While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was strutting the world stage this past week, rubbing shoulders with world leaders at the climate change meeting in Paris, disgruntled conservative MPs within the PM’s own party caused havoc at home.
There now appears to be a concerted conservative backlash against the PM Turnbull, particularly his conciliatory approach to Muslim extremism and refusal to commit ground troops to combat ISIS.
Accordingly, a conga line of Monkey Pod participants wound its way through the media this week, ratcheting up calls for Muslims to take responsibility for those who perform terrorist acts in the name of Islam.
The most significant of these calls came from prominent Abbott supporter and now Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg, who claimed there was a “problem within Islam” and that “we need to acknowledge the significance of this threat, to acknowledge that religion is part of this problem”.
These sentiments were echoed by other government conservatives including Andrew Nikolic, Andrew Hastie, Craig Kelly and George Christensen.
Conservative Liberals also moved this week to wreak vengeance on Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, both of whom they perceive as rats who abandoned former PM Tony Abbott when he needed them (and their votes) most.
One carefully placed media story claimed Mr Morrison was not loyal to Mr Abbott until the end – as he claimed – but had dallied with the putative PM back in February and was offered the Treasury portfolio by Mr Turnbull at the time. Meantime Mr Abbott challenged the truthfulness of Ms Bishop’s recollection of that event.
Conservative shock jocks also joined the fray, with Ray Hadley setting upon Scott Morrison for not joining the Frydenberg call, while Neil Mitchell took Julie Bishop to task for indulgent travel expenses.
Up until now, Mr Turnbull has responded with equanimity to the whines and veiled threats of the conservatives that he disempowered when he defeated Mr Abbott for the Liberal leadership. Just this week the PM paid tribute yet again to the man he replaced, telling the Parliament that the nation owed a debt to Mr Abbott and that he has been a “great Prime Minister”.
Mr Turnbull’s apparent preparedness to humour the conservatives is no doubt based on his strong standing in the opinion polls and the knowledge that he is – at least currently – best placed to take the Coalition to another election victory.
Ian Macfarlane goes bush
This complacency may be shaken however by the unexpected announcement this week that former Howard and Abbott Government Minister Ian Macfarlane plans to move to the Nationals.
Mr Macfarlane is said to be close to Mr Turnbull, but was reportedly unhappy when he was punted from the ministry to make room for new parliamentary talent.
His defection to the Nationals is being pitched to the media as a rebuke for the PM and an attempt to get back into the ministry via an extended quota for Nationals positions on the front bench.
But the move may also be an attempt to increase the number of Nationals MPs opposing Barnaby Joyce’s expected run for party leader when the current leader Warren Truss finally retires.
PM toughs it out on Brough-gate
It wasn’t just the conservatives striking back that would have caused PM Turnbull to welcome the end of this week.
Parliament is now over for the year, and even the most politically engaged voters have started to cast their minds to more important matters like the beach and the cricket.
Mr Turnbull will be grateful for this respite from pesky questions about the Special Minister of State, Mal Brough, and calls for him to be stood aside or sacked. Unfortunately for Labor, it will be hard to maintain the interest of the media and the community on the issue once the summer break has commenced.
New pragmatic Greens
While Labor focused this week on pursuing Mal Brough and casting doubt on the judgement of the Prime Minister who appointed him to the ministry, the Greens managed to actually get things done.
Labor’s answer to Miley Cyrus, the publicity-hungry Sam Dastyari, may have been the MP best known for using the Senate committee process to expose the shady tax arrangements of multinational corporations.
However, it was the Greens that negotiated with the government this week to pass a law that will require more large companies to publish their tax records.
Some companies will still be exempt from doing so under the law passed with the Greens’ support, leading Labor to alliteratively label the minor party as “tax transparency traitors”.
The Greens countered with the perfectly logical explanation that it was better to increase transparency for some corporations, than none at all.