History will not be kind to the vengeful wreckers
THE damage is done now.
The vengeful geniuses who got Australia into this mess have now all but guaranteed that Bill Shorten wins the next election, and plunges Australia into an even worse predicament than the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd fiasco. We still haven't paid off Labor's debt and soon they'll be back for more.
Shorten has said he wants to run Australia like he ran the unions.
God help us.
This indulgence has destroyed the electoral advantage of stability which the government could point to with Turnbull next month set to become the longest serving PM since John Howard and promising to be the first since Howard to serve a full term and end a decade of regicide. But, alas, we are back where we started.
The image of Tony Abbott grinning like a Cheshire cat from the back bench, savouring his cold revenge, told you everything you had to know.
He has behaved dishonourably, with a relentless campaign of sniping, wrecking and undermining he promised he would never wage. History will not be kind to him.
But here is the lesson, yet again, of the transaction cost of knifing a sitting prime minister.
Turnbull was never the first choice of any conservative to be Prime Minister. But in politics, as in life, you don't always get what you want. Conservatives used to know that.
Still, while there's life there's hope.
According to some wise party elders, the election is still winnable. There is no enthusiasm for Shorten in the electorate and no real mood for change
This attempted coup has damaged the government's electoral prospects. However, a negative might be turned into a positive if the government uses it to reset direction and focus on the only people who count - the Australian people. That's what Barnaby Joyce counselled yesterday.
The person who leads the party to victory is the person who unites the party, and ensures it is
more representative of the base, the members, the majority of whom are conservative.
John Howard has always talked about the party being a "Broad Church". It needs to behave like one, uniting the conservative and moderate (leftish) wings in a common cause.
Howard also used to say that the biggest challenge you face as Prime Minister is people management. It's essential to bring your backbench with you.
Abbott failed miserably on that front, as evidenced by the fact he lost his job, and now with 42 per cent of the party room against him, Turnbull has failed as well.
If Turnbull wanted to unite the party he would need to bring conservatives inside the tent. Not have "winners' circles" and "losers' circles", as defined by the moderate faction's Voldemort, Christopher Pyne.
Turnbull either unites the party or goes down in history with Abbott as a wrecker who delivered Australia to the tender mercies of Shorten's Labor Party.
He needs to harness all the party's talents, not just the talents of people who like him.
That means Barnaby Joyce, the greatest retail politician of his generation as Abbott once called him, deployed in the regions, especially in Queensland, to bring back the One Nation vote. Joyce's successor as Nationals Leader, Michael McCormack, aka "Mini Mal", isn't cutting through.
And, as much as it might gall Turnbull and Scott Morrison and much of the party room, that means bringing Abbott back into the fold, perhaps as Home Affairs Minister, where he might be able to redeem himself as a team player or at least remind voters every day of his greatest triumph, stopping the boats.
Maybe Dutton could be deployed as the Defence Minister who brings an end to identity politics in the ADF.
But that would require Turnbull and Abbott to behave with a magnanimity that has eluded them for three years.
So that leaves Dutton.
There are suspicions that he is being used by as a stun grenade before the final assault aimed at restoring Abbott to his throne.
But Dutton is better than that. He is a decent, honourable man with core conservative beliefs, the courage to call out political correctness and the ability to communicate plainly. People underestimate him at their peril.
When corporate Australia last year campaigned for same sex marriage, Dutton was the only one who told them to "stick to their knitting".
An ex-cop, he hasn't sugar-coated Victoria's violent crime issues: "We don't have these problems with Sudanese gangs in NSW or Queensland."
He also has a heart, as we saw when he choked up during an interview with Ray Hadley on radio 2GB when a listener rang in to thank him for personally intervening to deport a man involved in the coward punch death of his son.
And no matter how busy, he never misses watching his kids play sport on the weekend at home in Brisbane.
Dutton is a huge gamble but maybe he will pay off, if he can unify the party.
Disunity is death, as the cliche goes. But unity is hope.
Otherwise it's hello Prime Minister Shorten.