“We all have feelings of inferiority that become a motivating factor for us to develop skills, talents, and ways of overcoming our sense of inadequacy. Feelings of inferiority can give rise to genius. Unfortunately, they can also give rise to neuroses and problems in daily living when they are overwhelming or when we attempt to hide them rather than face them courageously. Adler believed that courage was the answer to many of the problems of living.” — http://www.alfredadler.org/

Perhaps some innovative, agile political science student should do a thesis on the bushfire-like behaviour of political bungles — how stuff-ups not merely pose a threat in themselves, but they can produce other stuff-ups that suddenly erupt in other areas of a government from a stray spark. In that case, the Turnbull government will furnish plenty of evidence. Yesterday Turnbull managed, with the diligence of a castaway trying to make fire, to turn a tiny, barely flickering flame of an issue — the Adler shotgun — into a roaring bonfire that rapidly consumed his ambitions of making industrial relations his new political centrepiece.

And despite getting the fire under control late yesterday, this morning, spot fires were breaking out well away from the main front as National and Liberal MPs emerged to support the loosening of laws to allow the importation of the Adler shotgun that was fueling the whole thing.

Of course, to continue and labour the metaphor (at least I’m not using shooting imagery), the whole thing was helped by Tony Abbott pouring a generous helping of petrol on things — that’s the Abbott famous for his firefighting, the prime minister who declared the budget emergency was over even if they hadn’t actually done anything because the mere arrival of the fire brigade improved things. Via Twitter — that’s “electronic graffiti” to the uninformed — Abbott, knowing full well guns had already become the issue du jour, decided to proffer his concerns about any relaxation of guns laws, contrary to his own position when prime minister, when he was happy to trade away the Adler shotgun ban to secure Senate wingnut David Leyonhjelm’s vote.

But as we’ve seen over and over again, Abbott’s a “do as I say not as I did” kind of guy on the backbench: whether it’s 18C or spending restraint or Safe Schools or the Malaysian Solution, Tony will lament that you’re not doing the opposite of what he did when in power.

Abbott was merely an opportunist, however; the real problem was Turnbull’s inability to flat-out say that the shotgun ban would remain, preferring instead to repeat that the Howard government’s gun control laws would not be watered down, a piece of lawyerly artifice that didn’t quite do the trick. And, reminded that the fate of the Adler remained in the hands of Commonwealth, state and territory ministers, National Party MPs — they’re often slow on the uptake, that lot — decided to offer their own views. First NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant, then federal Nationals, even a WA Liberal, the man with golden Rolex, Ian “Not Quite” Goodenough.

Turnbull, desperate to talk about union thuggery and the ABCC bill, must be pulling what’s left of his hair out — especially after Bill Shorten bizarrely gave the Coalition a perfect opportunity to discuss his union links with his support for Labor hack Kimberley Kitching to take Stephen Conroy’s Senate spot. But no, keep the conversation on the idea the Coalition wants to allow more guns into the country, guys, not to mention confirming the narrative that the Prime Minister is hostage to the right within his party.

If nothing else, Turnbull is now clear — if he ever had any doubt, which is unlikely — that Tony Abbott will say anything, exploit any issue, to undermine him, even if it means reversing his own position from when he was prime minister. As Adler suggested, courage is the answer to many of the problems of living, Malcolm. Take courage.