After the failed coup, in which he had already backed Peter Dutton while pledging support to Malcolm Turnbull, Mathias Cormann’s reputation is now in tatters, writes Michael Galvin.
BARELY AN HOUR after the Liberal Party high noon showdown on Friday, the first “player” to give an extended interview on ABC News was Senator Mathias Cormann.
Cormann seemed desperate to explain himself and did so at length. As the dust settled in the following hours, it became clear why he was so desperate to get ahead of the story.
Anyone who watched the 15-minute interview would have been struck by a couple of things.
Firstly, Cormann still seemed obsessed with what had happened three days earlier, when Turnbull called a snap leadership poll and declared all positions vacant. At the time, there were reports that Cormann was miffed because he was not forewarned of Turnbull’s plan. Apparently, only Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop knew what Turnbull was going to do.
From what Cormann said on Friday, “miffed” is too mild a word. He seemed obsessed with being taken by surprise by Turnbull on Tuesday. He repeated the word “surprise” no less than four times in the Friday interview — a telling sign Turnbull had hurt him mightily and personally.
This sense of personal affront was reinforced throughout the rest of the Friday interview, in which the honourable Senator went on at great length about how difficult these decisions had been for him, personally.
Cormann has been working on his image for a while now. Patient with the assorted nutters on the Senate crossbench, a shared affinity and mutual respect for Labor Senator Penny Wong and so on. Gradually, he had moved on from his early caricaturish image as a dull, conservative zealot and had reinvented himself as something of an “honest broker”.
When he walked into the ABC interview barely an hour after the Friday vote, he must have known that this particular game of his was up. Why? Because if he and the other two show ponies (Senator Michaelia Cash and Senator Mitch Fifield) had not switched in a public display of disunity the day before, the spill motion would have been defeated and Turnbull would still be Prime Minister.
Hence his desperate rush to get to the media first and pour out how much pain he had suffered personally in all of this. A valiant effort, but a failed one. Cormann’s reputation is back to where it started — a dull conservative zealot incapable of original thought.
When it was revealed a few hours later that the three reluctant “switcheroos” – Cormann, Fifield and Cash – had actually signed Dutton’s petition when it still needed another 20 or so more names, Cormann’s interview straight after the ballot was revealed for what it was. Not only a pathetic display of self-pity and personal pique, but a pack of lies and a desperate attempt to save his own reputation. Cormann was part of the push to dump Turnbull — not an anguished bystander who was forced to act honourably in dishonourable circumstances.
Shame, Cormann, shame. Walking confidently with Dutton to the Party room meeting, you showed your true colours and your reputation is rightly now in tatters.
Sadly, for those of us who hope that this period of rightwing madness will go away as soon as Abbott falls under a bus, or finds some useful way to spend his time away from public sight, there will be no such relief in the medium term. The younger lot – Cormann, Dutton and the new boys, like Member for Deakin Michael Sukkar, Member for Hume Angus Taylor, Member for Canning Andrew Hastie, Member for Barker Tony Pasin and Senator Zed Seselja – are just as bad.
They are first-class wreckers but cannot competently execute their own coup. Their keystone cops performance this week would have been funny under other circumstances. But this time around, it was just pathetic and sad.
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