Four months after losing the leadership spill he instigated, a remarkable tirade by Peter Dutton against Malcolm Turnbull has further exposed the bitter divisions within the Coalition.
With an election just months away, Mr Dutton’s extraordinary spray marks the first time a senior member of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s has gone on the record about the factors that led to the party room coup.
Calling the deposed prime minister spiteful and indecisive, the Home Affairs Minister told Brisbane’s Sunday Mail that Mr Turnbull had brought about his own downfall through a combination of arrogance, ego and a total lack of political nous.
“Malcolm had a plan to become Prime Minister but no plan to be Prime Minister,” was Mr Dutton’s damning evaluation.
Until now, and despite frequent questions from the opposition and media interviewers, neither Mr Morrison nor any of his front-benchers had candidly explained what motivated the party room putsch.
Mr Dutton’s candour could well open the floodgates for further attacks on Mr Turnbull that can only emphasise the rift between the conservative faction and its moderate foes.
He also criticised the former leader for actions he saw as undermining the Morrison government.
“I am the first to defend the legacy of the Turnbull government. Malcolm was strong on economic management, borders and national security, but Malcolm will trash his own legacy if he believes his position is strengthened by seeing us lose under Scott (Morrison),” Mr Dutton said.
He excoriated Mr Turnbull for not supporting the Liberal Party’s candidate in his old seat of Wentworth, which was won by independent Kerryn Phelps — the first time the electorate has left conservative hands since Federation.
“Walking away from (his seat of) Wentworth and not working to have (Liberal Wentworth candidate) Dave Sharma elected was worse than any behaviour we saw even under (former Labor prime minister Kevin) Rudd.”
Stating emphatically that he wasn’t a stalking horse for former leader Tony Abbott or a right wing “Bible basher”, Mr Dutton said Mr Turnbull’s poor management had lost the Libs 15 seats in the 2016 election, leaving the government “with a one-seat majority which just made the parliament unmanageable. We were paralysed.”
Mr Dutton lamented that Mr Turnbull lacked former Liberal PM John Howard’s touch, judgment and ability to deliver the message.
“We went from three-word slogans under Tony (Abbott) to 3000 under Malcolm and our achievements weren’t effectively communicated as a result,” he told the paper.
“Countless opportunities to strengthen the government or nail Shorten passed us by because Malcolm couldn’t make a decision.
“Malcolm is charming and affable, but he doesn’t have a political bone in his body.
“It’s not a criticism, but without political judgment you can’t survive in politics – and he didn’t.”