Memphis on the Yarra

frasers pantsLong before he entered his dotage and became very odd indeed, Malcolm Fraser ousted Billy Snedden as opposition leader and vowed to catch Gough Whitlam “with his pants down“. He did that and then lost his own some years later in Memphis under curious circumstances.

Malcolm Turnbull has gone him one better, dropping his own metaphoric strides during an “excruciating” interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell and catching himself out at the same time. The moment came as he was asked when, exactly, he learned of his Deputy Prime Minister’s dalliance. In today’s Australian Graham Richardson explains the perils of being deeply in love, not with a press aide but the sound of your own voice:

The Prime Minister … has few close personal friends with political savvy — so, apart from Lucy and some of his staff, he trusts his own often flawed judgment.

His lack of forethought and his desperate obsession to come out as a hero have led him to two disasters within a week.

First, he should never have gone as far as he did in last Thursday’s press conference. Having forced Barnaby Joyce into taking this week off so the added embarrassment of him being acting prime minister could be sidestepped was a big move. Now that he was on a roll, he could announce his ban on ministers having sexual relations with staff members. He was outdoing even the best of the #MeToo activists.

Then he let the moment get to him and he blurted out the words that still haunt him: “Barnaby made a shocking error of judgment.” Joyce responded in his typical tough and crude manner by calling Turnbull “inept”.

Already the seeds of public distrust were sown. After that ­exchange there was no chance Australians would consider any attempted reconciliation as credible. The dogs of war had been unleashed, as had a ticking time bomb for Turnbull.

The Prime Minister is today in Washington, half a world away from the mess he failed to head off before Barnaby Joyce’s love life became public knowledge. How must Mr Turnbull’s hosts rate his long-term prospects?

Richardson’s column can be read at this link. To hear the Prime Minister drop trou’ on 3AW as he attempts to explain why the moral outrage he aired for the cameras last week appears to have been set on extended time-delay.

UPDATE:  Also in The Australian and mirrored at his website, there is this and much more from Tony Abbott.

One thing I am not going to cop is gratuitous criticism from ministers who are only in government because I led them there. It is the prime minister’s right to choose his ministerial team and,  given some of the policies of this government, I’m happy to serve on the backbench.

He is only just getting warmed up.

Down in Victoria — and it’s always down these days — Labor Premier Daniel Andrews has just witnessed a factional power broker and one of his ministers exchanging loud abuse, alleged threats, accusations of menace involving a butter knife and, according to witnesses, much mutual cursing in Turkish, apparently a language rich with salty turns of phrase about other people’s mothers.

Nasty as that altercation may have been, it would seem a picture of harmony in comparison with the government currently led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

— roger franklin

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