The man Scott Morrison replaced says the coalition can win the election and wishes the Prime Minister all the best.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, surprised by television cameras at Melbourne Airport on Tuesday, said every election could be won when asked about his successor’s chances.
“Australian elections are close – they’re two-horse races, right?” he said.
“Of course he’s in with a chance, but it’s a matter for the people.”
Mr Turnbull had lifted the coalition’s standing in the polls to be behind by just two points, 51-49, when the Liberal Party dumped him as leader in August.
The most recent Newspoll, released a week ago, had Labor leading the government 53-47.
Pushed further for his thoughts on the government’s direction, Mr Turnbull deflected, saying, “I have to remind you that I’m not retired, but I am retired from politics”.
Malcolm Turnbull has said he regrets not holding the banking Royal Commission earlier in the wake of yesterday's scathing report. pic.twitter.com/nM1DvmpCFJ
— SBS News (@SBSNews) February 5, 2019
But he did praise Liberal-turned-independent MP Julia Banks, who is preparing to stand against Health Minister Greg Hunt, saying she was an “outstanding parliamentarian” and the race between the two would provide the constituents of Flinders with a stimulating contest.
Mr Morrison insisted he wasn’t a commentator either when pressed on the upcoming fight for Flinders.
“What I know is Greg Hunt has been serving his community since 2001,” he told reporters in Townsville.
“He’s done an extraordinary job and he’s a great local member and he’s a fantastic minister and I’m so pleased to have him as my team, and that’s why he’ll be back as part of my team after the next election.”
The PM described the general election as a contest over the national economy and Labor’s “arrogant” plan to remove cash payments for excess franking credits.
“If they’re this arrogant to you before an election, imagine what Bill Shorten would be like if he actually won one,” Mr Morrison said.
“He thinks he’s already got it in the bag.”
Campaigning in southern NSW, Mr Shorten said the election was about trust, especially following the banking royal commission which the coalition failed to back until the pressure became too much.
“I’m saying to Australians, who do you trust to keep the banks in line?” he said.
“Nothing will happen if this mob get re-elected.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is facing a challenge from another former Liberal member, Oliver Yates, in his blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Kooyong.
Mr Yates is urging voters to turf Mr Frydenberg out for his inability as energy minister to convince colleagues to act on climate change.
Mr Frydenberg played down the electoral threat.
“I have a good, strong local track record and I’ll be making the case to the people of Kooyong between now and the next election.”