Malcolm Turnbull. Pic: AAP
Malcolm Turnbull. Pic: AAP

‘A few facts’: Turnbull, Morrison in public spat

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison and the man he replaced, Malcolm Turnbull, are engaged in a teensy little public spat.

The flashpoint was Mr Turnbull's appearance on Australia's behalf at a climate change summit in Bali this week, where he met President Joko Widodo.

Mr Turnbull noted Indonesia had "serious concern" about Mr Morrison's decision to consider moving Australia's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he believed a trade deal with the country would still go ahead.

"There is no question, were that move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia. This is, after all, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world," he said.

Malcolm Turnbull with Joko Widodo. Pic: Instagram
Malcolm Turnbull with Joko Widodo. Pic: Instagram

It seems Mr Morrison did not appreciate the public commentary.

"I got the report back from his visit. The issue of trade and other things was not really part of his brief. My view, our government's view about these issues is clear. That's what we're pursuing," Mr Morrison told 2GB radio this morning.

He proceeded to echo the view Peter Dutton expressed shortly after Mr Turnbull was removed from the Liberal leadership - essentially, that former prime ministers should not interfere.

"I'm always going to act with respect to previous prime ministers, regardless of who they are. But I do think the exemplar about how to go about things post-politics is John Howard, and on the Labor Party side, it's Julia Gillard," he said.

Earlier this week, Mr Turnbull raised a few eyebrows by conspicuously liking a tweet showing Mr Morrison's rating as preferred prime minister had dropped. It seems Mr Morrison noticed.

"I'm aware of it, but I just brush it off," he told 2GB.

The Prime Minister indicated Mr Turnbull would no longer be sent to international events as a representative of the Australian government.

Mr Turnbull responded with a blunt message on Twitter, in which he pretty much called Mr Morrison a liar.

Mr Morrison is not alone in his apparent annoyance. Other government MPs have publicly slapped down Mr Turnbull, suggesting he had made the Israeli embassy issue worse.

"Apparently we sent him over there because he's mates with Joko Widodo, but my gosh, if there was a small problem, he threw petrol on it," Mr Turnbull's former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said yesterday.

"I think it's a very fine line that he's treading," Liberal MP Craig Kelly told Sky News. "He doesn't speak for the government, he speaks for himself."

When Mr Turnbull resigned from parliament, Mr Morrison gave him a unique entitlement, legislating that he and his wife Lucy would have access to international travel expenses "when undertaking international travel approved by the Prime Minister".

That certainly implies the government planned for Mr Turnbull to attend more than one conference. No other former prime minister has the same entitlement.

Mr Turnbull’s mysterious Twitter like, which was undone within minutes. Source: Twitter
Mr Turnbull’s mysterious Twitter like, which was undone within minutes. Source: Twitter

This isn't the first time Mr Turnbull has been accused of interfering since he left Canberra.

In September, he reportedly lobbied his former colleagues to side with Labor and vote for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's eligibility to sit in parliament to be referred to the High Court.

In response, Mr Dutton implied Mr Turnbull was bitter about his role in the week of leadership chaos that led to the former prime minister's downfall.

"Mr Turnbull never raised once with me any issue around Section 44," he said.

"The first it was ever mentioned by Malcolm Turnbull was during the leadership week.

"People can draw their own conclusions."

Like Mr Morrison did this morning, Mr Dutton compared Mr Turnbull's interference to the "dignity" of another former prime minister, John Howard.

"I think John Howard's the gold standard here. I think he conducts himself with dignity, and I hope all former prime ministers can do that," Mr Dutton said.

"I hope Mr Turnbull's able to enjoy his retirement and contribute to the Liberal Party in the same way John Howard has."

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