Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked if he has the courage to challenge Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the Liberal Party leadership — and his response has raised a few eyebrows.
ABC journalist Leigh Sales asked Mr Turnbull on last night’s 7:30 program whether he lacks the ticker to challenge Mr Abbott.
Mr Turnbull’s response?
“My ticker is in very good shape.”
The minister also insisted that Mr Abbott has his full support, however, and dismissed talk of a second spill as “a mixture of feverish imagination laced with late nights and probably a glass or two of wine too many”.
When Sales asked him about Mr Abbott’s personal attributes, Mr Turnbull said: “To be the leader of a political party you only need one attribute and that is to have the confidence of the party room… He is the best person because he has the confidence of the party room.”
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Mr Turnbull added that the Liberals in the party room were the ones who decided who led the party.
“You can have all the attributes in the world, perceived, real, unreal, imagined – the only attribute that matters is … whether the majority of the party room support you,” he said.
“Yes, there was a spill motion, but it was not carried and we are all behind the leader, every single one of us.”
Mr Turnbull also praised Mr Abbott in more specific terms.
“He’s a very intelligent, courageous, brave man, a very thoughtful guy. He’s got a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour,” he said.
He shrugged off claims that he’s too progressive to become a Liberal leader, by downplaying the difference between his and Mr Abbott.
“The reality is that Tony Abbott and my position on gay marriage is very close. Both of us believe the party room should decide whether there should be a free vote, a conscience vote,” he said. “The idea that there’s this massive gulf between us is quite imaginary and it’s been put around by people frankly who I suspect don’t bare either Tony or me a lot of good will.”
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