Wednesday, 7 September 2016
With a bare working majority of one in the House of Representatives the Turnbull Government ended the first sitting week of the 44th Australian Parliament in disarray.
So it is hardly surprising that former prime minister Tony Abbott was out to draw blood from those colleagues who sacked him on 15 September 2015 finally returning him to the wilderness of the backbench.
Here is the first snippet for TONY WATCH, an irregular post series recording Abbott’s efforts to bring down Malcolm Turnbull and re-install himself as prime minister.
The Australian, 3 September 2016:
Tony Abbott has clashed with Scott Morrison over his superannuation changes, labelling them “deeply unpopular” with the Coalition’s base, as support builds for the Treasurer to increase the cap on after-tax contributions to $1 million.
In a “tetchy” private meeting with a group of Liberal and Nationals MPs in Parliament House on Thursday, Mr Abbott confronted Mr Morrison and Minister for Revenue Kelly O’Dwyer about their proposed $6 billion super package. He argued the government was wrong to offer super concessions to low-income earners.
He also argued for the government to abandon its proposed cap on post-tax contributions.
As Mr Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull seek to reach a consensus with backbench MPs on the contentious election policy, The Weekend Australian can also reveal that doubling the lifetime cap on non-concessional contributions to $1m would hit the budget bottom line by $750m.
MPs at the meeting said they were “aghast” that Mr Abbott had proposed hitting low-income earners — particularly working mothers — to benefit the wealthy, whom the former leader accused Mr Morrison and Ms O’Dwyer of abandoning.
“He went in there looking for a fight; he wasn’t interested in information, he wasn’t interested in listening to his colleagues, he wanted to have a fight,” said one MP present at the meeting.
“He kept interrupting and he wanted to derail the discussion.”
Mr Abbott is understood to have argued that the Coalition should represent lower taxes and smaller government, prompting a retort from Mr Morrison about policies Mr Abbott had put in place while leader that had increased taxes. Amid a series of tense exchanges with the man he believed betrayed him in last year’s leadership spill, Mr Abbott said the super changes announced in Mr Morrison’s first budget in May “sent the wrong message about aspiration” and he argued that there should be no cap on after-tax contributions.
When he was prime minister, Mr Abbott ruled out changing superannuation, saying it was not a “piggy bank” to be raided.
The Weekend Australian understands Mr Morrison told Thursday’s meeting that the Coalition needed to focus on its key narrative — the moral responsibility it had for budget repair — and pointed to legislation being pursued by the government that cut taxes and spending.
“Scott was very firm, but it was clear from Tony’s demeanour that he had not got out of bed on the right side that morning,” one MP said. Another said: “Tony arrived to the meeting cranky, and I think people were a bit shocked that he went for Scott so obviously. It was personal.”