ABC Nemesis LIVE: ‘Very dangerous PM’ Tony Abbott ‘wanted to send Australian troops to Ukraine after MH17 was downed’, Malcolm Turnbull claims


When Tony Abbott took down Kevin Rudd to take over the leadership of Australia in the 2013 federal election, no one could have anticipated the Liberal party implosion that would follow.

The Abbott-era government from 2013-2015 is examined tonight in ABC’s three-part docu-series ‘Nemesis’, which tracks the coalition years in Australia.

Follow along with USA Online Post Australia’s live blog of the show here.

Malcolm Turnbull says there were warnings that made him feel Abbott was ‘a very dangerous prime minister’

Mr. Speaking to journalist Mark Willacy, Turnbull recalled a ‘truly crazy idea’ Abbott had to send armed personnel to Ukraine after MH17 was shot down.

“To send armed personnel … nobody would have welcomed it, and especially our Western allies would not have welcomed it,” he said.

“It showed, if you like, the elements of Tony that made me feel we had a very dangerous prime minister.”

The 2014 tragedy cost 38 Australian citizens or residents their lives. A total of 298 people were on board when Russia-backed separatists targeted the flight. There were no survivors.

The then Chief of the Australian Army, Angus Houston, said Mr. Abbott “has a great concern for the welfare of the families” and was determined to recover the remains of Australians and repatriate them.

RASSIPNOYE, UKRAINE - JULY 20: Ukrainian rescue workers inspect part of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 20, 2014 in Rassipnoye, Ukraine.  Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed, killing all 298 on board, including 80 children.  The plane was allegedly shot down by a missile and investigations continue into the perpetrators of the attack.  (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images) - 10610155 - 13018019

ScoMo and Turnbull’s recollections differ on the decline of Abbott

Speaking of their initial discussions to oust Abbott as the polls began to go south, Turnbull and Morrison had divergent memories.

Mr Turnbull said: ‘Scott was keen to move against Abbott. We had a series of meetings around that period. He was very worried about Abbott’s prospects.

“Scott is a very professional political tactician, and he can count.”

But Mr Turnbull said he was wary of Morrison even then.

“I know the guy, right? I’ve known him for years. I know how he works. Scott’s dream streak for me was to challenge Abbott, to lose, to be discredited as the disruptor, the challenger.

“And when Abbott continued to underperform, for Scott to come through the middle as the compromise candidate.”

While Morrison argued: ‘No, I don’t think I would agree with the conclusion.

‘You know, people have discussions but can take away different conclusions.

“We were in a tough spot at that time, and, you know, there were assessments that things weren’t traveling well for us.

‘We had to turn things around. This is what we had to do and I was keen to deal with it in Cabinet.’

Turnbull accuses Abbott of ‘stepping up’ ISIS rhetoric ‘to scare people’: ‘More and more flags’

Turnbull accused Abbott of ‘amping up the rhetoric’ about terrorism around the world and how it affects Australia in a calculated attempt ‘to scare people’.

The ABC included a clip of Abbott talking about ISIS, saying: ‘As for the Daesh dealth cult, it’s coming after us.’

Turnbull said: ‘He will hold press conferences, not just with generals and admirals. But with more and more flags.

‘I think the highest number we got to was 10, five on each side. It was right over the top.’

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney General George Brandis during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday June 23, 2015. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVE - 13018019

Peta Credlin was ‘demonised’ for being a powerful woman

Peta Credlin’s influence on Tony Abbott as his chief of staff was raised during the documentary series.

Mr Pyne argued she had been ‘demonised’.

“A powerful woman in Australia is still an unusual thing for many people,” he said.

But Mr Turnbull had a different assessment of the dynamic between Credlin and Abbott.

He said: ‘I have never known anyone in a leadership position to be so dominated by another as Tony Abbott was by Peta Credlin.’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott (right) speaks with Tony Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin (left) during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, August 19, 2015. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVE - 13018019

Liberal Party backbencher Russell Broadbent issues a scathing assessment of Scott Morrison’s tenure as immigration minister.

Victorian MP Russell Broadbent, the federal MP for Monash, has ripped apart Scott Morrison’s tenure in the immigration portfolio.

