The Abbott Assassination Post Mortem
Paul Zanetti is a Walkley award winning syndicated cartoonist with over 30 years in the media. He blogs at www.zanettisview.com
AUSTRALIA has earned itself the unenviable reputation as the coup capital of the world. Crime scene investigators are carefully combing over the events that led to yet another cutting down of a first term Prime Minister.
As the forensics pick through the evidence and interview witnesses, what’s emerging is not what was first assumed.
Scott Morrison has been unfairly maligned. As it seems has Julie Bishop.
The airwaves and social media are littered with angry Liberal voters turning on Bishop – once the team’s golden girl and a favoured future PM.
Followers of her facebook page are spraying it with a mix of rage and disappointment for her role in downing Abbott.
Truth is, neither played a part in bringing down Abbott.
Morrison voted for and remained loyal to Abbott to the end.
His refusal to do a last minute deal to be Abbott’s deputy, declining to knife his mate Joe Hockey, was to prevent further Liberal blood letting.
It was an honourable gesture.
Aware that Abbott had lost the numbers, being part of a losing ticket would stain him, and cost him the Treasurer’s job should Turnbull succeed which was on the cards.
There was a lot to weigh up in a short pressure cooker meeting.
Core conservatives have branded Julie Bishop disloyal and self-serving, the Liberal equivalent of Julia Gillard. Today’s Daily Telegraph is labeling her Lady MacBeth. That, too, is unfair. The story is based on opinions of her colleagues rather than a timeline of facts.
Bishop’s warning to Tony Abbott apprising him of his predicament when she felt the threat was real has been wrongly misconstrued into a demand that he stand down.
Fact is, Julie Bishop didn’t ask Abbott to step down which is what Abbott told Morrison, and leaked by the PM’s Office.
Bishop told Abbott he had lost the support of much of the party, that Turnbull was about to challenge. On request she suggested three options to him:
1) Do nothing and see if Turnbull was bluffing
2) Do nothing and wait for Turnbull to declare his hand
3) Bring it to a head, call a spill and defend his leadership
Turnbull and his plotters had been patiently white-anting for some time.
After he lost the leadership to Abbott in 2009 by a narrow margin by one vote (42-41), Turnbull retreated to Europe with wife Lucy for a break to consider his future. He seriously canvassed spitting the dummy and leaving politics.
But what would he do?
He already had more money than he could spend in 10 lifetimes. Making even more money seemed an empty existence.
What’s money without power?
Turnbull had been telling anybody since he was 20 he would be Prime Minister by the time he was 40. When asked by journalist David Dale, which party, Turnbull replied, “It doesn’t matter.”
All his life Turnbull believed the Prime Ministership would be his. Getting there was a mere formality.
As with Rudd, others would recognise his brilliance, his genius, and his destiny.
Even when he was rolled for the leadership by one vote he couldn’t bring himself to walk away from another crack at the Prime Ministership.
It was just a matter of waiting and striking again.
Surely gaffe-prone Abbott would slip up terminally some day. Turnbull confidentially assumed his time would come.
Before politics, before the Liberal Party for years, Turnbull tried for pre-selection of the Labor Party. Almost all his mates, mentors, idols, partners and ideological influences were socialists and Laborites.
He approached Labor heavyweights and staffers with hints and outright solicitation.
Unfortunately for Malcolm, it’s much harder getting a top spot in the Labor Party than it is by starting your own law firm or bank, both of which Turnbull had done and in which he succeeded brilliantly.
The way the ALP works is from the bottom up, not from the top to top.
Malcolm would need to pay his dues, if not in the union movement, then at least as a numbers man.
All much too pedestrian for Malcolm.
So he turned to the Libs where, after a successful career as a leading lawyer then merchant banker, later bought by Goldman Sachs, which he ran, he had the image, connections and look of a top end of town toff. He got pre-selection for Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs seat of Wentworth, not without accusations of some skullduggery by the sitting Liberal.
The mega rich socialist in a top hat and tie complete with $50 million Sydney harbor mansion was destined to be PM, 20 years later than expected.
The Turnbull Prime Ministerial coup was always going to happen, given an opportune time.
Tony Abbott had been granted 6 months reprieve to deliver ‘good government’ after his near death experience earlier this year. His personal (and the party) polls continued to bounce around in losing territory after seven months.
