Australian News

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly responds to AstraZeneca vaccine concerns

Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly has defended the decision to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of concerns about its effectiveness.

Infectious diseases experts have joined medics in calling for authorities to halt the rollout in favour of coronavirus vaccines with higher efficacy rates to ensure herd immunity.

This follows results from several trials that showed that the Oxford University-AstraZeneca jab had an efficacy rate of between 62-90 per cent depending on the doses.

Professor Kelly said AstraZeneca vaccine was well above the World Health Organisation’s 50 per cent efficacy threshold.

“All of the three vaccines that have so far published their data in peer-viewed journals – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – show a very significant effect against severe illness,” he said on Wednesday.

“They’re all good at protecting against severe illness and death. That’s why I say that lives will be saved by the AstraZeneca vaccine, I have no doubt about it.”

RELATED Virus plea: ‘Listen to the experts’

He conceded he was troubled by what he called “selective” reporting over AstraZeneca’s efficacy, warning it could undermine confidence in the jab.

“Confidence is absolutely the most important thing, and that’s what worries me about the coverage we had today in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.

“People will be nervous, of course. We need to give more information and we’re doing that. So I am worried about the selective use of the data that we have.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine by the end of January, with a rollout pencilled for mid to late February for five million Australians in priority groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to have completed the approval process in February.

Professor Kelly said the jab would prevent death and severe illness 100 per cent of the time, like the Pfizer vaccine.

He said both vaccines would only be rolled out if they had the full tick for safety, efficacy and production quality.

“The EU has also pre-purchased 400 million doses of AstraZeneca, the US has pre-purchased 300 million doses of AstraZeneca, and the UK 100 million doses of AstraZeneca. So we‘re not an outlier there,” he said.

The UK has already begun immunising people with the jab under emergency approvals.

Most Australians are expected to get the AstraZeneca vaccine because it can be made in Melbourne, unlike the Pfizer vaccine that has to be imported from overseas due to its mRNA technology.

Infectious diseases physician Professor Peter Collignon told Sunrise that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not be as good as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

But he said those would be in short supply because they were not readily available and had to be stored in minus temperatures.

“I would be all for rolling out this (AstraZeneca) vaccine because it is much better than anything that is going to be available for quite a while,” Professor Collignon said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday refuted claims the government was conceding its vaccine strategy would not provide herd immunity.

“This is what the medical expert panel of Australia, the one that has helped keep us safe, has recommended,” Mr Hunt said.

In the wake of efficacy concerns, Labor leader Anthony Albanese told 2GB that the government should have invested in six vaccine candidates instead of three.

The opposition has long called for the rollout of the vaccine to be brought forward following the approval process.

But Mr Albanese said the party had never argued that authorities should circumvent the TGA process.

“We need to listen to the experts,” he said.

“Once it (the TGA) approves it, the vaccine should be rolled out.”

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Local News - Victoria

COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar responds to criticism of exposure site list shortcomings

And patrons at the Lion Hotel in La Trobe Street were initially told to isolate only until they tested negative, before that advice was upgraded to 14 days of quarantine.

“In an operation of this scale, moving at this velocity, where we’re making changes and adjustments not even hour by hour but minute by minute … I think if you look at the website today, we’re highlighting much more now, a clearer way of saying here is emerging breaking news, it highlights more where the changes are coming in,” Mr Weimar said on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re just trying to give as much information as we have. If we get something wrong now and again, I will be the first one to hold my hand up.”

“If I look at the progress we have made on the outbreak in the last five or six days … we are in a strong, consistent pattern. I think we have a good rhythm of working our way through the close contacts and the secondary contacts.”

Addressing the failure to let businesses know they were exposure sites, Mr Weimar said it was not always possible for contact tracers to get in touch with businesses before they were listed.

“We make a conscious effort to contact businesses where we can,” he said.

“But we don’t hold back information until we get hold of the business. It’s not always entirely obvious who you should contact. We don’t have time to burn to let the public know what’s going on.”

