Were they worried we’d win? Turnbull asks

Australia

Malcolm Turnbull says the Liberals who brought him down might have been worried he would win the next election.

That’s one of the only explanations he’s got for the August coup that saw him dumped as prime minister, as internal polling showed the government leading in marginal seats.

“We were doing the best we had done since the 2016 election, as it happened,” he told the ABC’s Q&A on Thursday night.

“Maybe they were worried we’d win the election. Maybe they were not worried we’d lose it – maybe they were worried we’d win it.”

He named Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, and former prime minister Tony Abbott as the coup leaders.

But Mr Turnbull takes Scott Morrison at his word that he wasn’t involved in the coup to bring him down as prime minister, despite speculation Mr Morrison used his supporters to bring on a spill.

“I take Scott at his word. The insurgency was led by Peter Dutton, was obviously strongly supported by Tony Abbott and others,” Mr Turnbull told the ABC’s Q&A on Thursday night.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison took advantage of a situation others created.

“That is how he’s presented the circumstances himself and I’m not in a position to contradict that or question that,” he said.

Mr Turnbull also said a “messy week” just before the Wentworth by-election killed off the coalition’s majority, not his lack of campaigning on the ground.

“My judgment is that (Liberal candidate) Dave Sharma would have won the election had it been held the Saturday before,” he said.

The coalition had a number of scandals in that final week, including senators accidentally voting for a white supremacist One Nation motion and a plan to move an embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Mr Turnbull says he believed campaigning in Wentworth would have “unhelpful” to Mr Sharma’s prospects.

“It also frankly, would not have been very helpful for me maintaining my own peace of mind, after an event like this, it’s very important to look after yourself and your family,” he said.

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