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Were they worried we'd win? Turnbull hits out at plotters

Politics

Malcolm Turnbull says the Liberals who brought him down might have been worried he would win the next federal election.

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That’s the only explanation he’s got for the August coup that saw him dumped as prime minister, despite internal polling showing the government leading in marginal seats.

“We were doing the best we had done since the 2016 election, as it happened,” he told ABC’s Q&A program on Thursday.

“Maybe they were worried we’d win the election. Maybe they were not worried we’d lose it – maybe they were worried we’d win it.”

He named Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, and former prime minister Tony Abbott as the leaders of the “insurgency” that toppled him.

But Turnbull is taking now Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his word that he wasn’t involved in the coup.

“I take Scott at his word. The insurgency was led by Peter Dutton, was obviously strongly supported by Tony Abbott and others,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull said Morrison took advantage of a situation others created.

“That is how he’s presented the circumstances himself and I’m not in a position to contradict that or question that,” he said.

Federal Liberal MP Craig Kelly, a member of the party’s right, said Turnbull set the parameters for his downfall when he took over from Tony Abbott.

“The answer is simple, when he took over from Tony Abbott, he set himself a KPI of 30 Newspoll losses, he had those and more,” Kelly told the ABC’s Matter of Fact program on Thursday.

“Many of my colleagues, especially those colleagues in Queensland thought that we would stand a better chance at this coming election with a change of prime minister.”

The Coalition did not lead Labor in any of those Newspolls, published by The Australian, although Turnbull’s approval rating was strong.

The next federal election is due by May next year.

Turnbull went on to talk about the “messy week” just before the October 20 by-election for his blue-ribbon Sydney seat of Wentworth – which the Liberals lost, killing off the Coalition’s majority.

“My judgment is that (Liberal candidate) Dave Sharma would have won the election had it been held the Saturday before,” he said.

The government had a number of missteps in that final week including its senators accidentally voting for a white supremacist One Nation motion.

Turnbull also said it would have been “unhelpful” to Sharma if he had joined the campaign trail in Wentworth.

“It also frankly, would not have been very helpful for me maintaining my own peace of mind, after an event like this, it’s very important to look after yourself and your family,” he said.

– AAP

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