In other cases, Mr Weimar said members of the public who tested positive had been warning friends and employers before the state’s contact tracers reached them.

“From my point of view, that’s not a problem. If we have people turning positive who are reaching out, off their own bat, to their employer or friends … that’s a really positive development.


“We will target and prioritise, from our point of view, what are the urgent venues to get to and we will work our way through that list.”

Despite the problems with the exposure site lists and delays with contacting businesses, experts have said Victoria’s contact tracing is now far better than it was during the state’s second wave.

“From what we know, I think we’re doing really well,” said Professor Michael Toole, an epidemiologist at the Burnet Institute.

“The contact tracing, testing and isolating system is a lot better than it was six months ago.”

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Australian News

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews responds to backlash

It was a big day for locked-down Victorians, who discovered restrictions in the state will finally ease from as early as 11.59pm overnight.

But not everyone is happy – lashing out at Premier Daniel Andrews over some of the decisions surrounding business closures and home visits announced on Sunday.

Anticipating to the backlash, Andrews made it clear he’s aware not everyone would be impressed — issuing a warning to naysayers in the process.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus coverage

“For those who are pleased, I’m pleased for you,” Andrews told media on Sunday.

“For those who aren’t, please understand this: these are not easy decisions to make, there is a lot at stake,” he added.

“If we do too much too fast, then we’ll be where none of us ever want to be again. Doing this again, back where we were.”

RELATED: Daniel Andrews reveals changes to Victoria’s strict lockdown

His warning came as criticism erupted from the retail industry – with Mr Andrews accused of “ignoring” businesses that hoped for reprieve before the end of October.

“You cannot fix the economy and repair the damage that this virus has done to the economy until you deal with the virus,” the Premier told reporters.

“To go further than we have announced today is not safe and every person in business who is not pleased – well, no-one is enjoying this. It is not like we have made a decision and we had all of these perfectly equal options and we chose one rather than the other. No, that is not what we have done.

“We will get you open when it is safe to be open. For you, for your staff, for your customers and for every single Victorian.”

While the Australian Retailers Association said the plan to reopen stores on November 2 was an “enormous relief”, Chapel Street Precinct general manager Chrissie Maus labelled it “an unjust joke”.

RELATED: Andrews reacts to travel bubble bombshell

“This is no longer acceptable or sustainable for our businesses,” she said.

“I would rather have kept the 5km limit and the shops opened.”

Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott said there was no point to easing any rules if nothing was allowed to open.

“This is an inexplicable and unacceptable delay for Victorians and small businesses who are hanging on by a day, not a week,” she said.

“Simply being allowed to go for a haircut or outside a bit more when you have no job, no money and your business has failed is just not good enough.”

“I would rather have kept the 5km limit and the shops opened.”

Similarly aggrieved on Sunday were AFL fans banned from visiting friends to watch the game on the weekend.

“Grand Final, fantastic day, important day, don’t go to your mate’s place,” Mr Andrews said.

“Now, the Grand Final is very different this year, very different for obvious reasons, and while I know that many people would normally spend time with family and friends to celebrate that day, whether their team is in the Grand Final or not, it is a big part of who we are.

“But your household and only the members of your household, that is how Grand Final Day has to be. You cannot have friends over. Into your home. You cannot pretend that it is over because we all desperately want it to be.

“As important as it is, in a cultural sense, in a very passionate way, for every single football fan across our state, it is not worth risking all that we have done, all that we have built, all that we can do in just a few days’ time by having gatherings that are unsafe.”

Footy-mad Victorians hoping to cheer on Geelong or Richmond with their mates did not take the news well, with Blues star Brendan Fevola among them.

Questions have also been raised over the point of Daniel Andrews expanding the distance Melburnians are allowed to travel from 5km to 25km.

Infectious diseases expert Catherine Bennett, of Deakin University, said she was surprised by the government’s decision to keep the restriction in place – given the original rule was meant to be scrapped when Victoria moved its third stage of restrictions easing.

“I thought we were ready for step three,” Professor Bennett said.

“I’m not sure what 25 kilometres gives us and I don’t know how you’d police that.

“Frankly, if you’re worried about popular beaches or the Dandenongs getting flooded (with visitors) it would be a much more efficient use of police resources to manage these locations.”

Australian National University’s Professor Peter Collignon echoed the opinion that extending the rule to 25km “doesn’t do much”.

“Provided people are keeping to the rules when they go out, it doesn’t matter if they travel 25km or 50km or 100km as long as they stay within that defined boundary,” he said.

“Remember it’s people crowded in staffrooms, in workplaces, essential workers, that’s where the virus has spread.

“And the five kilometre limit hasn’t made any difference in regards to that.”

Concluding his announcement on Sunday, the Premier thanked Victorians for their hard work and urged them to keep following the rules.

“Yes, these lockdowns have come with pain and damage and hurt but the strategy is working and will continue to work,” he said.

“Not so long ago we had 725 cases and there was simply no way we could have a debate, a perfectly legitimate debate about how to open, when to open, how to do that.

“It was not an option available to any of us. But Victorians, in every community, from every background, every circumstance, have stayed the course and we just have a little longer to go, just a little longer to go in order to see off the second wave, defeat the second wave, and then to find the normal and to begin the process of rebuilding — not just repairing damage but making sure our state, individuals, families, communities, the economy, is stronger than it has ever been.”

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Australian News

NRL says 25 per cent of staff will lose their jobs as the league responds to COVID-19 financial crisis

The NRL has culled one-quarter of staff across all roles to achieve a saving of $50 million annually trying to keep the business afloat after COVID-19.

Chief executive Andrew Abdo informed the NRL’s more than 400 staffers of the cull over the phone on Monday morning.

“Our business has been hit by a hurricane called COVID which caused substantial damage. Our strategy moving forward is to stabilise, renovate and grow,” Abdo said.

The code has acknowledged it will take years to recover from the loss of millions of dollars in 2020.

Staffers will meet with their managers this week to find out if they still have a job.

“We will lose some talented people, this is a painful but necessary process to survive, we all want to leave the game in a stronger position,” Abdo said.

Developing the game is also part of the restructure.

“We will renovate by making our products more entertaining and dynamic for fans and develop bold plans for growth, looking at new products, new markets and how we can grow the game internationally,” he said.

The league will prioritise two strategies: delivering world-class sports entertainment and investing in participation and community growth.

“We are aiming to transform faster than others to remain competitive in a dynamic market,” Abdo said.

The restructure has streamlined the organisation into seven areas of focus:

  • Competitions
  • Partnerships
  • Fan Experience
  • Finance, Technology and Operations
  • Risk, Integrity and Performance
  • Brand, Media and Communications
  • Participation and Community

The NRL’s executive team has also taken a hit, already cut from 11 members to eight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In order to stabilise, we must secure revenues and reduce our expenses to ensure a strong foundation,” Abdo said.

The Australian Rugby League chairman speaks at an NRL media conference.
The NRL is in for more change under ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

These retrenchments come after the loss of former CEO Todd Greenberg, chief operating officer Nick Weeks, chief of corporate affairs Liz Deegan and chief financial officer Tony Crawford.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys made it clear when he was appointed in October last year his desire to make the organisation more productive and sustainable.

“Rugby league, under the direction of the Commission, has led the way in Australian sport and I am confident we will continue to do so,” Abdo said.

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Australian News

Robert Muir responds to ‘overwhelming reaction’ after revealing story of racism and trauma

Former St Kilda player Robert Muir has responded to the “overwhelming reaction” he received after he spoke out about the racism and trauma he suffered during his career.

The full extent of the racist abuse Muir endured throughout his career was revealed by the ABC on Sunday, prompting an official acknowledgement and apology from both St Kilda and the AFL.

Muir played 68 games for St Kilda in the VFL in the 1970s and 80s, and was the victim of persistent and systemic racism.

