15 September 2015
by Jacob Greber

Liberal leadership: Bill Shorten counts on Coalition tearing itself apart

​Opposition leader Bill Shorten is banking on two things to weather any potential Coalition poll resurgence under Malcolm Turnbull.

The first will be to continue preparing and releasing policies to build momentum for a change of government, adding to already-announced pledges on superannuation concessions, international tax avoidance, boat turn backs and climate change.

The second thing? Bank on the Coalition tearing itself apart the way Labor did after Kevin Rudd's ouster in 2010.

Mr Shorten knows from bitter personal experience exactly what kind of dark forces are inevitably unleashed when a Prime Minister is torn from office. He is personally deeply confident the Coalition will suffer a similar fate.

Almost on cue, former Liberal premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett unleashed a savage tirade against Mr Turnbull on Monday, describing his actions as those of "an egoist" and a "selfish individual."

"I will never ever ever vote for Malcolm Turnbull," Mr Kennett said on ABC Radio. "He cannot work with people. It's his way or the highway. Malcolm Turnbull is the Kevin Rudd of the Liberal Party."

Labor's press operatives wasted almost no time in drawing attention to the internal stresses thrown up by Mr Turnbull's challenge. Emails landed in Gallery reporter's in-boxes even as Mr Turnbull was announcing his challenge, helpfully retailing dozens of his public comments such as his support for the budget, the failed GP co-payment and even ruling out a challenge against Mr Abbott.

"Changing the leader of the Liberal Party changes nothing," Mr Shorten said on Monday. "Malcolm Turnbull is right, that Australia has been going nowhere for the last two years with this chaotic, dysfunctional, divided Liberal government.

"And Malcolm Turnbull is right when he says the last two years have been one of a Liberal government with slogans not substance. A government of rising unemployment, of cuts to essential services, and a collapse in our growth.

"But Malcolm Turnbull is wrong when he says he is part of the solution. He has been an active member and minister of the Liberal government for the last two years."

In a precursor to how Labor would take on a new Liberal leadership team, Mr Shorten attacked Mr Turnbull for supporting under Mr Abbott cuts to pensions, schools and hospital funding, university fee deregulation and the collapse in confidence in the economy.

"This is a minister who has presided over a slower second rate NBN whilst managing to double the cost of the NBN.

"Australians know that Malcolm Turnbull is ambitious but he's ambitious for himself, not our nation.

"With Malcolm, it will always be about Malcolm. Australians rejected Malcolm Turnbull when he was opposition leader because he was out of touch and he was arrogant and he hasn't changed.

"Australia does not need another out of touch, arrogant, Liberal leader. Australia needs a change of government."

In the hours before Monday's challenge was announced, Mr Shorten carried himself with quiet confidence about how he would respond, quoting former Labor Leader Paul Keating's maxim that you deal with whomever the other side throws up.