Tony Abbott (right) reiterated that he had been comfortable with Malcolm Turnbull’s speech.MALCOLM Turnbull showed his speech exhorting politicians to be more honest and criticising Parliament’s question time to Tony Abbott well ahead of delivering it.
The speech has been interpreted in the media as critical of the Opposition Leader and some Liberals were riled by it, privately blasting Mr Turnbull.
The Coalition’s communications spokesman said in Perth on Wednesday that political debate in Australia had deteriorated to the point where the nation was being besieged by spin, exaggeration and lies, and suffered from ”a deficit of trust”.
Mr Abbott disagreed with Mr Turnbull’s suggestion that a version of the British Parliament’s question time – where the prime minister only appears once a week – would be better than the present system, which leads to the PM usually being the focus of attention every day and means many policy areas are not being scrutinised.
But sources said the Opposition Leader did not have a problem with the speech.
Mr Abbott contacted Mr Turnbull yesterday to reiterate that he had been comfortable with the speech.
In the address, Mr Turnbull said that for the past two years the questions from the opposition had been almost entirely focused on people smuggling and the carbon tax. ”Are they really the only important issues facing Australia?” he asked.
He said he was not criticising Mr Abbott or Prime Minister Julia Gillard and added that there also was a ”concentration of themes” when he was leader.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey disagreed with Mr Turnbull’s improvements for question time. ”I don’t think that works in Australia,” he said yesterday.
Under the Keating government a variation of the British system was tried, with the PM not attending every day.
Mr Abbott told Channel Nine that he had spoken to Mr Turnbull on several occasions about the speech. ”I thought it was an interesting and elegant speech. Malcolm showed me a copy. We had a dialogue about it.
”We are not a Stalinist party. I think Malcolm was perfectly entitled to give the Winterton oration and what he said was a perfectly reasonable take on current politics.”
Mr Abbott said there was ”a lot of truth” in what Mr Turnbull said, but put the ”disaster” of question time down to having a prime minister and a treasurer who did not tell the truth.
Asylum seekers and the carbon tax took up so much of question time ”because these are the two biggest failures of this government”.
Turnbull sources said he had had a huge and positive reaction to the wide-ranging speech..
Mr Abbott again had to bat away Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce’s defiance of the Coalition’s policy over Cubbie Station.
The opposition is accepting the government’s approval of a bid by a Chinese-led consortium, but it has been opposed by Senator Joyce.
”Now Barnaby is entitled to feel dismayed about this – he’s a local. But the important thing for the Coalition is that we do have a strong and clear policy on which everyone has agreed. You have to have a process; we support foreign investment but it has to be in the national interest,” Mr Abbott said.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott had not had a good week. ”He’s got Barnaby Joyce rampaging around on the right breaking shadow cabinet solidarity, and then he’s got Mr Turnbull belling the cat about what’s happening in the Coalition from the left.”
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