What does Tom Switzer know? The columnist and academic is known to be cosy with former PM Tony Abbott, so you might want to read his Fairfax column today through that prism.

“The scene is now set for a merciless and bloodthirsty civil war,” predicted Switzer. “It will be very hard for Turnbull to survive the carnage.” And Abbott, says Switzer, is “the only plausible candidate to the fill the void on the centre-right” and he’s “the man the ALP most fears” (a claim that will have Labor stifling giggles).

Let’s check it for fingerprints:

Who benefits? Abbott, especially given the tone of much recent commentary is that he has destroyed whatever remaining support he had within the parliamentary party — or had even given up on ever being PM again.

Who loses? Malcolm Turnbull, obviously — even if an Abbott comeback is fanciful, he hardly needs talk of a “bloodthirsty civil war”. And Peter Dutton, the man who has most benefited from Abbott’s kamikaze-like attacks on the government and who is know openly discussed as the next prime minister.

Connections: Switzer has known Abbott for two decades and is a standard-bearer for the NSW Right — he unsuccessfully sought preselection to replace Brendan Nelson in Bradfield in 2009 but was defeated by Paul Fletcher, backed by the moderate faction. Abbott had backed Switzer.

Conclusion: We speculate Switzer is speaking for the NSW Right, not Abbott, and signalling that there is still support for Abbott’s return in the party’s conservative ranks in NSW — and a reluctance to accept the Queenslander Dutton as an alternative. Never overlook the power of geographical snobbery in the Liberals, particularly given Dutton, strictly speaking, isn’t even a Liberal Party MP.


Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey