‘I had the courage not just to give speeches, but to act’: Malcolm Turnbull hits back at Tony Abbott

“I’m not going to be provoked,” says Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: SMHPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he will not be distracted by Tony Abbott’s “latest outburst” and most direct attack on the government to date, defending his record of achievement and portraying the backbencher as a hypocrite who was unable to govern effectively when he was leader.
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Turnbull has joined cabinet colleagues Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne in rounding on an emboldened Mr Abbott following his “deliberately destructive” speech and interview on Thursday calling for a shift to the right to avoid defeat at the next election.

Mr Turnbull said every Coalition MP should ask if they are contributing to the government’s success and said Mr Abbott “knows exactly what he’s doing and so do his colleagues”.

“I’m not going to be provoked,” Mr Turnbull told Melbourne radio station 3AW when asked if he would punish Mr Abbott.

“The fact is my government has a record of achievement. In the last six months or so since the election, we have achieved more with fewer seats in the Senate, in the House, than in the previous three years.”

The Prime Minister contrasted his record with Mr Abbott’s, declaring: “We are acting and we’re getting things done. We’re getting things done that we couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t get done in the last Parliament.

“I have not talked about abolishing the life gold pass for former MPs and minister, I’ve abolished it. I have not talked about reforming parliamentary entitlements and politicians expenses, I have set in place the biggest reform in that area in a generation. I have set up an independent parliamentary expenses.

“I haven’t talked about restoring the rule of law the building sector, I’ve done it. I had the courage not just to give speeches, but to act.”

As leader, Mr Abbott promised to scrap the gold pass – which affords certain retired parliamentarians free air travel – but never acted on it. Many Abbott government bills, including the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and contentious measures from the 2014 budget, were blocked by an unpredictable Senate.

In his speech launching a new book, Making Australia Right, on Thursday night Mr Abbott said “our politics can’t be just a contest of toxic egos or someone’s vanity project” and urged the Coalition to cut the renewable energy target, abolish the Human Rights Commission, halt all new government spending, reform the Senate and, notably, “cut immigration to make housing more affordable”.

Mr Turnbull dismissed the former prime minister’s calls for a review of the RET and a cut to immigration, observing that the RET was reviewed and set by the Abbott government.

He defended the immigration program as a “nation-building exercise” and a “question of getting the best and brightest of the world to meet the demands of our economy”.

Mr Abbott has also copped a strong rebuke from Senator Cormann, a senior conservative who backed the former prime minister in the September 2015 leadership spill.

“I was flabbergasted by Tony Abbott’s interview last night. I was watching live from my office in Perth and there is nothing good from an interview like that. It was deliberately destructive, it was completely unhelpful, it was not designed to be helpful, it was not trying to help our cause or help our country. It was quite self-indulgent,” Senator Cormann told Sky News.

After it was also reported that Mr Abbott has not given up hope of returning to the leadership, Senator Cormann told Sky News “I can’t see any scenario in which there is a return of Tony Abbott to the leadership of the Liberal Party”.

The ordinarily restrained senator said Mr Abbott’s latest intervention was sad and “much of what he says is either wrong or inconsistent with what he did as prime minister”.

The Prime Minister later said Senator Cormann had described the situation “perfectly” and reaffirmed his critique of Mr Abbott, declaring: “I don’t think Australians were impressed by that latest outburst and I am not going to be distracted by it.”

“It’s sad,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Pyne, a senior moderate, also hit back at Mr Abbott on Friday morning, saying his policy proposals would either be a disaster or had failed the first time around.

“We won’t be slashing spending, Tony Abbott tried that in 2014 in the budget during his leadership but of course a whole lot of zombie legislation sat in the Senate unable to be passed,” Mr Pyne told Channel Nine’s Today show.

“We won’t be going down the track of putting a freeze on immigration for example, which Tony Abbott wants to do, because it would be catastrophic in places like the Northern Territory, Tasmania – most places outside the major cities,” he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also defended her conduct after Sky News host Andrew Bolt, in his interview with Mr Abbott, said Ms Bishop was not “conservative, plain-speaking and loyal”. This elicited a laugh and smile from Mr Abbott, who accused his former deputy of treachery when he lost the top job.

The Prime Minister has refused to promote Mr Abbott to his frontbench, resisting pressure from him and his allies. Mr Abbott now regularly cites his backbench status as a licence to speak freely and says it is his duty as a former prime minister to speak up on matters of importance.

The theme of his latest remarks is the disaffection of right-leaning voters who have drifted to minor parties like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

with Latika Bourke

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.