On Friday a shocked Malcolm Turnbull was confronted with the charade that was the Dutton challenge to his leadership. It unmasked the sheer bloody mindedness of the insurgency against him.
By Paul Bongiorno
Indeed had the Dutton camp, including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, been honest about its lack of support, Mr Turnbull would still be prime minister today and government support would certainly not have collapsed.
This became obvious in the Liberal meeting when the chief whip was told it was the “will of the party room” that she divulge the actual numbers for the successful spill motion.
When Nola Marino (pictured left announcing Fridays Liberal part room vote result), acceded to the demand revealing the 45-40 result, there were gasps in the room.
“This is a farce,” a shocked Mr Turnbull said.
It wasn’t a farce for his revengeful nemesis, Tony Abbott. The former prime minister on Monday was gloating over the demise of his successor, never mind that his stalking horse Mr Dutton had not taken the prize.
“Our country is in better shape than it was a fortnight ago,” he told 2GB radio. He added: “Thank God that the era of the political assassin is over.”
If you believe that, you are as delusional as the claim that striking down Mr Turnbull would give the government a better chance of winning the next election.
As polling analyst Andrew Catsaras says: “The Liberal Party coup made no sense from a polling perspective.”
He says the Coalition “had been tracking back in the polls to becoming competitive”. It was too early to conclude whether last week’s 10-point gap in the Ipsos Fairfax poll was an outlier or not.
Monday’s Newspoll was the worst result in that poll for a government after politically assassinating its prime minister in the past decade.
In the Gillard, Rudd and Turnbull takeovers their governments’ position actually improved immediately. There is no honeymoon for Mr Morrison, just a record collapse in support.
But Peter Dutton, the man who reduced the Turnbull government to rubble last week, says he has no regrets for launching his botched coup attempt.
Newly sworn back into the job he quit as the first stage of a multi-pronged assault on Mr Turnbull’s prime ministership, Mr Dutton also told reporters he would not do anything differently.
Remember, he did it not because he thought Mr Turnbull was not worthy of respect or was leading a bad government, it was just that he believed he had a better chance of winning the next election.
So if we can believe Mr Dutton, it had nothing to do with revenge – just a misguided self-belief that, as it turned out, a majority of the party room did not share.
Mr Morrison, the go-to compromise, is now attempting to rebuild with two of the government’s most popular politicians out of the picture, Mr Turnbull and Julie Bishop.
Ms Bishop’s failure in the leadership ballot did nothing to convince her that her skills and appeal were appreciated or needed.
Her departure leaves not one woman in the Liberals’ senior leadership team.
The new Prime Minister’s rewarding of Mr Dutton, Mathias Cormann and other cabinet plotters has angered moderates who voted for him.
If their ploy was to stop the government being completely taken over by the hard right’s agenda by voting against Mr Dutton, the ministerial reshuffle has shaken them.
On Monday Mr Morrison’s message on climate change, for example, would have done nothing to reassure them.
A closer look at the Newspoll has one very worrying result for the Liberals. Their loss of support went straight to Labor, not to One Nation or third parties. It replicates what happened in the Longman by-election.
No wonder Bill Shorten is calling for an election to end the shambles the government of the nation has become. He says: “The sooner the people of Australia get to have their say who is running the country the better.”
First published at The New Daily. Tuesday 28 August 2018.