Outgoing Chairman, John Wells, worked for John Howard, Australia’s second-longest serving Prime Minister. Here John Wells provides his stinging assessment of Malcolm Turnbull – the ‘tick-the-bucket-list’ PM – and the disastrous Wentworth by-election.

Well, the brouhaha in the Federal seat of Wentworth is beginning to slowly die down. But the ripples of malcontent and distrust will wash ashore for a long time to come.


To suggest Wentworth was lost to a high profile independent because the local member, the Prime Minister, was dumped is to seriously misread the issue.


The Liberals lost the seat largely because Malcolm Turnbull bitterly and self-indulgently refused to endorse his replacement, Dave Sharma, as the candidate and urge locals to vote for him. The locals weren’t sure either so they went for the local Doctor they knew - Dr Kerryn Phelps.

After all, Sharma was not from the electorate, but he was a very good candidate.

Even the local voters in Wentworth were too smart to not vote for the Liberal Party just because they felt aggrieved that Mr Turnbull had been dumped as PM.

They knew he was a dud and not interested in them, like much of the broader electorate who had given up on him in 38 consecutive news polls over two years.


And as if that weren’t enough. The local campaign was poorly run. The candidate, although a very capable individual, was given no latitude to be himself. And all the advertising money was spent beating up on a well-respected local female candidate.

A recipe for disaster really!

Mr Turnbull was a very lucky politician. Luckier than most. He was given the benefit of a doubt twice by the Liberal Party, once as leader of the opposition and then as Prime Minister.  He failed both times.

As one senior Liberal noted privately at the time of his dumping as Prime Minister “we got rid of the madman”.

Any number of ministers, staffers, and bureaucrats will attest to his appalling behaviour as Prime Minister. Just ask those ministers and their staff who have been on the receiving end of any one of his  disgraceful and unprovoked personal attacks, particularly on international trips.

Turnbull deserted his colleagues, his party, and his country when he ran off to New York. He simply didn’t have the decency to campaign for the party, which had given him everything. Instead, he got his son to do his dirty work.

Again, a mark of the man.

The Liberal Party will now need to do some pretty fancy policy footwork to ensure they are far more competitive in Wentworth at the General Election, when it is held, possibly on 18May, next year.

Turnbull’s legacy in the Liberal Party is grim. The odd policy win – mostly the work of others - does not hide the fact he reduced the Liberal Party to a one-seat majority at the 2016 election after Tony Abbott delivered a thumping 14-seat win in 2013.

Then he left knowing he was putting at risk the party’s one-seat majority. Call it the last lousy act by a man who proved himself ill-suited as a team player or leader of his country. Turnbull rates as an incompetent Prime Minister, who simply did not want to sully himself in the day-to-day hand-to-hand combat of politics. It was beneath him.

That’s why the Liberals lost the seat to a likeable woman who wasn’t going to offend anyone in the electorate.

Whether she turns out to be any good or not or lasts beyond the next election, only time will tell.

Turnbull is regarded by many in politics as the Liberal Party’s Kevin Rudd. A tick-the-bucket-list Prime Minister. That sums it up really. A failed experiment, a leader who took the party where it didn’t want to go and now they’ve paid the price.