Bitter feud at centre of Liberal fall
AT the centre of the disastrous collapse of the Liberal Party is a feud between two men: Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.
It was a conflict so bitter that it ate away at the Government from the inside, and eventually destroyed it.
Mr Abbott has been labelled a "wrecker", so angry at his own ousting that he joined forces with the conservative faction of the party to make it almost impossible for the Prime Minister to continue, and propel Peter Dutton to call for a spill.
Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett traced the animosity back to when Mr Abbott replaced Mr Turnbull as leader of the Liberals in 2009 in last night's Four Corners.
"Everyone blames Tony and I understand that, but it goes back to when Tony defeated Malcolm Turnbull in Opposition by one vote and that laid the seeds to this continuing hostility between them both," he told the ABC program. "So they're both responsible."
Three years ago, the roles were reversed when Mr Turnbull replaced Mr Abbott as prime minister, leaving him with the dubious title of one of Australia's shortest-serving leaders.
Former High Commissioner to the UK and Howard-era Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, told Four Corners: "We saw through the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years the bitterness that follows from changing the Prime Minister in the party room.
"There is amongst those who are losers in these situations - perhaps one could say, inevitably - a high degree of bitterness and that can in turn lead to acts of attempted revenge."
At the time, Mr Turnbull referred to the Liberal Party coming behind Labor in Newspoll 30 times. They were words that would "come back to haunt him", noted Liberal MP Ken Wyatt.
Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells told Four Corners: "The argument has been put that the Prime Minister set himself a KPI of 30 Newspolls.
"The party room made a decision in regards to Tony and I think there are some unresolved issues following that. Certainly, Tony has been very active in maintaining a degree of agitation about his position and I think that has continued to accumulate. For Tony, this is unfinished business. He's got his agenda.
"It's now become a very complex situation. Of all the leadership challenges we've seen, I think this is the most complex of all of them."
As Mr Turnbull tried to appease the right wing of the party, he gave up some of his more left-leaning principles, such as his National Energy Guarantee to battle climate change. It failed to save him.
"Here's a man who said once, any party that doesn't support me on emissions trading, I don't want to lead," said Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch. "And then he rolls over on the NEG, he rolls over on this.
"As he tried to bend to accommodate the destruction of the Abbott world and the conservative right, I think he lost some of his cred and a lot of his soul.
"If he'd only been the real Malcolm Turnbull, he might still be there today, but as he rolled over on things, he rolled and he rolled, you start saying, what do you still stand for?"
Liberal Party treasurer Michael Yabsley placed the blame with his predecessor. "What Tony has done is really regrettable, lamentable. Tony made something of a statesmanlike speech when Malcolm defeated him for the leadership … He has not delivered on that.
"On the contrary, he has destabilised. He has really done everything he could to make things as difficult as possible for Malcolm Turnbull."
With Mr Turnbull planning to resign from Parliament by Friday, some Liberal MPs thought Mr Abbott should have done the same when he was ousted.
"He chose to not leave which of course I, and most people, think previous prime ministers ought to do," said Liberal Party president Nick Greiner. "He chose not to do that. He's obviously behaved in the way that everyone in Australia can see."
Mr Turnbull himself remarked to a gathering of supporters last night: "Former prime ministers are best out of Parliament, not in it, and I think recent events best underline the value of that observation."
Perhaps former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, newly promoted to Special Envoy for Drought Assistance and Recovery in Scott Morrison's cabinet, summed it up the best. "It's ambition, politics right back to Roman times, you can go to kings and queens, Middle Ages … do you think that human nature has changed that much?
"It's called ambition, it's called ego, that's how it works."