Julie Bishop is under attack from within and it is one of her colleagues leading the pack.
This mÃªlÃ©e threatens the very worthy start Turnbull has made in advancing the image of the Liberal Party as both economically responsible and politically stable. These two ingredients are vital as the Party transitions its policies for a different political paradigm as the creeping financial crisis impacts every part of society.
Julie Bishop is Malcolmâ€™s Chief Financial Officer. Attacking her is unwittingly undermining Turnbullâ€™s leadership credibility as Chief Executive Officer. It takes focus off the mediocre performance of Wayne Swan and makes the Liberals the issue.
So who would be so stupid as to advance his or her own standing by pulling down their leaderâ€™s credibility?
Liberal Party apparatchiks are pointing the finger at the Member for North Sydney, the Hon. Joseph Hockey MP.
Joe Hockey believes he is a superior media presence and a first rate political mind. His colleagues see differently.
IT WAS MORNING IN JOE-TOPIA
Hockeyâ€™s star rose late in the Howard Governmentâ€™s tenure. This is all thanks to Mel and Kochie. Hockeyâ€™s avuncular demeanour was a hit on the Sunrise platform that he shared with Kevin Rudd, then the foreign affairs spokesperson to Kim Beazleyâ€™s Labor Opposition.
Sunriseâ€™s bonhomie may have been great television but at the time it was felt Hockeyâ€™s lack of gravitas was helping to make Rudd more likeable and acceptable. Hockey never effectively embarrassed Rudd on policy or his cunning maneouverings to replace Beazley as leader. He did the Coalition no favours â€“ unless you were Joe Hockey.
Before Sunrise, Hockey had the reputation among his senior colleagues as being indifferent towards policy and programme detail, epitomised by his embarrassment in confusing Southeast Asian currencies as Assistant Treasurer.
There are other examples: as Small Business and Tourism Minister he left Fran Bailey with over a thousand unsigned briefs and even announced his new appointment as Human Services Minister after the 2004 election before Howard did.
Even his slobbish morning doorstops after playing touch rugby at the gates of Parliament had people worried about an imminent heart attack.
THE AMBITION FACTION
Hockey always wanted to get into Cabinet. In 2006 he saw an opportunity and began needling the PMâ€™s office for a promotion on the back of the Governmentâ€™s difficulties around Workchoices and his Sunrise profile. His unshakable belief in communications overcoming all political problems convinced him to target the Workplace Relations portfolio.
Andrews, the then IR Minister, played a dead bat in his regular doorstops and was never caught out on the detail. Andrews, however, did not cut through. Workchoices and its sweeping changes failed to inspire a public experiencing record low joblessness as to its urgency or its mandate.
BUT EYES WERE BIGGER THAN HIS BELLY
In mid 2006, as Human Services Minister, Hockey was bestowed a portfolio role in communicating Workchoices; he made no impact. In February 2007 he landed the Cabinet portfolio he coveted, although as Workplace Relations Minister, Hockey made no difference to the way the public regarded both Workchoices and the Howard Government.
Only the combination of substantial policy change and in leadership could have achieved that.
NOT HALF AS GOOD AS HE THINKS HE IS
Today his regular press gallery visits entail an irresponsible commentary on Bishopâ€™s capacities. Hockeyâ€™s performance on last weekâ€™s Lateline demonstrated to his colleagues that he not as great a communicator has he personally believes. It was a long string of boring, uninformative clichÃ©s.
At this stage of a financial crisis, no one cares what the Finance spokesperson of the Opposition thinks; the public are listening to the RBA, ASIC and the Government. Oppositions are irrelevant unless an election is looming.
Hockey is not alone in the front bench in thinking that destabilising Bishop would help engineer a reshuffle, and therefore, lead to a set of promotions. However, his form precedes him and the trust levels towards him are falling.
Despite being an intelligent man, Hockeyâ€™s vanity blinds him to the damage he’s wreaking on Turnbull and the Party.
Nonetheless it is not too late: he is smart enough to cease this behaviour if someone would just tell him it is not in his own interests.