Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Chris Ison

Turnbull v Abbott as double dissolution drama looms

IT'S a day of double dissolution drama for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he fends off the slings and arrows of former leader Tony Abbott while trying to find some clear air for his ambitious gambit.

Turnbull surprised everyone on Monday by calling back the Parliament in order to pass his Australian Building and Construction Commission reforms, while simultaneously bringing forward the Budget by a week.

The registered organisations bill is also on Mr Turnbull's trigger list, which is designed to increase scrutiny on unions and employer organisations.

Both were developed in the aftermath of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption

Mr Turnbull's plan had clear air for barely a moment before notes were checked and it turned out Treasurer Scott Morrison had no idea his leader had hatched such a bold scheme.

Morrison had said there would be no change to the timing of the Budget in a radio interview just hours before Turnbull fronted the media and changed the date.

Turnbull told ABC's 730: "The Treasurer was aware that we were considering a whole range of options".

In the same interview, the Prime Minister attempted to swat down questions from journalist Leigh Sales on why it was so important to "knife" Tony Abbott when his policies remained roughly the same.

Mr Turnbull said that was "quite untrue", because he had dealt with Senate voting reform, media ownership changes, created an innovation agenda and created new policies for major cities.

Shortly after, Mr Abbott himself appeared on Sky News to say he was "very enthusiastic" about supporting the Prime Minister's campaign for re-election because Mr Turnbull's success was a continuation of his own work as PM.

"It's very easy for me to campaign for the Turnbull Government because the Turnbull Government is running on the record of the Abbott Government, and that makes me a very enthusiastic supporter," Mr Abbott told Sky News.

"The Turnbull Government is seeking election fundamentally on the record of the Abbott Government stopping the boats, finalising the free trade agreements, our strong national security policy.

"It's a very strong record."

Mr Turnbull has responded to Mr Abbott's comments this morning saying there have been policies announced and initiatives undertaken "that were either not policies or not being pursued by Mr Abbott.

"There was not a comprehensive innovation agenda under the Abbott Government, there is now under the Turnbull Government," he said.

For crossbench senators, the threat was clear -- support the bills or be destroyed.

The Prime Minister having succeeded in passing major Senate reforms on Friday meant that the most outspoken cross-benchers face oblivion if sent to an election.

To avoid a double dissolution and pass the ABCC,  Mr Turnbull must secure the votes of six of the eight cross benchers.

The Herald Sun reckons David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day, Nick Xenophon and Dio Wang may come on board.

Of those left - John Madigan, Ricky Muir, Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus - Mr Turnbull must find two supporters.

Muir, Lambie and Lazarus each have the most to lose as they have more than four years left of their term in the Senate.

They will have to decide whether to support the Coalition's reforms or risk losing their $200,000-a-year salaries.

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