MALCOLM Turnbull famously justified his leadership spill against Tony Abbott by mentioning his predecessor’s 30 bad Newspolls — and yes, he does regret it.
During a live radio interview with Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine, the PM was asked whether he regretted mentioning the polling numbers — which he is now close to matching after losing 24 polls — and the Prime Minister said he did.
“I do regret having said it only because it allowed people to focus on that, rather than substantive reasons,” he said.
He said main issues which led him to mount a challenge were around economic leadership and governance rather than metrics.
Mr Turnbull said he had made two criticisms of Mr Abbott: that his government was not providing the economic leadership the country needed, and there was a lack of a traditional Cabinet-style government.
On both counts, he believes he has delivered.
Mr Turnbull said the key issue right now was not comparing him to his predecessor (Tony Abbott) but comparing him to someone who wanted to be his successor (Bill Shorten), who wanted to jack up tax on business and individuals.
But he admitted a loss in this weekend’s federal by-election in Bennelong would place his government in a “very precarious” position.
Liberal candidate John Alexander will battle out Saturday’s high-profile race against former NSW Labor premier Kristina Keneally.
Mr Alexander triggered the by-election after he resigned as Bennelong’s MP over a dual citizenship issue.
If Ms Keneally could pull off an upset, it would rob the Turnbull government of its majority.
The former NSW Premier has accused Mr Turnbull of alarming rhetoric amounting to “China- phobia” and “scaremongering”, as both sides zero in on Chinese voters in the Sydney seat.
But the prime minister turned the attack back on Ms Keneally, who he says is trying to paint an unfair picture of him.
“Kristina Keneally I see is trying to play this up and suggest that I of all people am anti-Chinese. That just shows how desperate she is,” Mr Turnbull said.
“If Kristina Keneally were to win in Bennelong not only would you be allowing her to do in Bennelong what she did in NSW, you’d be bringing Bill Shorten closer to the prime ministership.”
Mr Turnbull also defended his handling of the same-sex marriage issue and confirmed he voted for two amendments to protect religious freedoms — two from Sarah Henderson and one proposed by Alex Hawke.
He will now wait for a panel, chaired by former immigration minister Philip Ruddock, to consider whether religious views have been adequately protected.
Mr Turnbull was the first guest on the Miranda Live internet radio show, which will be broadcast on the dailytelegraph.com.au on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays.