Turnbull Threatened By Liberal 'Terrorists' During Spill, MP Claims
Promotions were offered to save Malcolm Turnbull from being dumped, a former MP has claimed, branding usurpers "terrorists" during the 2018 leadership spill that saw Scott Morrison installed as PM.
The first instalment of Sky News' much-awaited 'Bad Blood/New Blood' documentary series, chronicling the inside story of August's brutal leadership spill, aired on Tuesday night.
A raft of the saga's biggest players -- including Morrison, Peter Dutton, Christopher Pyne, Craig Laundy and Mathias Cormann -- spilled the beans on what exactly went on behind the scenes in the hectic week of politicking and number-crunching in Canberra.
Their accounts differ, and conspicuously absent was Turnbull's voice -- his reluctance to appear perhaps influenced by an upcoming book he is to release, which will touch on the same topics.
Hosted by Sky anchor David Speers, the one-hour program ran over plenty of old ground, but offered up some tantalising tidbits including how the various factions viewed the chaotic days that saw Turnbull dumped, a Dutton challenge fended off, and a surprise victor in Morrison.
"The government was being held to account by terrorists," Laundy, a staunch Turnbull ally, claimed.
"A bloc of the party panicked, lost their mind. We ended up imploding within a week."
May's election result, which saw Morrison score an unlikely win, may be seen as vindication for the challengers who wanted Turnbull out. But Pyne and Laundy claimed the animosity toward the former PM went beyond simple electoral mathematics, that it was personal.
"There was a coterie of people planning to remove him since he became Prime Minister three years ago," Pyne claimed.
"They never liked Malcolm, they never wanted him to be Member for Wentworth."
Dutton claimed he "never harboured animosity toward Malcolm at all", reiterating his past comments that his moves against the PM were -- in his eyes -- in the best interests of the Liberal Party. Former tourism minister Steve Ciobo, a Dutton backer, said "Peter drove this", and claimed Turnbull had an "utter inability to read politics".
Dutton backed this, claiming Turnbull's unexpected decision to bring on a spill vote himself was his "final act of misjudgment, and a fatal one".
History tells us Turnbull won that vote, narrowly, but was mortally wounded. He would only survive another day before a second vote saw Morrison claim victory.
Dutton claimed Turnbull had earlier offered him the role of deputy, as an olive branch to end the fighting. Turnbull disputes this. The only other person in the room, finance minister Cormann, declined to comment when Speers asked him about it.
Laundy, however, admitted Turnbull's supporters were offering political promotions for MPs who would stay true to the then-PM.
When it came down to a final vote, where Turnbull expected to lose, his team started mobilising behind Julie Bishop and Morrison. Laundy claimed Turnbull told the two heavyweights "you two need to sort yourselves out". Bishop did not attract the votes needed, and Morrison won the final ballot.
Cormann said "sadly" he had lost friends in the party, over his controversial decision to switch allegiance to Dutton from Turnbull midway through the spill week.
Laundy called that flip, where Cormann and fellow senators Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield resigned from the ministry to back Dutton, as the "devastating", "mortal wound" that was the nail in Turnbull's coffin.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Laundy said, addressing Cormann.
The second part of the series will air on Wednesday night from 8pm.