'Bullies': Malcolm Turnbull Lashes Dutton, Media On Q&A
Malcolm Turnbull has unleashed on his former Liberal colleagues, calling his dumping as PM "crazy" and "pointless".
Turnbull also lashed 2GB, Sky News and News Corp papers, saying his former party had lurched too far to the right and was in danger of losing more seats to more moderate independents -- like Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth.
The former Prime Minister gave his first proper public comments after being dumped as Liberal Party leader, in a Thursday night Q&A special on ABC TV. He eschewed his famous leather jacket of past Q&A spots, and in a simple blue suit with no tie, he proceeded to calmly dump on his former party and colleagues.
READ MORE: Alas Poor Malcolm, We Didn't Know Him Well
"Bullies," he termed them simply, lumping the likes of Peter Dutton and Mathias Cormann in with hostile media like Sky News "after dark" and 2GB radio.
In the process, whether intentionally or not, Turnbull's critiques of those currently still in leadership positions in the government provided Labor with untold resources for TV ads and campaign material during the next election.
Doing his best to keep a cool and collected demeanour as he batted away questions about his own shortcomings as PM, it was hard to miss the barely-concealed anger and confusion still bubbling away just below the surface, as he casually named names and blasted his foes for disloyalty.
This was a Q&A episode, but it was really an hour-long opportunity for Turnbull to defend his legacy and try to -- finally -- give his long-overdue version of events that led up to the August coup.
In the process, Turnbull looked to be having the most fun he's had in months, grinning and bantering with the audience, finally freed from the constraints and diplomacy he had had to grit through in recent months to keep peace with the right-wing agitators inside his party -- the same agitators who, as he continually reminded the audience, cut him down just months before an election he hoped to win.
The program went straight to a question Labor has continually tried to get an answer to from the government -- "Why aren't you still prime minister?"
Turnbull said he "can't answer" why he was dumped, and named Peter Dutton, Tony Abbott, Greg Hunt and Mathias Cormann as those who "engineered the coup".
Turnbull repeatedly named Dutton as the leader of the insurgency against him, also daubing the likes of ministers Michael Keenan and Mitch Fifield with the same brush. He heaped scorn on Barnaby Joyce's recent posturing, and questioned his own party's treatment of female MPs during the spill.
"I believe the culture in parliament is not sufficiently respectful of women... it is decades out of date," he said.
"It is like stepping into a business, an office, in the 80s. It is very, very blokey, and there is insufficient respect for women."
He talked up his government's record on economic growth, jobs and trade as big achievements, saying he was "thoroughly competitive" in the race for the next election and confident he would have led the Coalition to victory.
"They need to really explain why they did it. And none of them have," he said.
Turnbull sought to explain his government's policies around energy, climate and marriage equality, including in response to a video question from Atlassian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes on whether he would back more clean power projects.
But the former PM resisted the opportunity to speculate on the actions of both the Dutton "coup" supporters and new PM Scott Morrison.
Some media reports after Turnbull's dumping had claimed Morrison had quietly been supporting the coup, in hopes of coming through the middle and surprising Dutton to claim the top job. Turnbull flatly refused to air his thoughts on such an idea, instead squarely placing the onus on his opponents to justify why he was no longer PM.
It may not have been the night of bombshell revelations many were hoping for, with Turnbull basically just adding his voice to the obvious --that Dutton was behind the coup, that moderates in the Liberals were upset at the constant destabilisation from conservative elements, and that Turnbull himself was acutely aware of the pressure coming from inside his own party and some conservative media outlets.
But it shows Turnbull himself isn't done with this, and questions still linger. This was Malcolm dipping his toes back into the #Auspol world, after time away, and it's likely not the last we'll hear of Turnbull's side of the story.