Malcolm Turnbull has said that if he had not become leader, the Coalition would have lost this election “very resoundingly” under Tony Abbott.
Turnbull delivered his blunt assessment in an interview with Sarah Ferguson for the ABC’s Four Corners; Bill Shorten was also interviewed.
Turnbull’s comment is in line with a Galaxy poll published in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend that suggested Shorten would have been elected with a large majority if up against Abbott. When people were asked how they would vote if Abbott were leader, Labor led 53-47% in two-party terms.
Turnbull dodged when asked if, with the election tight, he was grateful for the buffer of seats Abbott had left him.
He again made it clear there would be no room for Abbott in cabinet in a re-elected Turnbull government, saying he would keep his present team.
Turnbull, pressed on the qualities that fitted him to be the country’s leader, named “endurance, resilience, openness to new ideas”. He said he was “very determined and consistent but I’m always prepared to listen to a better argument or a better proposition”.
Responding to a question about his leadership qualities, Shorten said: “I never give up. I respect people to my core. I’m a listener. My view of leadership is to be the coach. I don’t have to be the full forward or the ruckman.”
Shorten said that as opposition leader he had worked “to make sure the rampant factionalism or personality politics takes a back seat to unity”. Asked whether he was still the same faction man as worked to replace Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard, Shorten said “no”.
“When you become the leader and you go for 1000 days, you realise that some of the arguments which you used to think are important are just not as important as getting your policies together and being united.”
Turnbull insisted his views on climate change had not altered. But he said that in the years since he had strongly advocated emissions trading, trading schemes had “worked better in theory than in practice”.
Asked whether he could be as good a leader as Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Neville Wran, whom he had admired Turnbull said he would certainly aim to be “as good a reformer as all of those three”. They “saw the world as it is .. recognised the challenges as they were … they never, ever hid under the doona”.
Questioned about the people in the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, Turnbull said the government was seeking to find alternative places for them to settle or to encourage them to return to their country of origin. This “will be easier to do after the election” because people now were being encouraged to wait – they were being told that if there was a Labor government they would be able to come to Australia.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra