Wednesday night’s Midwinter Ball seems to have been more than just the occasion for drunken groping and possible assault, with a senior Prime Ministerial staffer, economist and Ozonomics author Andrew Charlton, releasing a statement about a clash with Malcolm Turnbull in which Turnbull appeared to threaten Charlton in relation to the Ozcar issue.

A “mutual aquaintance” referred to in the statement is understood to be housing guru Christopher Joye.

Wayne Swan hastily called a press conference this morning to criticise Turnbull, who yesterday had to get shadow minister Sophie Mirabella to move swiftly on claims that one of her electorate office staff, Anthony Scrinis, had assaulted several female Ball attendees. Scrinis resigned immediately.

The Charlton statement comes just before this afternoon’s Ozcar senate committee hearings, which will test repeated Opposition claims that the Prime Minister and Treasurer made inappropriate representation on behalf of a friend of Rudd’s, car dealer John Grant.

It’s clear that, in the aftermath of the departure of Peter Costello, the Government has decided to take off the gloves with Turnbull, who has aggressively pursued as yet unclear allegations of impropriety on the part of Rudd.

While the full weight of the Labor machine, backed by Government resources, will be brought to bear on a man whose background has plenty of interesting deals, Turnbull, who appears happier in a fight to the death than out of one, will be unfazed. He knows he only has one shot at the Prime Ministership, and won’t die wondering about what he could have done to get it.

Peter Fray

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