Using special journalistic powers, Crikey has acquired* the transcript from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s address to the Coalition party room on March 13, 2017:

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Good morning all, thanks for coming. I … yes … if I could have some quiet please. Just … come on, let’s settle down. We all like to have a laugh, but … you know, Barnaby, there’s nothing clever about that gesture, and I know exactly what it means. OK, I won’t start until everyone’s stopped. 

All right, now, we had a rough weekend, I know, with the unfortunate results in Western Australia — no, I don’t think that’s a very nice way to refer to our West Australian colleagues, Scott. They tried very hard, but I do think the WA result should drive us to have a good hard look at our methods and our strategies, and see what we can learn from this experience for the future.      

The first thing I think we can learn is that when it comes to election-winning tactics, being seen handing out how-to-vote cards for minor party candidates isn’t necessarily the best way to go. And that brings me to the matter of Pauline Hanson. OK, OK, yes, great, I think we can do without the wolf whistles. I think it’s important that, bearing in mind what happened in WA, we make a definite shift to dissociate ourselves from One Nation, and — look, boo all you like, but I’m trying to think strategically here. I — now George, I’m all for robust debate, but spitballs are not on, mate — I think we can definitely say that aligning himself with Hanson didn’t work for Colin Barnett, and it’s not going to work for us. If we’re seen to be in bed with her — oh now grow up, people — if we’re seen to be … close to Pauline Hanson, it’s going to cost us, it’s going to alienate a lot of our core voters. What’s that, Eric? No, we won’t crush them like ants if they disobey. That is wildly unconstitutional.

What I’m proposing here is a move more towards the centre and away from the fringes occupied by parties like One Nation. George, I’ve told you once, I will not tell you again. I know that nobody in this party room is a big fat racist — settle down, I’m serious — but the perception out there is if we don’t disavow One Nation, that’s what people will label us as. And racism is not a viable electoral strategy. No it’s not, Peter. Listen, I am still the prime minister and … please, we’ve had enough of the giggling, guys. All I’m saying is, doing deals with One Nation, giving them that kind of mainstream legitimacy — I don’t think it’s good for our brand. 

Now, the other point I think that came out of the WA election is that economic management really is of huge importance to our electoral chances. Ggroan all you like, but this is what matters to real people. Well the economy may be boring to you, Scott, but it matters to a lot of people, and those people are who we work for.

I really think we need more than just a big company tax cut as our economic reform policy. Does anyone have any ideas? Serious ideas only please Matthias. I don’t think “two big company tax cuts” is an awfully helpful suggestion. No, neither is “an even bigger one”. Barnaby, I told you yesterday, we’re not moving the Treasury to Armidale. What we need is fresh ideas for cutting spending and raising revenue without alienating voters. We have to address debt, but we can’t make it too painful for people or they’ll look to Labor — yes, I know, hiss hiss.

Look, people: this is serious. The Coalition has been wiped out in WA, and we’re looking at the same result federally if we don’t get our act together and start focusing on the things that matter. We have to stop obsessing over trivial stuff like 18C, concentrate on hard policy work, stop appealing to prejudice and division, and carve out an identity based on fiscal responsibility, party discipline, and an open and tolerant approach to — hey. Hey! This meeting is not over! Guys … guys? Please come back. I’m the prime … all right, uh … everyone take five, good idea. See you soon. Yeah?

*As discovered by satirist Ben Pobjie.

Peter Fray

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