Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne has denied any “fissure” between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott and claimed they are “very old friends” despite the pair’s bitter battle over gun laws.
Mr Pyne also told the Nine network there was a “deal” struck to put in place a sunset clause on a temporary ban of the seven-shot Adler lever-action shotgun in July 2015 ahead of a meeting with the states on Friday.
Today host Karl Stefanovic asserted that Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott despised each other.
“Not true,” Mr Pyne fired back.
“They are very old friends. Of course they have a difference of opinion about who the prime minister should be, that’s been played out in public, we know that.”
Despite Mr Turnbull on Thursday telling Parliament he was satisfied Justice Minister Michael Keenan acted in the full knowledge of the former prime minister’s office in striking the deal, Mr Pyne told the Nine Network it was “not true” and “rubbish” Mr Turnbull had effectively called Mr Abbott a liar, after he denied there was a deal.
Mr Pyne denied there was a deal to water down the Howard Coalition government’s gun laws.
But there certainly was a deal to put in a sunset clause on the temporary Adler ban.
Mr Abbott on Wednesday told the ABC there was “no deal” struck with Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm by his office in exchange for support for government legislation.
Asked if he accepted Mr Abbott didn’t know about the agreement reached with ministers Michael Keenan and Peter Dutton, Mr Pyne said: “I don’t know what was in his mind or not at the time”.
One political commentator’s view
The no deal:
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) October 20, 2016
“But I can tell you one thing — there is no fissure between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott over the fact that we will not water down John Howard’s gun laws.”
He denied Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott despised each other, citing Mr Abbott’s repeated statements he wants the Turnbull government to win the next election.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said if there were any entrepreneurs in the modern Liberal Party they’d be selling popcorn outside the lower house.
“This was a cage-fight on national television on the floor of the House of Representatives.”
“It’s on, it’s on out there for all to see and it is all of Malcolm Turnbull’s own making, because he was incapable of giving an answer to a pretty clear question on Tuesday about the guns for votes deal.”
Cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg described the debate as a “GBD — a Great Big Distraction”.
“We were getting traction in parliament yesterday on the Australian Building and Construction Commission bills, which will be an important cop on the beat,” he told ABC TV.
Mr Frydenberg said he hates all guns, but acknowledged a lot of people use them for commercial reasons, such as on their farms.
“But the less guns in our community, the better. Just the other day, I was watching on television the movie Bowling for Columbine, that terrible story about the killing of young people.”
Parliamentary intelligence and security committee chair Michael Sukkar accused the media of being distracted by trivialities.
“I don’t think there was strong evidence there was horse-trading going on,” he told ABC radio.
Asked if people should believe Mr Turnbull or Mr Abbott’s versions of events, he said all the positions could be “quite easily reconciled”.