(Image via @jarrapin)

Where's Malcolm Turnbull's ticker? Time for him to be a leader and deal with Abbott instead of looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights, writes senior correspondent Barry Everingham.

IT WAS in February 2002 that Donald Rumsfeld muttered his infamous tongue twister about known and unknowns — in part and in retrospect there's a message for Malcolm Turnbull concerning Tony Abbott and it goes thus:

“ … each yearwe discover a few more of those unknown unknowns. ... It isn't a riddle. It is a very seriousimportant matter ... I've never seen anything like it!”

The important matter to Turnbull is Tony Abbott — arguably Australia's most hated ever prime minister and the most erratic ever holder of that high office.

Abbott's supporters are member of the Liberal Party's crazy right wing: Bernardi, Abetz, Andrews, Dutton, to name just a few. They make no secret they loathe Turnbull and will stop at nothing to unseat him and replace him with Abbott.

The most dangerous of the group is undoubtedly Peter Dutton, a former Queensland drug squad detective. He beavers away secretly and, it seems, Turnbull has so far refused to sideline him.

Turnbull's inability to act on the egregious group shows a weakness that didn't emerge before he managed to oust Abbott. His supporters thought they were handing Australia a man, not necessarily of steel, but certainly one of principle. At least when he appears overseas we were able to cease cringing, which we certainly did and still do when Abbott intermittently pops up in Kiev or London.

Turnbull needs to publicly denounce Abbott — perhaps reminding him how decent former Prime Ministers behaved when they lost the top job: Whitlam, Keating, Hawke, Howard, Menzies and, for God's sake, even Gillard and Rudd. That pair have to be congratulated for biting their tongues.

Maybe Turnbull should send Julie Bishop to haul Abbott into line — she has served both men loyally, illustrating an ability to keep both well-heeled shoes in each camp. Abbott might even be naive enough be believe she supports him; for naive, let's just say stupid.

Turnbull's rash decision to be all over the place with his double dissolution election is fraught with danger. It's not an election he is likely to lose but it is an election that could seriously wing him and give the crazies the chance they are looking for.

Each day, Bill Shorten is displaying a maturity which up till now has escaped him and, sadly, although it's unlikely he can topple Turnbull, if he continues on his current track he can give the prime minister one hell of a shock.

Which gain it is something the right-wingers will be looking for.

But this is where I came in.

There remain known and unknowns!

So many Australians will be searching for the Malcolm they knew and loved. It's not too late for him to provide what they are looking for — not yet anyway.

Tony Jones: "Are you going to stop using your slogan which veep chose as the most meaningless of political slogans?"

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