Or as he put it: “I’ve been a serial entrepreneur my whole life.”
To that end, he was selling an old product on Monday night – that amiable, whipsmart, progressive-sounding Malcolm who would no doubt have been very cross with what that other Malcolm Turnbull did when he was prime minister. As one wag asked on Twitter: “Where was Mr Turnbull when Mr Turnbull was in charge?”
Alas, he reminded us, his prime ministerial days were butchered by rivals on his own side. He threw in the term “coup”. And he noted some of them were – how could we put this delicately? – completely freaking bonkers.
Turnbull was not about to dance around the incinerated elephant in the room: of course the bushfires are linked to climate change.
“We have to recognise we have a hotter and drier climate. That’s the consequence of global warming. That will mean more fires and hotter fires.”
He was just warming up as Tony Jones delivered the first overt poke: what about those 23 emergency service leaders who tried and failed to meet with PM Morrison?
Turnbull: “Well, I’ll leave Albo to critique ScoMo, that’s his day job.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese was indeed on hand for such a task, but he couldn’t hold a candle to Malcolm in the Roast ScoMo stakes.
“We have to recognise that it’s a national security issue … if it isn’t a national security issue, what is? The national government has to provide leadership. That’s what the Australian Government does.”
In case Morrison missed the point, he added: “The Federal Government’s job is to lead and this is an issue that needs leadership. We can’t kid ourselves that we’re not going to face more and hotter fires. That’s the consequence of global warming.”
Albo – largely wallpaper at this point – could only agree.
From the audience came questions that conveyed the anger and fury among the public at large.
Via video, Bruce Munro asked: “In this trial by fire, how can Morrison and a largely silent Sussan Ley not be treated as deniers, guilty of collaborating and co-creating this fire disaster we find ourselves in as Liberal-Nationals work actively to obscure urgent action? Is it from being in the pocket of the coal lobby? There really is soot on all their hands.”
And in the audience, Stephen Scholem asked: “Malcolm Turnbull, now that the climate change do-nothings are in power, do you regret not having stuck to your beliefs when you were PM? Wouldn’t you at least have gone down fighting?”
Turnbull, beaming, copped the sledge in good humour.
And then went bomb throwing.
“The Coalition has a fundamental problem in dealing with climate change because there is a group within the Liberal Party and the National Party who deny the reality of climate change and will oppose to the point of essentially blowing up a government, my government in this case, if there is action taken to reduce emissions.”
He called the National Energy Guarantee “the lever the insurgents used to blow up the government”, with policy “held to ransom by a group of deniers within the party and in the media”.
Jones mused again about those emergency services leaders denied a meeting with the PM: were those deniers to blame?
Turnbull: “Well, you’d have to ask him that. I’m not here to run the ruler over Scott Morrison’s appointments diary. I’m sure he can manage that himself. But whether you have the meeting or not, the bottom line is you’ve got to address the issue.
“We’ve got all the tools. What the problem is that … on the right, they are treating what should b a question of physics and science and economics and engineering as though it were an issue of religion and belief.
“And it’s nuts.”
It was vintage Turnbull – all that was missing was the famous leather jacket – and a fitting nostalgia trip for Tony Jones and the show’s creator Peter McEvoy on their last run on the Q&A paddock. As is his way, Jones bowed out with little fuss. He said he would be back for occasional guest hosting duties filling in for successor Hamish Macdonald.
“I’ll be back from time to time to fill in for Hamish. We’ll leave you tonight with a sample from the last 12 years. And if strong language offends, please close you ears.”
Somewhere, Scott Morrison whispered to himself: now you tell me.