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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26156

Senator HUTCHINS (3:03 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Hill) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hutchins today relating to Iraq and comments made by Liberal Party candidate, Mr Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull must be one of the most embarrassing Liberal candidates we have seen for some time in the safe Liberal seat of Wentworth in Sydney. I do not know why people should be at all surprised about Malcolm Turnbull trying to slither out of comments he made at a Bondi community centre. When asked by people he probably did not think were taking note of what he was saying, he clearly said that he thought history would judge as a mistake the decision of the Howard government to take this country to war in Iraq. There must be something in the water out there in the eastern suburbs because we should not be at all surprised about Malcolm Turnbull. You only have to look at how he has got to the position he is in now: he shafted the current member for Wentworth, Peter Thomson, with Senator Heffernan's assistance, I have to say.

Government senators—Who's Peter Thomson?

Senator HUTCHINS —I meant Peter King. Then there is Andrew Thomson. You are right: he got shafted as well. Dr Hewson was shafted by his colleagues in the Liberal Party. Dr Hewson, of course, was shafted by the Prime Minister. But the one thing about all this, Mr Deputy President, is this: as you know, Dr Hewson has not given up shafting the Prime Minister. On any day you can see in the Australian Financial Review any number of words written by Dr Hewson, trying to square up with the Prime Minister. As I said, contrast that—where someone is trying to slither out of the comments he made at what he thought was a forum that would not be reported—to the upfront comments made by 43 loyal and dedicated servants of this country, men and women who served this country in peace and in war, who dedicated their adult lives to making sure that the policies enunciated by the government were carried out. On that day this week, they said the decision that was made by this Prime Minister was clearly wrong and dangerous.

So how did we get to this stage of having a situation where the member-who-wants-to-be for Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull, has made these comments? As I said, it should be no surprise to anybody that Malcolm Turnbull said this. The only surprise for the coalition side should be for them to have to question whether Malcolm Turnbull really wants them to win. Think about it: this man believes he was born to be king. It is not in his interests if the coalition win the next election. We know from all the gossip that goes on among the other side that they are a very fragile coalition. If they lose this next election, they will splinter all over the place. As the leader said the other night, we will probably get 18 months of Peter Costello and maybe 18 months of Tony Abbott after that, but we do know that they will splinter. Think about it: if you are Malcolm Turnbull, you are not going to come in here and sit on the back bench like a number of people have done in the last few years; you want to get straight into the main action. It is not in his interest to have a bit of stability in this fragile coalition that we have facing us. So think about it: this man goes out to Bondi and thinks he can make some sort of comment that will not be reported or passed on—and to an audience that is somehow not all that sympathetic—so he tells them what they want to hear. He thinks he can go home to Point Piper, tuck into a gin and tonic with his wife and then it will all be forgotten. Well, it has not been forgotten.

We have had the opportunity, and rightfully we have taken the opportunity, to raise with the Prime Minister and his party leaders what they are going to do about this man, because if he gets here—that is, if it remains a safe Liberal seat and King does not run—they should watch it. Peter Costello should watch it; Tony Abbott should watch it; and so should Brendan Nelson. I think they are the three possible contenders for leadership, so they would all get shafted. This bloke has form, so I urge my colleagues in the coalition not to let him get away with it. I think he should be reprimanded severely. Maybe he himself should get shafted. Maybe we should get the Prime Minister to recall the preselection and get Bill Heffernan and all those other blokes that voted against Peter King, the sitting member, to put someone else in. I tell you this: if you get him down here, you will regret it because you will not be able to trust him, as he has already proven time and time again amongst the Liberal Party set in Sydney.