in the days leading up to the leadership spill, including that Mr Murdoch had told Mr Stokes that “Malcolm has got to go”.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on issues including the culture of Federal Parliament — which Mr Turnbull described as “very, very blokey” — and criticism that he effectively vacated the field during the recent Wentworth by-election.
Mr Turnbull’s resignation prompted the by-election but he did not publicly campaign for the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, who lost the seat to independent Kerryn Phelps.
But Mr Turnbull attributed the Liberals’ loss in Wentworth to the Coalition having a “messy week” leading up to the poll — a week in which Mr Morrison ordered a review into the possible relocation of Australia’s embassy in Israel and which saw Coalition senators voting for a racist, One Nation motion.
“I believe the by-election was lost in the last week,” he said.
When asked by host Tony Jones if the Morrison Government “killed itself off in Wentworth”, Mr Turnbull responded: “You may very well say that, but I couldn’t possibly comment”.
While acknowledging his term as prime minister had ended prematurely, Mr Turnbull was keen to emphasise that he was not bitter and would not pose a threat to his successor, Mr Morrison.
He also revealed he would be re-entering the business world where he spent much of his career before becoming the member for Wentworth.
“I’m not miserable or bitter or resentful at all,” he said.
“I’m joyful that I had the opportunity to take on that role and do as much as I did in the time that I had.”
Challenging a viewer’s assertion that he’d been ineffectual as Prime Minister and “blew it”, Mr Turnbull defended his legacy.
He nominated jobs and economic growth, lower taxes, an overhaul of schools funding and legalising same-sex marriage as among his greatest achievements.