There’s a growing sense of deja vu on the road to ruin

Former PM Tony Abbott's hopes of rejoining the frontbench have been dashed by Turnbull.

Former PM Tony Abbott's hopes of rejoining the frontbench have been dashed by Turnbull. Photo: AAP

Tony Abbott is hurting and he is very angry. He was overheard telling a Liberal colleague in an airport lounge that he was finding it very hard to forgive.

Top of the list, of course, is his nemesis Malcolm Turnbull, closely followed by Julie Bishop, Scott Morrison and Christopher Pyne.

Not a bad hate list right at the top of a government he says he is now focussed on getting elected.

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Credlin attacked Abbott publicly and often: book
Abbott steering government into troubled waters
• Morrison painting a false picture of negative gearing

Notice that whenever he pledges loyalty he doesn’t concede that it is about the re-election of the Coalition government. He simply believes he has been robbed. He now says whatever his concerns about the unelected Turnbull government, they “pale into insignificance with the prospect of a Shorten Labor government”.

Hardly a ringing endorsement. But he had better hope a majority of voters share his view. It is more likely they will see the public sniping, the drift and the policy confusion in the same way as they viewed the shambles the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd had become.

Abbott Credlin

Book says both Abbott and Credlin denied having an affair.

Voters know they elected a Liberal-National Coalition government in 2013 that spectacularly imploded after two years. That is the price any government pays when it cuts down its first-term Prime Minister.

As Labor’s Anthony Albanese said on Friday morning: “I’ve seen this movie I know how it ends.”

The most damaging revelation to come out of Niki Savva’s just released book, The Road To Ruin, on the demise of the Abbott government comes from his former chief of staff Peta Credlin.

According to the book, NSW conservative Liberal, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, urged Mr Abbott to sack his chief of staff because the perception was they were having an affair. As well, ministers, MPs and staffers were finding her bullying and command and control intolerable.

He refused.

Two days later, the senator said Ms Credlin came to her and said she was “vitally important to Tony, without her he would not be able to do his job”.

It is a proposition the book says Mr Abbott himself shared, telling as much to Ms Bishop.

Mr Abbott says he’s not in the business of raking over old coals nor in the business of responding to scurrilous gossip and smear.

He says the best response is “the objective record of the Abbott government”.

He lists: stopping the boats, repealing the carbon tax and mining tax, three trade agreements, infrastructure like the western Sydney airport, keeping our country safe and a strong start on the vital task of budget repair.

tony abbott malcolm turnbull

Can Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull ever work together again for the good of the nation? Photo: Getty

Makes you wonder why he was struck down. He certainly still is.

“A dysfunctional opposition couldn’t win an election and a dysfunctional government couldn’t have got so much done in two years.”

Apart from the fact that his contribution to budget repair, or fiscal consolidation from policy decisions was a big fat zero, his claim that the Labor Party is “unreconstructed” simply doesn’t hold water.

Labor has stuck with the one leader this term and is a picture of cohesive unity compared to the internal ructions tearing at the government.

Here Mr Abbott is a big contributor making a very public challenge to Mr Turnbull’s national security credibility last week. And now publicly seeking to limit the Prime Minister’s tax options.

Then this week we have seen Liberal conservatives arc up over Attorney-General George Brandis and Prime Minister Turnbull’s promise to fast-track a marriage equality plebiscite after the election.

Mr Brandis let slip that a July poll was top of mind but with all this buffeting the government who can blame Mr Turnbull?

When a government gets this messy its achievements are obscured. Just ask Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan. He achieved $180 billion of fiscal consolidation from policy decisions only to be lampooned as a failure along with the government he served.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics. He is Contributing Editor for Network Ten, appears on Radio National Breakfast and writes a weekly column on national affairs for The New Daily. He tweets at @PaulBongiorno

For more columns from Paul Bongiorno, click here


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