Malcolm Turnbull on the 7.30 report with Leigh Sales.
Malcolm Turnbull on the 7.30 report with Leigh Sales.

Malcolm Turnbull’s heated exchange over polls

LEIGH Sales has interrogated Malcolm Turnbull over the newspoll benchmark he set to punt Tony Abbott as Australian Prime Minister.

The latest Newspoll showed Turnbull's Government has been behind Labor for 28 consecutive polls, after he made Abbott's loss of 30 consecutive Newspolls one of the reasons for his challenge in September 2015.

Abbott called out the PM in a radio interview last week: "It was the Prime Minister that set the test, if he fails the test it will be the Prime Minister who has to explain why the test was right for one and not right for the other. It will be up to him to tell us all why the test doesn't

apply in his case."

And in true Sales fashion, the 7.30 Report host was not afraid to air the controversy while the PM was on her panel tonight, saying: "When you challenged Tony Abbott for that prime ministership, one of the reasons you cited was he lost 30 Newspolls in a row."

Malcolm Turnbull on the 7.30 report with Leigh Sales.
Malcolm Turnbull on the 7.30 report with Leigh Sales.

Turnbull was quick to respond, arguing: "The only test that determines whether you lead the Liberal Party or not is having the support of the party room."

But Sales didn't back down there, shooting back: "But come on, everyone knows what you said. He's outlined a pretty legitimate question there. Why is what was good for the goose not good for the Gander?"

Turnbull replied: "The party room determines who leads the Liberal Party. Why didn't it apply to you, yourself? What should apply to you?"

"The same standard you applied to Tony Abbott," Sales quipped.

"If you don't intend to step down, or open a leadership spill when you hit the 30, what do you intend to do? You set that standard," she added.

Turnbull argued Australia needed new leadership.

"Leigh, when I challenged Tony Abbott, I identified a number of things. The country, the government needed new economic leadership, right? And it needed a return to traditional cabinet government," he said.

Turnbull facing some tough questions.
Turnbull facing some tough questions.

"I have delivered both. You want a test for good economic leadership? I think the strongest jobs growth in our nation's history probably passes the test.

"Traditional cabinet government, I think that everyone in Canberra would agree that's what I'm conducting.

"As far as the leadership of the Liberal Party is concerned, it is as John Howard always said, in the gift of the party room. That's the test."

Ms Sales still didn't let the issue go, asking the PM if he regretted using Newspolls to target Abbott.

"It was an observation I made in the course of mounting a challenge," the PM said.

"Others are free to refer to it. The leadership of the Liberal Party is determined by the party room.

"It's not determined by Newspoll, it's not determined by the 7.30 Report, it's determined by the party room.

"Thank goodness, I don't want that responsibility. And the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has an open invitation to join us when he's available."

Turnbull said he and US President Donald Trump verbally agreed on Australia’s exemption from tariffs on steel and aluminium. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Turnbull said he and US President Donald Trump verbally agreed on Australia’s exemption from tariffs on steel and aluminium. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Turnbull also revealed he and US President Donald Trump were yet to sign any written agreement on Australia's exemption from his tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Trump's tweet about exempting Australia from the tariffs said his administration was "working very quickly on a security agreement so we don't have to impose steel and aluminium tariffs." Sales asked Turnbull what he meant by a security agreement.

"It's short hand for the legal work that needs to be done," Turnbull said.

"That needs to be put in place with the executive order.

"I had the discussion with him. We didn't discuss any new security agreement at all.

"My discussion was before the tweet and the White House came straight in touch with us and the embassy to make it quite clear that the commitment to exempt Australia was given, it will be followed through, but there does need to be, you know, legal paperwork to be done.

"There needs to be a proclamation done."

Turnbull also said the theme of the upcoming federal budget would be "jobs, jobs, jobs."