He said he received little to no support from his club, his teammates or the league.

Since his playing career, Muir has experienced significant hardships, including being homeless for long periods, while also making several attempts on his own life.

In a statement today, he said he had been overwhelmed by the reaction to his story, and wanted to thank all those who had sent him kind wishes.

“I appreciate it greatly, because for most of my life people have not understood the difficulties I’ve faced because of racism and trauma,” he said.

A football player holds up his fingers and takes his shirt off while on the field.
The weekend before his last senior St Kilda game, Muir responded to racial abuse from Geelong senior players.(Supplied: Inside Football)

Muir said the recognition had made him feel more valued, but that he now needed space and time deal with the fallout.

“My first priorities are my family and my mental health. I ask that people respect my privacy, and avoid making personal contact for now.”

‘All we ask for in return is respect’

Muir said he had received many messages from former teammates and opponents, and had plans to reconnect with them in time.

“Although I have suffered greatly because of my involvement in the game, my love for football and for St Kilda remains,” he said.

“But for now, I’d like to relax and get back to normal for a while.

“I’m also pleased that the many brilliant Indigenous footballers currently playing the game are finally getting the support they require,” he added.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made a huge contribution to AFL football. All we ask for in return is respect.”

Clubs, league bosses line up to say sorry

On Monday, the SANFL and Woodville-West Torrens Football Club offered apologies to Muir, with a SANFL statement also acknowledging his would not have been an isolated case.

“We are sincerely sorry to all those SANFL players who have endured racial vilification,” the league said.

A country Victorian football league which suspended a teenaged Muir for two and half years for tripping an opponent in 1971 also accepted its actions were “racist”.

Muir said the decision by the Ballarat Football League tribunal had derailed his career and had a catastrophic effect on his life.

A trading card of Robert Muir from 1977.
The AFL and St Kilda Football Club have issued apologies to Muir.(Supplied)

The league apologised for the “disrespect” shown towards Muir, and said the decision was “difficult to understand”.

Mr Muir’s sister Jennifer Muir lives in Ballarat, and said she put it down to one thing.

“People just hounded him and hounded him. It just angers me so much that they couldn’t let him be the best that he could.”

She said his contribution to the game needed to be revisited in his hometown.

“He’s always a Ballarat boy at heart — it’d be nice if he could get some recognition here.”

A number of AFL clubs also acknowledged the issue, including the Collingwood Football Club, which apologised to Muir for the racist abuse he endured.

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Local News - Victoria

Homicide squad responds to fatal Geelong shooting

Homicide squad detectives are in Geelong’s north after a man died in an early morning shooting.

Emergency services were called to a home on Chaffey Square in Corio after reports of gunfire about 4.50am Saturday.

The man, believed to be aged in his 30s, has since died.

A police spokeswoman said detectives from the homicide squad were on scene and investigating the death.

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Daniel Radcliffe responds to growing backlash

Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe has penned a response to author J.K. Rowling’s recent controversial tweets on gender identity, apologising to Harry Potter fans who feel she’s “tarnished” the franchise for them.

Over the weekend Rowling waded into perhaps her biggest controversy yet when she called out the use of the phrase “people who menstruate” by sharing an op-ed article with that wording on Twitter.

RELATED: Radcliffe reads Harry Potter in lockdown
RELATED: Daniel Radcliffe says Harry Potter made him an alcoholic

After receiving backlash for the tweet, Rowling doubled down on her stance and pushed back against repeated accusations of transphobia – accusations she’s also been faced with in the past.

Now, the actor who played her ‘boy wizard’ Harry Potter in eight smash hit films over ten years has spoken out.

In a post published on the website of LGBTQ youth charity The Trevor Project, Radcliffe opened by saying that “certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as infighting between J.K. Rowling and myself, but that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now.”

“While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honoured to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment.”

Radcliffe then outlined discrimination faced by transgender and nonbinary youth, encouraging others to join him in learning how to be a better ally to those communities. “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I,” he wrote.

