Malcolm Turnbull has called Andrew Bolt ‘deranged’ and ‘unhinged’ in response to Mr Bolt’s suggestion that Mr Turnbull is seeking to take over leadership of the Coalition.
In an interview with Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday, Mr Bolt suggested that Malcolm Turnbull had his eye on the Prime Minister’s job. Mr Bolt followed up his comments in a column published yesterday, suggesting that Mr Turnbull’s dinner with Clive Palmer last week indicates that Mr Turnbull is getting closer to Mr Abbott’s “natural enemies”, as he gets ready to take over the party leadership.
Mr Turnbull was not impressed, and he responded with the following statement:
“Now, let me say this: it borders on the demented to string together a dinner with Clive Palmer and my attending, as the Communications Minister, the launch by a cross-party group of Friends of the ABC and say that that amounts to some kind of threat or challenge to the Prime Minister. It is quite unhinged … And I just have to say to Mr Bolt: he proclaims loudly that he is a friend of the Government. Well, with friends like Bolt we don’t need any enemies. Thank you.”
It seems that the war of the words is not over yet, with Mr Bolt responding in his column today, “He could have shrugged that off. Instead he abused me as “crazy”, “unhinged” and bordering on the “demented”, and got exactly the coverage he’d expect from such an over-the-top attack.”
Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has also criticised Mr Turnbull’s response, saying it was over the top. “I thought that Malcolm’s response was too strident, I thought it was inappropriate, it was unwise to do and I think it’s just kicked the whole thing along … Andrew is entitled to his opinions, I think he is a very principled man.”
Labor MP Jason Clare asked Prime Minister Tony Abbott whether he supported Mr Turnbull or Mr Bolt in this matter, to which the Prime Minister responded, “In any dispute between a member of my front bench and a member of the fourth estate, I am firmly on the side of my front bencher.”
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Watch Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s response in this video.
Malcolm Turnbull has been noticeably quiet during the aftermath of the Abbott Government’s first budget. Polls show that Mr Abbott’s own popularity has dropped significantly over the last few weeks, and many people I’ve talked to recently, both from the left and right of politics, were hoping that Mr Turnbull was distancing himself from the budget with a view to taking over the party. Never have I heard so many Greens voters say, “I hope Andrew Bolt is right.”
A change in the leadership now seems unlikely. If Mr Turnbull is planning to take over Mr Abbott’s role (or his supporters are planning it for him), he has damaged his position by coming out so strongly against the idea. It would make him seem like a liar, the very quality which has damaged Mr Abbott’s reputation (also a budget which taxes the poor, but that’s not today’s discussion).
Mr Bernardi’s comments made him sound like a bit of a twit. In one breath he told us that Mr Bolt is entitled to his opinions, while condemning Malcolm Turnbull for sharing his thoughts.
I think the person who came out on top in all of this is Prime Minister Tony Abbott. One of his rivals has vehemently and publically denied any desire to take over the leadership. A reporter’s scaremongering was shot down in front of the cameras. And he should be congratulated for answering a question without qualifying his answer, as he did when he came out in support of his own front bench. It’s a rare act to see in Parliament these days.
What do you think? Should Malcolm Turnbull take over the leadership? Was he right to respond to Andrew Bolt’s comments, or should politicians rise above the scaremongering of the media?