Real culprit behind Turnbull’s demise
An explosive new documentary looking at last year's leadership spill has lived up to its name, as fingers were pointed in every direction over the demise of Malcolm Turnbull's governance.
The two-part series, titled Bad Blood/New Blood, which aired on Sky News Tuesday night looked at the knifing of Mr Turnbull in close detail - and showed why the Coalition thought it was necessary.
It also showed how the former PM clung on for dear life to stay in the top job - including how he secretly called in MP Arthur Sinodinos, who camped out in his office and gave him advice on how to beat Peter Dutton.
Mr Dutton did not hold back in his criticism of Mr Turnbull, saying: "I still don't harbour animosity toward Malcolm now, I think it's unfortunate, I think it's sad, actually that he's trashed his reputation in the way that he has."
However, it was not Mr Dutton who emerged as the man who brought down Mr Turnbull's leadership, but rather one of his closest allies, Mathias Cormann.
Turnbull-backer Craig Laundy told the documentary-makers that it was Mr Cormann's defection that delivered the fatal blow to his leadership.
"Our problem was we'd banked Mathias' support. And that ended up being the piece of the puzzle that brought the whole tent down." he said. "It was devastating and turned out to be the mortal wound."
Sky News journalist David Speers asked whether the defections of Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash that were as much to blame, and Mr Laundy simply said: "It's more Mathias".
It's claimed that the three high-profile defectors - who withdrew their support from Mr Turnbull in a press conference on "spill week" - paved the way for other ministers to resign.
"When someone of that stature goes, it sends a very powerful message and it's one that's very hard to combat," Mr Laundy said.
However, although Mr Cormann said the defection had cost him mates within the party - he hit out at the accusation that he had ever betrayed Mr Turnbull.
"I was absolutely truthful to him to his face," he said.
"When I formed the view that he no longer enjoyed majority support in the party room and I formed the view that he no longer enjoyed my support, I told him directly, personally in a one-on-one conversation and I offered my resignation."
The series also reveals Mr Dutton's explosive claim that Mr Turnbull offered him the role of deputy Liberal leader in favour of Julie Bishop. He claims Mr Turnbull made him that offer last August, however the former PM denies it ever happened.
The only other man in the room was Mr Cormann, and he flatly refused to reveal what was said in the meeting to Sky News - saying it was a "private conversation".
The series begins by showing how an argument over dinner between Mr Laundy and Queensland MP Luke Howarth kicked off the whole debacle.
Mr Laundy said they caused a scene and it was then he knew the spill was brewing.
"We lost our temper," he said. "It was a tense exchange."
Mr Laundy called Mr Turnbull straight after the dinner to warn him there could be a move against him.
"Malcolm said to me very clearly I would rather live on my feet than die on my knees," Mr Laundy said.
A snap leadership spill was called the next morning, a move which Barnaby Joyce said was a fatal mistake.
"Malcolm brought on his own demise - he called the spill - you don't call a spill," he said. "You just don't call one. You obviously don't call a spill unless you've got the numbers. Now you just don't call a spill."
Mr Laundy said it was "bloody quiet" in the party room when Mr Turnbull spilt his leadership.
"You could hear a pin drop," he said. "Just one hand went up. Only one man was ready."
That man was Mr Dutton, who slammed Mr Turnbull in Tuesday night's episode - hitting out at his rival's delay tactics.
Mr Turnbull demanded a petition with 43 signatures before he would call a second party room meeting to enable a spill.
"That was Malcolm just going back into the 'Packer lawyer' or the merchant banker mode to destroy your enemy," he said.
James Paterson also hit out at the tactics, saying: "I think the way in which Malcolm has conducted himself post leaving the parliament in particular - as well as that week - has given the public a bit of an insight into what Liberal MPs have been dealing with."
However, Mr Turnbull found a secret ally in Sinodinos, who had been on leave for months receiving treatment for cancer, after he gave the veteran pollie a call.
"I came down first thing on the Thursday morning and camped in the PM's office," Mr Sinodinos said.
"I encouraged him to insist on getting the 43 signatures and playing for time because I thought it was important for the party room to have time to really consider the implications of what they were doing."
Mr Laundy also made moves to back his preferred leader, offering Ted O'Brien and Andrew Wallace promotions in return for supporting Mr Turnbull, but he said it was too little, too late as "the government was being held to account by terrorists".
Julie Bishop was also in the race for the leadership but, according to Mr Sinodinos, Scott Morrison had been putting in the leg work behind closed doors to ensure he had the upper-hand over her and, of course, Mr Dutton, who he beat by just three votes.
"Julie was loyal to Malcolm right to the end so that meant that she didn't start canvassing or seeking people's votes until late in the piece," he said.
"And I think what had happened in the meantime is that Scott and others had been working to lock people away."
Mr Morrison was candid about how he secured the numbers, telling Speers, he simply "talked to his colleagues".
"They were very aware of the position that I had taken all the way up until that point and the support I had provided (Malcolm)," he said.
"And it was really then about who was in the best position to take us forward."
Mr Morrison added that he believed he was the best man for the job.
"The country had just been through a very traumatic experience and they were looking for someone to just take hold of this and tell them that it would be okay," he said.
However, it's clear from Tuesday night's documentary, that the wounds of division have still not healed.
Mr Dutton savaged Mr Turnbull - calling his resignation "vindictive" and "selfish".
"He chose to leave in a way that John Howard never would," Mr Dutton told Sky News.
"In a way that Kevin Rudd didn't, in a way Julia Gillard didn't and it was done simply out of spite."
He also claimed that the Liberals could only win the election if he was leader.
Mr Dutton is one of several former and present politicians who have gone on the record about the fractured internal workings of the Liberal party.
"Malcolm came up to me after that party room meeting and said, 'I want you to stay on as Home Affairs Minister', and I said, 'Malcolm, that position is untenable and I can't accept that'," Mr Dutton said.
"He (Turnbull) offered me the deputy leader position. I said to him, given what had just taken place, that wasn't credible and it wasn't his to gift either."
Watch New Blood Wednesday night on Sky News from 8pm.