News National Turnbull: ‘Abbott not leading an insurgency’

Turnbull: ‘Abbott not leading an insurgency’

Malcolm Turnbull
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Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not leading an uprising against the current leadership, Malcolm Turnbull has said.

Speaking on the ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday night, the PM laughed when asked if Mr Abbott was leading an insurgency against him.

“Of course not,” he said.

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When he lost the top job, Mr Abbott said “there will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping”.

Mr Turnbull said he had a “cordial” relationship with his former boss.

“I have had a good chat with Tony,” he said.

“Tony and I have obviously had some differences at different times but we’ve known each other for a very long time and we have been and always will be able to have a very cordial discussion,” Mr Turnbull said.

The difference in political leaning between the two has not caused problems with the far right since September, Mr Turnbull said, and MPs were allowed to cross the floor if they disagreed.

“In the Labor Party if you cross the floor they chuck you out of the Labor Party,” Mr Turnbull said.

“That’s not the case in our party. We are a party of freedom.”

Mal Brough
Mal Brough was grilled over the Peter Slipper affair in parliament on Thursday. Photo: Getty

On terrorism, he said sending ground forces into the Middle East was not a unilateral decision and would need to be sanctioned by local authorities.

“People are entitled to express the view that there should be a large Western military force, boots on the ground, they’re entitled to express that view but that’s an opinion,” Mr Turnbull said.

In his first national security statement as PM on Tuesday, he declared Islamic State to be “weak”, with “many more smartphones than guns, many more Twitter accounts than soldiers”.

On Thursday, he clarified those comments were about the group’s relative strength, compared to nations like Australia and the US.

It is surrounded by enemies, it is under siege from the air, but of course, it is able to occupy territory, the territory that it has, although its boundaries are being pushed back both on the Iraqi side and on the Syrian side,” he said on 7.30.

“And of course, it is able to direct or at least sponsor acts of terrorism abroad.”

Brough trouble on the horizon

This week may have signalled an end to Mr Turnbull’s ‘honeymoon period’, after attacks were launched on his party’s upper ranks.

Labor zeroed in on Special Minister of State, Mal Brough, in parliamentary question time on Thursday, using all nine of its questions to grill the Government on the fresh investigations into the Peter Slipper affair.

Peter Slipper
Mr Slipper was found guilty of misusing parliamentary funds in 2014, but that was overturned and a verdict of not guilty entered after an appeal in February 2015. Photo: Getty

The AFP is investigating allegations former speaker Peter Slipper’s diary was illegally copied in 2012 and leaked to Mr Brough.

The ALP went as far as to call for the resignation of the Special Minister of State.

“After due consideration, no,” Mr Brough responded.

Mr Turnbull elevated Mr Brough to the frontbench in September and continued to back him, but said any new information would “obviously be considered”.

Federal Police last week raided Mr Brough’s Queensland home and the residence of Mr Slipper’s former staffer James Ashby, amid allegations Mr Slipper’s diary was illegally copied.

An excerpt from the search warrant, tabled in the Senate on Thursday, said the AFP was investigating whether Mr Brough “counselled and procured” Mr Ashby to disclose extracts from Mr Slipper’s official diary and provide those extracts to third parties without authority.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege on Wednesday, Federal MP Clive Palmer repeated claims he was approached in April 2012 to fund Mr Ashby’s court case, which he understood to be worth about $200,000.

“The member for Fisher stated to me that we needed to destroy Peter Slipper,” Mr Palmer said.

Mr Brough became the Member for Fisher in the 2013 election, winning the seat from Mr Slipper.

Mr Slipper resigned from the LNP in 2011, after he was elected to the position of Speaker in the House of Representatives, to become an independent representative.

– with AAP and ABC

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