Peter Dutton’s Turnbull spray hurts Coalition’s election chances, colleagues say | Australia news
Peter Dutton’s decision to attack the leader he attempted, and ultimately failed, to replace in the dying days of 2018 has been greeted with dismay by colleagues, questioning why a senior minister would remind voters “of our worst days” so close to the next election.
Coalition MPs who spoke to Guardian Australia said they read Dutton’s interview with News Corp with “barely contained groans” as the home affairs minister, posing with his family on the beach, defended his decision to topple Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
Three MPs lamented the lost “last chance at a reset”, while another four questioned Dutton’s timing.
“Everyone is staying quiet for a reason,” one said.
“No one wants to remind people of what went on. We have an election in the next five months. Worse-case scenario, in the next three months. There was absolutely no point to this now. We are all trying to move on, but some just can’t seem to help themselves.
“Labor will have a field day with this and it’s entirely our own doing.”
In a statement, the Labor deputy leader said 2018 had “ended how it began [with] the Liberals at each others’ throats”.
“It’s like the worst Christmas lunch ever, with relatives fighting. It’s like listening to the kids squabbling on the back seat on your long drive to your Christmas holiday – except if they were my kids I’d pull over and make them walk,” she said.
“This year we’ve seen more Liberal dysfunction and division, and more Liberal cuts to health, education and the services people rely on. Energy costs are up. Health costs are up. The cost of living is up. Wages are flat. Living standards are going backwards.
“Abbott versus Turnbull versus Morrison versus Dutton – Australians are sick of the Liberals’ dysfunction and division. Australians want a clean start in 2019 and a government that will put them first.”
Dutton challenged Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal party leadership and prime ministership in August, but lost the party room vote to Scott Morrison.
He ended the year, as one colleague put it, “reminding voters why they are sick of us”, with a vociferous attack on Turnbull delivered through his hometown newspaper.
“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 Rudd,” Dutton told News Corp.
“In 2016, Malcolm ran the worst campaign in Liberal party history, and we ended up losing 15 seats and were left with a one-seat majority which just made the parliament unmanageable. We were paralysed …
“Malcolm is charming and affable but he doesn’t have a political bone in his body and it’s not a criticism, but without political judgment you can’t survive in politics and he didn’t …
“He didn’t have John Howard’s touch or judgment nor his ability to convey a message. We went from three-word slogans under Tony [Abbott] to 3,000 under Malcolm and our achievements weren’t effectively communicated as a result.”
Dutton also accused his former party room colleague Julia Banks of claiming to have been bullied after losing out on a frontbench position in Scott Morrison’s reshuffled cabinet.
In an article published in the Australian Women’s Weekly earlier this week, Banks said she felt “devastated” when Morrison became prime minister, as she believed if Turnbull was to be pushed out, Julie Bishop was the only reasonable substitute.
Banks, who spoke out against the bullying and intimidation she said she and others were subjected to during the August leadership spill, quit the Liberal party in the final sitting of parliament, to sit on the crossbench.
Her decision left the government – already in minority after losing Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth to the independent Kerryn Phelps – further weakened in the House and in danger of losing a legislative vote for the first time since the Stanley Bruce government in 1929.
Banks responded to Dutton’s allegations by retweeting a quote from an anonymous cabinet minister calling the Queensland MP “just an egotistical moron who lacks self awareness”.
Turnbull made it clear he was on social media by retweeting an article about the “Titanic of the skies” which crashed in France in 1930, killing all on board, but did not directly address Dutton’s interview.
Rudd took the most direct approach, tweeting about Dutton’s attempts to keep his seat.
Labor has preselected Ali France, a disability advocate, to take on Dutton, while GetUp announced plans to bring the “full force” of it’s “national movement” on Dutton with its own $225,000 campaign war chest.