War of words erupts between former PM and controversial MP

George Christensen has hit back at Malcolm Turnbull after the former prime minister revealed details of an AFP probe into the Nationals MP.

Mr Christensen hit back at the "smear" in Mr Turnbull's new tell-all memoir, A Bigger Picture, but added "at least there is acknowledgement that I'd been found to have done nothing wrong".

"It's bewildering that anyone would release a book full of gossip and innuendo during a global crisis where people are dying and losing their livelihoods," Mr Christensen said in a statement.

Mr Turnbull said he was warned by the Australian Federal Police that Nationals MP George Christensen could face questioning by police in the Philippines amid concerns over his frequent visits to the nation where he stayed in "seedy" hotels.

Mr Turnbull writes in his new tell-all memoir that the AFP called a meeting him as Mr Christensen was about to leave for the Asian nation on official business. The AFP warned the Nationals MP could be detained in the country's capital, Manila, for questioning.

The former prime minister writes then AFP commissioner summed up months of police inquiries in a one-on-one meeting.

 

Malcolm Turnbull’s new memoir, A Bigger Picture.
Malcolm Turnbull’s new memoir, A Bigger Picture.

 

"Colvin described how Christensen had an unusually complex online presence and had been spending substantial sums in Manila bars and nightclubs as well as making many small payments to women there," Mr Turnbull writes, according to Nine newspapers.

"Against the advice of our embassy in the Philippines, he had been staying in seedy hotels in Angeles City, which was not only recklessly unsafe but made him vulnerable to being compromised."

Mr Turnbull writes the AFP believed Mr Christensen might stay on in the country after his official business was over. He claimed Philippine authorities were "aware of their concerns" and local police could "counsel him on his imprudent behaviour".

He writes Mr Christensen's conduct was "especially sickening" because the Member for Dawson said he would withdraw his support from the Turnbull Government, before changing his mind.

Mr Turnbull was also bothered by the fact Mr Christensen claimed to be a devout Christian.

"For a member in a marginal seat to be spending nearly a third of the year overseas, on full pay as an MP, staying in a seedy part of Manila and hanging out in bars and nightclubs beggared belief," the former prime minister writes.

"The hypocrisy made me sick."

 

Dawson MP George Christensen. Photo: Zizi Averill
Dawson MP George Christensen. Photo: Zizi Averill

 

Mr Christensen allegedly warned Mr Turnbull about anything he might write in his memoir, although his published Hardie Grant never received any legal warning.

"He sent me a message on one of those immediately dissolving messages on Signal, which said: 'remember two words: parliamentary privilege; and two more years of it'," Mr Turnbull told Nine newspapers.

Mr Christensen was dubbed the "Member for Manila" for spending almost 300 days in the Philippine capital between 2014 and 2018. He branded media coverage of his visits as a "vile smear" and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

An AFP evaluation found Mr Christensen had committed crimes under Australian law.

 

MORRISON DIDN'T DESERVE TO WIN: TURNBULL

Malcolm Turnbull has made a series of explosive claims about the 2019 election, including that he doesn't believe the Scott Morrison-led coalition deserved to win.

The former prime minister also criticised Mr Morrison's portrayal as the "daggy dad" from the suburbs during the election campaign as cringe-worthy, in his soon-to-be-released tell-all.

"He's a professional politician who understands marketing and messaging better than most," Mr Turnbull writes in A Bigger Picture, The Australian reports.

"His cringe-worthy 'daggy dad' persona is more exaggerated than it is conflated, but in net terms it probably helped," he wrote.

 

Malcolm Turnbull has made explosive claims about Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his new memoir. Picture: John Feder
Malcolm Turnbull has made explosive claims about Prime Minister Scott Morrison in his new memoir. Picture: John Feder

Mr Turnbull continued: "All that aside, however, the truth is that Labor lost the election that the coalition, after the August coup, did not deserve to win."

He also described former colleague Christopher Pyne as a "gossip" who revelled in "salacious" information. "He was a superb raconteur and while very efficient as a minister, his circumspection had its limits," Mr Turnbull wrote in the memoir.

"When it came to gossip, he was the soul of indiscretion, especially if it was amusing or salacious."

 

‘Daggy dad’. Prime Minister Scott Morrison features in Malcolm Turnbull’s new book. Picture: Gary Ramage
‘Daggy dad’. Prime Minister Scott Morrison features in Malcolm Turnbull’s new book. Picture: Gary Ramage

Mr Turnbull also takes aim at his former cabinet colleagues, including Mr Morrison, for their roles in the coup that led to his resignation in August 2018.

The Australian reports that in the book, Mr Turnbull accuses Mr Morrison of double-dealing in his bid to succeed him when he has to be "propped up" as treasurer.

Peter Dutton, a coup leader, was a "narcissist" and "self-delusional" for thinking he could be prime minister, Mr Turnbull added.

 

'PAIN AND HUMILIATION'

In A Bigger Picture, Mr Turnbull opened up about having "deep depression" and "suicidal thoughts" in the wake of his prior Liberal leadership loss to Tony Abbott back in 2009.

"I remained in a torment of indecision as to whether to stay in parliament … and without realising it, I slipped into a deeper depression," Mr Turnbull writes in his memoir, describing the leadership loss as causing "excruciating pain and humiliation", according to The Australian.

"I'd never given thought to my mental health before - mental health was something others had to worry about.

"For he first time in my life, suicidal thoughts started to enter my mind, unbidden and unwanted." Mr Turnbull sought treatment, including being prescribed antidepressant.

A Bigger Picture is released on April 20 (Hardie Grant Books).

Anyone with personal issues is urged to contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au



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