While Radcliffe insisted his statement should not be portrayed as “infighting” between he and the author of the Harry Potter books, he ended with a bold move that may not sit well with Rowling: Apologising to fans of the franchise who feel her recent comments have “tainted” Harry Potter for them.

“To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you,” he wrote.

“If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.”

Harry Potter fans today praised Radcliffe for the classy response:

Rowling faced a similar backlash in December last year when she responded to a ruling which said workforce employees could be sacked if they say that biological sex cannot be changed.

It came after British think tank researcher Maya Forstater lost her job when she said “men cannot change into women” on social media.

Rowling offered her support to Forstater on Twitter.

She wrote: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that [biological] sex is real?”

Her tweet sparked a series of angry responses, with the phrase “JK Rowling is a TERF” trending on Twitter.

TERF is an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

Rowling’s history of controversy over transgender issues dates back several years – in 2017 she was called out for liking transphobic tweets and following accounts that tweeted transphobic views.

The following year, she liked a tweet from a political campaigner who was working to stop trans women from being included on the British Labour Party’s all-women shortlists, calling them “men in dresses”.

At the time, Rowling’s spokesperson said that the author had “a clumsy, middle-aged moment” and had “favourited” the tweet by “holding her phone incorrectly”.

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US protester responds to Donald Trump’s church photo as George Floyd demonstrations continue

Protesters in the US have had a “visceral reaction” to Donald Trump’s staged photo opportunity outside a church near the White House yesterday, one protest organiser says.

And he warns the President’s strong-man tactics could spark a renewed uprising.

Riot police were deployed to disperse protesters who had gathered in the area as Mr Trump gave his “law and order” address to the nation.

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Police charge and tear gas peaceful protesters near White House

Minutes later he carried out a stage-managed walk to the nearby St John’s Episcopal Church and held up a copy of the Bible before returning to the White House.

Protest organiser Michael Sampson II said the display confirmed the worst fears of activists who have taken to the streets every night since unarmed black man George Floyd died in police custody.

American protest organiser Michael Sampson II.
Mr Sampson has been an activist since the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.(ABC News)

“It’s been a very visceral reaction,” Mr Sampson said.

“There was already an anger and a tension in air, which is why you’ve seen all these protests popping up all around the country.

Mr Sampson lives in Jacksonville, Florida and helped organise a protest there on Saturday night as well as sister protests in more than 25 cities around the country.

He has a number of specific changes he wants to see.

These include the release of police body cam footage in officer-related shootings — something Mr Sampson said had never happened in Jacksonville — as well as changes to give citizens oversight of local police departments.

He said until there was systemic change, protests would continue to break out across the country.

American protest organiser Michael Sampson II (on left) marching in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday, May 30, 2020.
Mr Sampson (left) led the protest march in Jacksonville on Saturday.(Supplied: Michael Sampson II)

“It ends when you have real institutional change. Locally, when you have police accountability for officers who commit crimes,” Mr Sampson said.

“When you have structures set up that gives regular civilians a chance to actually have oversight over their police departments.

The white officer who was filmed kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck before he died has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The three other officers at the scene have been fired, but there have been no charges laid against them.

This has fuelled many protesters who say justice has not been fully served.

Protests ‘escalated after tear gas was used’

Alongside peaceful protests and at-times heavy-handed police responses, there has also been looting and violence in the streets.

Mr Sampson said it was a tiny portion of people who took part in this, and the violence often escalated after the officially organised protests finished and police used tear gas and rubber bullets on those still around.

At night, you look through a crowd of black silhouettes running through smoke as the White House sits in the distance.
Protesters have demonstrated on the White House’s perimeter.(Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)

“It causes people to run and be scattered, and situations like that is when you often see the fires and the looting, because it is not a stable situation for the crowd,” he said.

Authorities have sometimes blamed the violence on outsiders who they say come from afar to deliberately cause trouble. But it’s a theory Mr Sampson doesn’t put much stock in.

