Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull confronted a Liberal MP at a swanky dinner in New York, accusing him of blowing up his Government.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull confronted a Liberal MP at a swanky dinner in New York, accusing him of blowing up his Government.

Turnbull confronts MP who ‘blew up’ his Government

Liberal MP Ross Vasta was left red faced when Malcolm Turnbull accused him of "blowing up the Government" during a testy exchange at a swanky dinner in New York last year

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal Mr Vasta, who represents the Brisbane seat of Bonner, approached the former prime minister during a gala dinner for outgoing US Ambassador Joe Hockey in October.

Sources told The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Vasta - a supporter of Peter Dutton - introduced the former prime minister to a small group of people, describing him as a "great prime minister".

Mr Turnbull fired back, telling the shocked group of US bankers that Mr Vasta was one of the 43 insurgents who brought down a "perfectly good government". Other guests at the dinner described the interaction as "tense".

Malcolm Turnbull with Ross Vasta (left) at a Politics in the Pub event in 2018. Picture: AAP I
Malcolm Turnbull with Ross Vasta (left) at a Politics in the Pub event in 2018. Picture: AAP I

The clash occurred at Cipriani Wall Street during a dinner hosted by the American Australian Association.

Yesterday, Mr Turnbull confirmed the incident but said it was a "matter of public record" that Mr Vasta helped bring down his Government.

"Mr Vasta approached me, and said to those present what a great PM I had been and how much I was missed," he said. "I thanked him for his compliment and simply noted, politely, he had been one of Dutton's supporters seeking my removal."

When contacted last week, Mr Vasta refused to comment on the encounter.

 

Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull at the American Australian Association dinner.
Lucy and Malcolm Turnbull at the American Australian Association dinner.

In 2018, Mr Vasta backed Mr Dutton in the first leadership spill in which Malcolm Turnbull won 48 votes to 35. He was also one of 43 Liberal MPs to sign a petition to bring on a second leadership spill.

The Queensland MP was in New York for a three months secondment to the UN which sees a Liberal and Labor MP represent Australia from September to December during the annual session of the General Assembly. South Australian MP Nick Champion was the Labor representative in New York last year but was unable to attend the event due to a prior commitment.

The dinner was attended by 1000 people with guests including Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy as well as Mitch Fifield, Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Former Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield at the American Australian Association.
Former Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield at the American Australian Association.

US navy Secretary Richard Spencer and US Department of State Senior Official Sandra Oudkirk also attended the dinner.

It is understood Mr Turnbull and wife Lucy joined Mr Hockey and his wife, Melissa Babbage, on the dance floor during a performance by Australian vocal group Human Nature later in the night.

News of the encounter spread around Canberra last week as Mr Turnbull returned to Parliament House for the first time since being dumped as leader to attend an address by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

annika.smethurst@news.com.au



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