This week Tony Abbott threw off the last shred of pretence that he supports the Turnbull Government, and exposed the truth that he wants to see it trashed and in flames.
Being a keen student of history, and nursing no less resentment than that borne by another narcissistic former PM, Mr Abbott has adopted the same approach to destroying his former government as Kevin Rudd.
Mr Rudd would pop up on our news or social media feeds around the same time Newspoll was conducting its fortnightly survey of Australians’ voting intentions.
By re-inserting himself into the public’s consciousness at such moments he hoped voters would use the opinion polls to punish Julia Gillard for his removal.
History shows the strategy was devastatingly effective.
Not coincidentally, Newspoll will be surveying voters this weekend.
Right on cue, Tony Abbott has emerged to make the most strident attack yet on the man who replaced him. Mr Abbott called the Turnbull administration “Labor-lite”, and articulated a five-point re-election manifesto that leans so far to the right it can only be described as an IPA member’s wet dream.
Mr Abbott did so to mobilise the young conservatives promoted to the Turnbull ministry against their benefactor. And he did it to remind conservative voters to complain roundly to opinion pollsters about Malcolm Turnbull’s “abandonment” of the base.
It would also appear Mr Abbott and his former hench-person Peta Credlin have been encouraging the self-appointed leader of the young conservatives, Peter Dutton, to add to the destabilisation. Just this week Ms Credlin praised Mr Dutton for undermining Mr Turnbull’s repeated assurances that he did not do a refugee-swap deal with US President Donald Trump.
Yes, to some extent, Malcolm Turnbull brought this on himself, citing 30 bad Newspolls as one of the reasons he should replace Tony Abbott when bringing on the leadership challenge.
And it’s apt that someone with Mr Abbott’s archaic outlook would be obsessed with pursuing a “live by the sword, die by the sword” vendetta, with the blade being replaced by opinion polls.
But Mr Abbott seems to have forgotten the final chapter of Mr Rudd’s revenge fantasy – the part where the embittered former PM helped to drag his party so low in the polls that it had no chance of winning an election – even with him triumphantly returned to his rightful place on the throne.
Mr Rudd’s destabilisation placed his former government in a constant state of chaos, which was exploited by Mr Abbott as Opposition Leader, who used the perceived instability plus the (now exposed) carbon tax lie to convince voters to begrudgingly accept him as the lesser of two evils.
The resulting destruction of the Gillard Government was so comprehensive that current Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has become Mr Abbott’s eager understudy; no doubt the Labor leader will be intoning “if you can’t govern yourselves, you can’t govern the country” well before parliament recommences next week.
That’s why it’s risky for Malcolm Turnbull to call out Tony Abbott on his wrecking behaviour.
The task should probably have been left to party elders such as John Howard and Shane Stone, leaving the PM to stand above the fray. Now the media and (therefore) the public are enthralled but repulsed by the unedifying spectacle of the nation’s leader and his predecessor scrapping in the dirt like two over-entitled, self-centred frat boys.
The increasing intensity and destructiveness of Mr Abbott’s behaviour belies his claim to be interested only in protecting the Liberal Party’s conservative ethos.
His behaviour is not one of protection but of destruction; a flagrant display of smashing the bat and ball, then setting both alight to prevent anyone else from playing.
As the PM said on Friday, Tony Abbott knows exactly what he is doing.
And sadly, so do we.