Every politician on the receiving end of a bad poll will tell you the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day. Bollocks.
Andrew Robb said this week, "Polls are the share price of political party."
It’s incumbent on the board, on behalf of its shareholders, to get that share price up.
That’s what the Liberal Party did this week.
John Howard, one of Tony Abbott’s greatest supporters, has long explained politics by the simple law of arithmetic – it’s all about the numbers.
Tony Abbott, he said, knows this better than anybody and knows the rules. He’s played by them all his political life.
The catalyst for the spill came late last week. Tensions had been rising as each poll showed the government struggling against a hopeless Labor Party led by a deeply disliked Bill Shorten, dogged by union and personal scandals, yet was preferred Prime Minister over Tony Abbott.
Abbott suffered from a disconnect from younger voters in particular who had no appreciation nor care for the hard yards he’d put in on borders, the budget, free trade etc.
Many Gen Zs see Abbott as too old world, too stuffy, too stodgy, too serious, and he won’t let gays marry. He has no redeeming cool factor.
If only he grew a hipster beard, he may have polled better.
By last week Turnbull and his plotters were close to getting the numbers for a tip at the Prime Ministership.
The PM’s office leaked a story to the Daily Telegraph that Abbott was gong to dump six ministers and it named them.
Turnbull sourced the story to Peta Credlin, Abbott’s disliked Chief Of Staff.
That was enough for wavering MPs to reach out to Turnbull and his plotters.
Turnbull called Bishop last Friday, purring, "The numbers are coming to me, I've got the numbers."
Bishop wasn’t convinced until last Monday morning of the coup when MPs approached her and showed her a list of names.
Now realising the gravity of the threat to Abbott, she told the Turnbull MPs that she was under an obligation to tell the Prime Minister.
As soon as Tony Abbott arrived at his office just before midday on Monday she advised him he’d lost the confidence of the majority of his MPs.
He asked for her advice so she offered him the three aforementioned options.
At 3:00 pm Turnbull declared his intention to the PM.
At 4:00 pm he publicly announced to a waiting media throng his intention to challenge Abbott.
An hour later Abbott called Morrison asking if he would stand as his deputy.
At that stage Julie Bishop was still the deputy and had no plan to ticket with Turnbull.
Morrison asked Abbott why he was dumping on Bishop.
Abbott said Bishop had asked him to stand down, that she was ticketing with Turnbull, so he needed a new deputy. This wasn’t true.
It was a desperate act of panic by Abbott to go to the party with a strong, popular united ticket with the government’s best performer as his deputy.
This was Abbott’s best shot to block Turnbull. In the deal Abbott threw in the Treasurer’s job to Morrison, in effect chucking his old battler mate Joe Hockey under the proverbial bus.
Morrison rejected the offer, urging Tony Abbott to offer the deputy’s job to their mutual mate Hockey.
But Hockey didn’t have the electoral appeal to many in the party room – who felt Joe should have been cut adrift months ago.
So Abbott went into the party room on the night of the coup with a losing ticket - Defence Minister Kevin Andrews as deputy.
After Morrison left Abbott’s office he asked Julie Bishop if she had dumped on Tony by ticketing with Turnbull. She denied both.
Julie Bishop had learned Abbott had offered the deputy job to Morrison from Morrison.
Morrison has proven to be a decent bloke who doesn’t rat, unlike our new PM who plotted and sniped to the end, the Libs’ Kevin Rudd, determined to seize the prized crown of leadership.
It was only a matter of time.
Disillusioned, angry conservatives unfairly blame Julie Bishop for her role in the events.
There’s no disloyalty from her given the circumstances, but she ended up voting for Turnbull on his ticket.
Julie Bishop was placed in a very difficult position by the unfolding events.
So we now find ourselves in the very peculiar position of having the first Labor Prime Minister of the Liberal Party.
Many Liberal supporters find this anomaly unacceptable refusing to vote for a Liberal Party led by Malcolm Turnbull.
I have it on good authority that an alternative right-of-centre party; launching in four weeks is being inundated by requests for membership.
The waves from this week’s spill are rolling on.
A split conservative vote could very well deliver victory to a Bill Shorten led Labor Party next year.