CANBERRA -- As is usual these days, underneath every triumphant and even middling announcement by the Turnbull Government, there is Tony.
Abbott, of course.
Thursday was supposed to be Malcolm Turnbull being hard on immigration (again), standing up for "Australian values" and saying no to any prospective migrant who has issues with women.
Later in the day, it was a Prime Minister attempting to get an energy boost from an announcement in Northern Tasmania on a +$2.5 million feasibility study into increasing the pumped hydro power capacity of Tassie Hydro. "This is a great nation-building story here, just like Snowy Hydro," Turnbull told reporters in Launceston.
But there is another story doing the rounds. And it has been since September 2015.
Secret polling: How Malcolm Turnbull helped 'save' Tony Abbott https://t.co/dYq58HStxw— Phillip Coorey (@PhillipCoorey) April 19, 2017
The Financial Review reported on Thursday that Turnbull intervened to save Abbott, politically, 10 days out before the 2016 election after Liberal Party polling found the former Prime Minister was in serious danger of losing his long held seat of Warringah on preferences to either to independent James Mathison, Labor or Nick Xenophon Team candidate Marie Rowland.
The Prime Minister assisted with robo-calls -- and former Prime Minister John Howard and reportedly broadcasters Ray Hadley and Alan Jones were also enlisted -- and Abbott survived with 61.6 percent of the two-party-preferred vote (against the Greens), a decline of 4 percent.
Turnbull warned Warringah voters: Return Abbott or face hung parliament or Shorten Labor Govt. Even promised to save Reef! Story SMH soon pic.twitter.com/3umYGMKwA7— Heath Aston (@HeathJAston) April 20, 2017
To Abbott, the news that he was on the nose with the electorate and needed Turnbull was "sneaky and underhand" and had to stop.
"It really does need to stop. It is absolutely corrosive of trust," he told Channel Nine on Thursday.
"The polling in question was very, very closely held. I had it, (then Liberal Party Federal Director) Tony Nutt had it, the Prime Minister had it and I'm just very disappointed that someone has chosen to put it out there for self-serving reasons."
The number of people who had had access to the polling may have changed, but it is of note that it's turned up now, just days after Abbott's latest incursion into leadership issues. He's defying calls for him to quit politics and insists he had a "right" and a "duty" to speak out.
So who would benefit from leaking? It could make Turnbull look like a hero sweeping into save the man he ousted, but any mention of Tony Abbot does Turnbull no favours.
In the end it does not really matter who did the leaking. The Turnbull/Abbott relationship is the weeping sore of the Liberal Party which keeps getting split open.
For his part, Turnbull said in Launceston that he does not know who did the leaking but he is going to "make inquiries".
"These things are always regrettable," he told reporters. "We put in a great team effort last year.
"I know there have been a few regrets about the election result and we're obviously very sorry to lose our great three amigos here in Tasmania but we won the election, we're getting on with the job and we're delivering right around Australia including for the people of Tasmania."
That's it, they won the election. By one seat. It is lucky he has got Tony, in a manner of speaking.
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