The Morrison government has reportedly warned Malcolm Turnbull against speaking ill of his party after the former prime minister called for Peter Dutton to be referred to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in Parliament.
According to a report published in The Australian on Friday, Scott Morrison’s office called Turnbull and those close to him after he tweeted about the legality of Dutton’s position, and urged him to stop undermining the government.
Turnbull, who is currently in New York with his wife Lucy, broke his weeks-long silence on Wednesday when he revealed he had asked Morrison and his Liberal colleagues to let the High Court decide whether Dutton should hold onto his Brisbane seat, or if Commonwealth funding given to child care centres in the Home Affairs minister’s family trust rendered him ineligible.
According to The Australian’s report, Morrison’s office spoke to several people close to Turnbull and urged them to cease criticising the government after weeks of damaging leaks from suspected Turnbull loyalists.
Dutton insists there are no legal issues surrounding his position and told 2GB Turnbull should “enjoy his retirement” and rest easy knowing Dutton had already cleared questions of his eligibility with legal counsel.
The matter has also been investigated by Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue QC, at the request of then-Prime Minister Turnbull, who could not “conclusively find” Dutton eligible to sit in parliament.
It comes after Nationals MP, and former Turnbull ally, Barnaby Joyce accused Turnbull of Abbott-like “wrecking and sniping” and called on the former PM to think of his reputation before going after his successor.
“What is the purpose behind an individual deciding that their goal now in life is to bring down the government which they weren’t just a member of, they were the leader of?” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.
“People say, ‘What was wrong with Malcolm Turnbull?’ I think we’re starting to find out.”
When asked whether Turnbull is seeking revenge, Joyce replied: “if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, you’ve got a pretty good chance of saying it’s a duck.”
Turnbull, who lived with an Abbott-sized thorn in his side for years, warned against such wrecking and sniping in his final speech as prime minister, saying: “We must never allow the politics of race or division or of setting Australians against each other to become part of our political culture.”
His resignation from parliament and his Wentworth seat was seen as a sign he would steer clear of the type of behaviour displayed by Abbott after he was ousted, however, his tweet on Wednesday suggests the former PM may have unfinished business when it comes to Peter Dutton.