“We’ve seen that in the past couple of days in regards to the rhetoric, not only from the White House, but even in Jacksonville locally,” he said.

“We had 25 people who were arrested [at the protests on Saturday] and 23 of them were Jacksonville residents.

“It’s easy to blame it on somebody who lives outside the city or outside the state, but in reality, these are people who live in your city, who are frustrated with how the status quo is operating and has been affecting black lives.”

‘Don’t rely on Joe Biden to change things’

Mr Trump has doubled down on his hardline approach to ending protests in the US and has threatened to deploy the military if states don’t take strong enough action.


Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele told the ABC that as the November Presidential election nears, he feared the situation could deteriorate further.

“The President is coming off of, and still having to deal with, COVID-19 and the economic fallout from that — which has been massive,” he said.

“And now these racial and social tensions arising.

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.
Mr Steele fears for how America will move past the current unrest.(ABC News)

Mr Sampson said he first became an activist after unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a white neighbourhood watch coordinator in 2012.

It sparked widespread demonstrations and was pivotal in the start of the Black Lives Matter movement.

That all happened while presumptive Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden was vice-president under America’s first black president, Mr Sampson said.

“So I don’t think anyone has any illusions that simply electing Joe Biden will solve the systemic issues.”

“I think it takes a real deep dive into what are mechanisms and structures we can create, such as police accountability.

“Perhaps Joe Biden proposing something like that and being very, not so much radical, but transformational.”

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Donald Trump threatens to deploy military to quell unrest

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Peta Credlin responds to Malcolm Turnbull’s new book ‘A Bigger Picture’

Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff has hit back at suggestions they had a “truly bizarre” relationship when he served as prime minister.

Peta Credlin was mentioned a number of times in Malcolm Turnbull’s new book A Bigger Picture, where the former PM addresses everything from his childhood to his ousting as the leader of Australia in 2018.

Mr Turnbull also addressed the working relationship between Mr Abbott and Ms Credlin on ABC’s 7.30.

“It was as though she felt, ‘I’ve created you, you’re my creation’, and she felt she owned him. It was a bizarre – a truly bizarre – relationship,” he said.

Ms Credlin hit back on her Sky News show last night saying she would not “climb into the gutter” with the former PM.

“It’s all about character and his character has been exposed by this book and I’m not going to climb in the gutter with him,” she said.

“I never felt there was an ounce of conviction in him.

“To be fair, I think that (the prime ministership) was a box that he had decided at 10 or 12 years of age to tick … make a lot of money, tick, have a lovely family, tick, being prime minister.

“Enough people had said to him, ‘you should be prime minister’ and he went into it thinking he had the sweetest skills, but the biggest skill you have to have is judgment and his judgment was one of the biggest problems he had.”

Ms Credlin continued to fire back at the former PM claiming “he couldn’t campaign to save himself” but he could “charm” people when he wanted to.

“His language was pretty robust, pretty filthy I have to say, but he could turn the charm on as well if he thought someone was within earshot,” she said.

“He was one of those politicians, there’s a class of politicians, where when you’re having a conversation with them they look past you, past your ear to the next person to catch their eye and move on.

“He is that sort of politician, that sort of player that’s always looking for the next chess move in the game of politics.”

Mr Turnbull’s memoir, out today, has not been well-received by those still in politics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Mr Turnbull’s successor, appeared to take a thinly-veiled swipe at the former PM in a press conference yesterday afternoon when he was asked to comment.

The Bigger Picture is especially critical of Mr Morrison and his government.

“On this issue I will remain focused on the actual bigger picture, and that is dealing with the response to coronavirus,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

After snatching the top job from Mr Abbott in 2015, Mr Turnbull was knifed in 2018, paving the way for Scott Morrison to become prime minister.

Earlier, Tony Abbott defended his former chief-of- staff, saying Ms Credlin had been an important part of his government.

“I am aware of some pretty odious comments that one of my successors made,” he said.

“She was a fine thinker, a great organiser, and she was a trusted colleague. I think she deserves a great deal of credit for what she did.”

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