IT’S been more than a month since the Liberal leadership spill saw Scott Morrison installed as Prime Minister but Karl Stefanovic wasn’t going to let the issue slide when initiator of the challenge Peter Dutton finally emerged again in public.
The Today host scuttled any hope Mr Dutton had of returning to business as usual, pointedly making the comment: “Peter, you’re alive”, to laughter from Labor’s Anthony Albanese, who also appeared on the show.
“I’m here, back with you,” Mr Dutton said, smiling.
Albanese quipped: “He’s out of hiding, good to see you Peter”.
Mr Dutton acknowledged he had a “little black eye, little bruised ribs” but added “it’s all going well”.
Mr Albanese couldn’t resist another dig saying “I’m in Melbourne, I went out last night, it’s safe here Peter”, a reference to Mr Dutton’s comments that people in Melbourne were afraid to go out to restaurants because of African gang violence.
Mr Dutton hit back with: “you’re a hero” before trying to steer the conversation on to the AFL grand final this weekend.
But Stefanovic wasn’t ready to let the issue of the leadership challenge slide, asking whether Mr Dutton had come to any conclusions yet as to why he did it.
“I think it’s obvious that the government has done very well under Scott Morrison,” Mr Dutton said. “I think the government is doing well, I think we are back in the race, which is a good thing because Bill Shorten would be a disaster as prime minister”.
Stefanovic asked: “So Peter, no regrets at all?”
“No, none,” Mr Dutton answered. “I believe very strongly we were well on our way to a significant defeat at the election.
“We are back in the game and Scott Morrison has done, I think, very well. I think he started strongly and I think the Australian public are listening to what he has got to say and talking about getting power prices down, talking about issues which are relevant to families.”
Mr Morrison said he thought Mr Albanese also believed Mr Shorten would be a bad PM, saying “if he is going to be honest he will talk about it”.
There’s long-running speculation Mr Albanese wants to be Labor leader and when asked to rule out a challenge, he said: “I have ruled it out 1000 times”.