He described Mr Morrison as: ‘Harsh, calculating and political.

‘There was no compassion in my opinion or consideration for them as people. Everything was calculated to become prime minister.

Abbott’s ‘women problem’ in his first cabinet: ‘Yes, someone raised an issue’

Christopher Pyne reveals there was a dinner in Canberra for Abbott’s ‘inner sanctum’ – which included just one woman, Julie Bishop.

“And, yes, someone raised the issue about only one woman, Julie Bishop, being in the cabinet,” Mr Pyne said.

“Look, Tony Abbott as the new Prime Minister, he thought it very bad to be given that advice.”

New opposition leader Tony Abbott (left) hugs his deputy Julie Bishop during a press conference after the leadership vote in Canberra, Tuesday, December 1, 2009. Mr.  Abbott won the vote 42-41 over Malcolm Turnbull.  (AAP Image/Alan Porritt) NO ARCHIVING - 13018019

‘ Determined. Negative. Smart. Dishonest. Relentless’: How colleagues describe Abbott

The show starts with a bang, with a series of politicians – current and former – sharing the one word that comes to mind when they hear the words ‘Tony Abbott’.

From ‘conservative’ to ‘courageous’, it’s clear that there are many different memories of Australia’s 28th Prime Minister.

Turnbull and Abbott had a destructive rivalry

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce described how the men were polar opposites – long before the political rivalry that took time on Mr Abbott’s prime ministership.

‘One went to Riverview; one went to Grammar,’ he said, referring to the duo’s elite private schools.

‘They are both Catholic, but one was from the right side of the Catholic church, and one was from the left. They didn’t like each other.’

Their dislike for each other came to a head during the Republican debate. Mr Abbott is a staunch monarchist, while Mr Turnbull has led the charge for Australia to become a republic.

**FILE** A June 22, 2009 file photo of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull (right) speaking with Shadow Community Services Minister Tony Abbott during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra.  Mr Abbott became the new leader of the Liberal Party on Tuesday, 1 December 2009 after winning the leadership vote 42-41 over Mr Turnbull.  (AAP Image/Alan Porritt, File) NO ARCHIVING - 8236503 - 13018019

Abbott will not appear in episode focusing on his years in office

Although two former Liberal leaders will appear over the three-part series, Mr Abbott and incumbent Peter Dutton have refused to go on camera.

ABC said Mr. Abbott ‘politely’ turned them down.

In a preview for the show, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joked that Mr. Abbott used the word ‘f***’ so often that he was ‘a skilled orator when it came to (the) use of it’.

As well as Mr. Abbott and Mr. Dutton, former finance minister Mathias Cormann and former foreign minister Julie Bishop also refused to participate.

Ms Bishop was not alone among liberal women who were unwilling to go on the record, possibly for fear of repercussions.

“I think women are punished differently,” former cabinet minister Karen Andrews told the show.

“And maybe we need to get better at really fighting it, a lot more than we do.”

Tony Abbott’s rise to the top job

Mr Abbott was elected Leader of the Opposition in 2009, besting Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey.

After narrowly losing the 2010 election, he returned to secure the Prime Ministership in 2013 on the back of a ruthless campaign that promised to ‘stop the boats’.

But he faced criticism early on for appointing just one woman – Julie Bishop – to his cabinet – which came on the back of Julia Gillard’s infamous misogynistic speech directed at him in parliament.

In February 2015, he survived an attempted leadership spill, when the motion was defeated by 61 votes to 39. He described it as a ‘near-death experience’.

He would not be so lucky just seven months later, when Malcolm Turnbull challenged for the leadership in September.

Mr Abbott was evicted 44 votes to 54 and returned to the backbench, where he remained for another four years.

Key updates

  • ScoMo and Turnbull’s recollections differ on the decline of Abbott

  • Turnbull accuses Abbott of ‘amping up’ ISIS rhetoric ‘to scare people’: ‘More and more flags’

  • Abbott’s ‘women problem’ in his first cabinet: ‘Yes, someone raised an issue’

  • Turnbull and Abbott had a destructive rivalry

  • Malcolm Turnbull says there were warnings that made him feel Abbott was ‘a very dangerous prime minister’

  • Tony Abbott’s rise to the top job