Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed former prime ministers Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd as “miserable ghosts” who cannot move on from their time in power, sharing his opinion in an unscripted remark caught on tape in New York.
Mr Turnbull also attacked the “crazy” leadership coup that ended his leadership five weeks ago and insisted his government could have won the next election if he had remained prime minister.
But he vowed not to be driven by hate and declared his days in partisan politics were now over.
Mr Turnbull was speaking to a young leadership group in New York over the weekend and took questions on the leadership spill that installed Scott
Morrison as Prime Minister on August 24.
“Look, the events in August 24, when this, I know what you describe it as, a coup, is crazy,” he told one questioner, in an audio obtained by Chris Uhlmann of the Nine Network.
Mr Turnbull said the government’s last tracking poll for July “had us at 52-48 two party preferred” in key marginal seats.
Then prime minister Kevin Rudd and opposition leader Tony Abbott in 2013.
Photo: Andrew Meares
“We were very, very competitive, but for reasons that they’ve not been able to explain, you know, there was an element of the party and of the media that wanted to blow the government up, and they did,” he said.
“And of course, they didn’t get their guy up, they got ScoMo – and I wish him well. Seriously.
“If you want to be sane, and sanity is important – it’s rare but it’s important – you’ve got to take a live by the sword, die by the sword approach.
“But then, when you stop being prime minister that’s it.
“There is no way I’m going to be hanging around like an embittered Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott – well, seriously, I mean, these people are just sort of like miserable, miserable ghosts.”
Mr Turnbull said he was disappointed to see some of the things that former ABC chairman Justin Milne, who he described as a “good guy”, said to former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, telling her the government “hated” a particular journalist.
“I don’t hate anyone. I do not hate anyone, and one of the best things you can do is drive negative emotions out of yourself,” Mr Turnbull told the New York group.
“There may be people who deserve to be hated, but the reason not to hate is the same reason not to smoke – it kills you.”
Later he told the audience that his days in politics are over but that his interest in issues such as the republic and climate change would continue.
“I’ll obviously express view on big issues, energy, constitutional matters – I’m not going to become a Trappist monk,” he said.
“But my days of being involved in partisan politics are over, for good or not, but they’re over, and they were always going to be over at some point.”
Appearing on the ABC Insiders program on Sunday, Mr Morrison said he was confident the government would have won the next election under Mr Turnbull.
Mr Morrison deflected all blame for the leadership insurrection to Liberal MPs who voted for it.
“As [former prime minister] John Howard always said, the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party is the gift of the parliamentary party and you respect their decisions and you get on with your job,” he said.