POLITICS

Turnbull 2019? PM Intends To Stay In The Top Job For A 'Very Long Time'

He also said he said he'd leave politics if he lost the leadership.

03/07/2017 10:44 AM AEST | Updated 03/07/2017 10:55 AM AEST

CANBERRA -- Malcolm Turnbull has declared he will be "Prime Minister for a very long time" as he tries to clean up a week of distracting leadership rumbles, continuing interventions from his predecessor Tony Abbott and his own admission that he will walk away from politics if he loses the leadership.

Sunday's first anniversary of the last federal election has aired the Liberal Party's proverbial underwear. Government frontbencher, Arthur Sinodinos, on Monday has admitted Abbott "can't be controlled" and the man himself has declared "there's a fight on" with the party "hemorrhaging members" in every state.

Senior government figures have been out trying to hose down any talk of party in-fighting. One, deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, describing it all as "fluff" and a "soap opera" that he wants no part of.

On Sunday, Turnbull placed a marker on Sunday in News Corp tabloids that he would leave politics if he lost the leadership. That could topple the government as it has a one seat majority.

On Monday, at an internships announcement, it was a different message.

"I intend to be Prime Minister for a very long time," he told reporters in Sydney. "I know you may think that I'm, at 62, I am too old."

"I can assure you I will going to be Prime Minister for a very long time. I will be running at the 2019 election and will win. So that's my commitment. I will be Prime Minister for a long time and I look forward to meeting you at many press conferences like this over many, many years to come."

Asked about Abbott, he responded, "The only personalities I'm interested in are 24 million Australians".

But the man he replaced in September 2015 has spoken out, yet again, indicating he is not going anywhere quietly. And he is being backed by Sydney shock jock Alan Jones, who likened Abbott on Monday to Australia's new WBO welterweight world champion Jeff Horn, "fighting for hope in the Liberal rank and file against the odds."

The former PM took the cue.

"I want us to be the best possible government and we will be the best possible government if we come up with policies that are going to take pressure off power prices, take pressure off housing prices," Tony Abbott on Sydney radio 2GB.

"Let's significantly scale back immigration, get the budget under control."

AAP Image/Brendan Esposito
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the Liberal Party Democratic Reform event in Sydney.

Abbott said it is a simple truth of the Liberal Party that it is "hemorrhaging members" and that the rank and file wanted more of a say. He said the membership needed to be "liberated" from factional powerbrokers and lobbyists.

It is part of his alternative vision for Australia, which he outlined over the weekend.

He has even came up with a Trumpian slogan to "Make Australia Work Again."

"This is basic democracy Alan. It is elemental politics and we need is a bit more basic democracy and elemental smart politics inside the Liberal Party," he told Jones.

"There's a fight by the membership, by the rank and file, to take back what is rightly theirs, control over the lay party.

"And then there's a fight for the kind of policy which a Liberal-National government should be on about. Now, traditionally what we've been on about is lower taxes, smaller government, greater freedom."

Abbott's latest intervention comes as Turnbull prepares to head to Germany this week for the G20 summit.

The Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has, on Monday, described the ongoing distractions within the Liberal party as "fluff" and a "soap opera."

"I want to make absolutely certain as the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia that Mr Turnbull does not lose the leadership, that we have a steady ship," he told ABC radio. "Because I want my nation, your nation, your listener's nation to be in a stronger place."

"If other people want to have other sort of brutal discussions about basically fluff and mirrors well they can do it, but I am not going down that path.

"I am not going to get involved in this cursed soap opera. If other people want to get involved with that go right ahead."

Government frontbencher and Turnbull backer, Arthur Sinodinos, is clearly frustrated, indicating Abbott can't be controlled.

"If you are the government, you can only control what you can control," he told the ABC.

"I can't control Tony Abbott, so what I can do as a minister is keep doing the things I am doing in my portfolio, what the Prime Minister is doing, what we are all doing as a team, as a cabinet, as a political party, get that message out there. Get that message out about what we can control."

The drama can only benefit the Opposition which has had its own fair share of in-fighting and political blood-shedding. Labor Leader Bill Shorten has been involved in the changing of the ALP leadership from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd again.

Acting Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek said she feels "bad for the country".

"We spent too much, we wasted too much time fighting each other. And I think we learnt a very bitter lesson in a very hard way," she told RN Breakfast. "We lost government soon than we should have."

"And I know what is going on would be consuming way too much of the Prime Minister's intellectual and emotional energy and it is not good for the country."

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