Outgoing Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looked composed and resigned to his fate as he talked to the press but he also lobbed some live grenades at those who had ousted him.
With the pressures of a madcap week in Australian politics now behind him, Turnbull reflected on his almost three years as Prime Minister and agreed the past days had been “madness”.
He named Peter Dutton, the unsuccessful challenger for his leadership and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as destabilising influences who “chose to attack the government from within” and were desperate to bring down his government at any cost. The push from Dutton and his supporters ultimately failed, with Treasurer Scott Morrison instead winning the spill in a 45-40 result.
Having previously described Dutton and his supporters as “bullies”, today he painted them as “insurgents” and said they “were not rewarded” in the leadership spill.
In contrast, he singled out his former deputy, Julie Bishop for praise and said she had been “our finest Foreign Minister”.
— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) August 24, 2018
“I want to thank the Australian people for the support they’ve given me and my government over the last nearly three years,” he said.
“We’ve been able to achieve as a progressive government, as a progressive Liberal coalition government, enormous reforms and very, very substantial achievements.”
— The Australian (@australian) August 24, 2018
Turnbull slams “disloyalty and deliberate insurgency” on his way out
“Australians will be just dumbstruck and so appalled by the conduct of the last week,” Turnbull told the assembled media.
“You know, to imagine that a government would be rocked by this sort of disloyalty and deliberate insurgency, is the best way to describe it, deliberate destructive action.”
He did not give a date for his own exit from parliament but it is understood he will resign as soon as practicable.
In a thinly-veiled swipe at the conservative factions that triggered the leadership spill, Turnbull pointedly said that xenophobia and racism should have no place in political discourse and said that in his view, Australia was “the most successful multicultural society in the world”.
Malcolm Turnbull confirms he’ll leave politics”soon”. By election.
— Barrie Cassidy (@barriecassidy) August 24, 2018
He said he was proud of “once in a generation” reforms his government had implemented in childcare. He also pointed to greater federal engagement with Australia’s largest cities on infrastructure projects.
Another area he was proud of was the increased expenditure on Australia’s defence forces, which he described as the most substantial of any peacetime Australian government.
Turnbull’s Liberal party has been trailing its Labor opposition in recent polls and there is little to suggest the change in leadership will return it to a winning position at the next federal election which must be held by 18 May 2019 but is now likely to be brought forward.
The last Australian Prime Minister to serve a full term was John Howard, who became the national leader back on 11 March 1996.