Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t mince his words as he reveals his time as PM in Nemesis

The prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull features in the second part of Nemesis on ABC TV.

The prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull features in the second part of Nemesis on ABC TV. Photo: ABC TV

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has described Opposition Leader Peter Dutton as a ‘‘thug’’ and his successor Scott Morrison as “duplicitous’’ among the latest revelations of ABC TV’s Nemesis documentary series.

The second part of the three-part retrospective series that screened on Monday night detailed the tumultuous leadership of Turnbull from 2015 to 2018 and the surprise emergence of Scott Morrison as the next PM.

Covering the rise and fall of Turnbull, the 90-minute episode detailed his acrimonious relationship with predecessor Tony Abbott, the success of the same-sex marriage plebiscite brokered by Dutton, the PM’s performance on the world stage including negotiating with then US president Donald Trump, instigating a bonk ban, the Abbott-led ‘‘debilitating’’ challenges in dealing with climate, and the constant leadership instability.

From Craig Laundy’s ‘‘sense of euphoria’’ at Turnbull’s elevation to The Lodge, the observation of former Queensland MP Wyatt Roy – ‘‘When you have stratospheric popularity, it can only go one way’’ – was perhaps apt for Turnbull’s three years in power.

Described by colleagues at the outset as ‘‘ambitious’’, ‘‘intelligent’’ and ‘‘visionary’’ through to ‘‘ruthless’’, ‘‘disappointing’’ and ‘‘flawed’’, Turnbull was seemingly stymied from reaching his potential by relentless politicking by his Coalition colleagues, Nemesis shows.

His prime ministership ended with a leadership spill that featured Dutton and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – both of whom declined to participate in the series – but was ultimately won by Morrison.

Nemesis charts the behind-the-scenes plotting, undermining and number crunching that Ann Sudmalis remembers as a ‘‘horrible week’’ and which Senator Linda Reynolds says unleashed ‘‘blood and hell” on the party.

A pensive Turnbull reflected on his time in power.

‘‘I am very proud of the achievements of my government,” he told the show. “I was in office as PM for just under three years. We got a lot more done than I thought we would, to be honest.’’

Program highlights included:

Barnaby’s fury at bonk ban

On the much-publicised bonk ban, Turnbull said that his deputy PM Barnaby Joyce “absolutely unequivocally denied there was any sexual relationship” between him and his staffer Vikki Campion when rumours surfaced.

“I think I definitely lied to him because it wasn’t his right to know,” said the controversial Nationals MP, who resigned after the scandal and a famous Turnbull press conference outlining his ministerial code of conduct.

Joyce relived his anger when watching back the press conference: “In my previous life, I’d been a bouncer in a pub and I was very close to returning to that field of endeavour. Because I was thinking, you can’t do stuff like that mate.

“I was furious. I didn’t see him as a prime minister then. I saw him as an idiot.”

‘Absolute madness’ of 2016 election

Turnbull revealed he and wife Lucy personally pitched in $1.75 million to fund the Liberal Party’s 2016 double-dissolution election, which resulted in the government’s majority being reduced to one seat.

The election was well known for Labor’s Mediscare in which it alleged the government planned to privatise Medicare.

The eight-week campaign, which was described by various MPs as ‘‘suicidal’’ (Russell Broadbent) and ‘‘absolute madness’’ (Reynolds), ‘‘felt like eight months’’ for Michael McCormack.

In hindsight, Turnbull lamented the result ‘‘certainly did diminish my authority. There’s no question about that.’’

Nemesis is available for viewing at iView. The third and final part screens next Monday at 8pm.

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