Malcolm Turnbull's memoir paints an unholy picture of Parliament House, a stage on which the ruling Coalition driven by hatred and revenge, even, in his words, a dangerous place. His assessment of many of his former colleagues is brutal, Scott Morrison characterised as ambitious and shallow, Mathias Cormann as treacherous, Peter Dutton as self-delusional, Greg Hunt as disliked and self-interested, and Tony Abbott as mad.
Released on Monday, the memoir quotes his diary notes and records to reveal the conversations, rivalries and powerplays behind the political upheavels of recent years.
Turnbull's firm conviction that News Corp was in cahoots with the right of the party to destroy him has carried through even to the publication of his book. Last week, the Australian published a story based on what is thought to be a leaked copy. On Sunday, publisher Hardie Grant accused the Prime Minister's office of breaching copyright, sharing the book widely ahead of publication, and has launched legal action.
The memoir goes beyond the myriad leadership changes that accompanied his career to the big decisions and dealings with world leaders such as Donald Trump (he knew I'd been Kerry [Packer]'s lawyer and 'kept him out of jail', something Donald mentioned every time we met) and Joko Widodo (young, charismatic, democratically elected, a wizard on social media and a fan of Metallica) and Xi Jingping (I asked him if it was Long Jing tea; it was my favourite too).
But released less than two years after he left Parliament while many of the players are still in charge, it is his assessments of his colleagues that jump out. It is raw, and without a coronavirus crisis, it would harm.
In an interview, Turnbull also takes aim at the Canberra Liberals, including Zed Seselja who supported Dutton in the leadership coup of August 2018.
"The right wing of the Liberal Party basically bully and intimidate the rest of the party and are prepared to blow the shop if they don't get what they like," he says.
"Look at Canberra .. the most small-l liberal jurisdiction in Australia ... and yet the Liberal Party in Canberra is controlled by the hard right ...
"People like Zed Seselja and others could not more comprehensively represent the antithesis of the values of the majority of the electorate. So it's no surprise they are singularly unsuccessful electorally. But they don't care because they would rather be in control of the party than actually win."
This essentially sums up his view also of Abbott about whom he is devastating. Abbott is a political Dalek, man "primarily driven by hatreds, fears, prejudice - anything negative".
He was completely dominated by chief of staff Peta Credlin, Turnbull says.
"From my observation, the relationship was completely asymmetrical. He worshipped and feared her; she, on the other hand, treated him with disdain ... When Peta was upset, Abbott rushed to calm her. She could do no wrong and no matter how tyrannical ... she became, he wouldn't hear a word against her."
I felt like I needed to take a shower some days just to wash off the indignity and taint of being part of such a shambles.Malcolm Turnbull
By early 2015, Turnbull (and Morrison, he says) had decided Abbott had to go. "Abbott's position is untenable," he wrote in his diary. "He is so loathed in the community, his judgment so flawed and frankly crazy, he has to go."
Turnbull says serving in Abbott's government had been "painful, humiliating, embarrassing all at once. Cleaning up the messes created by his lack of discipline, trying to rationalise or temper his latest weirdnesses ... I felt like I needed to take a shower some days just to wash off the indignity and taint of being part of such a shambles."
He is unflattering also about former Labor leader Kevin Rudd, recounting a conversation in which he told Rudd that Cabinet was unlikely to support his nomination as United Nations secretary-general because of his "poor interpersonal and management skills".
"You little fucking rat, you piece of shit! I'm going to get you for this. I'm going to come down to Australia and campaign against you in every part of the country. I will remind them of Godwin fucking Grech," Rudd responded, in Turnbull's account.
This is not the only reference to former Treasury official Godwin Grech, whose faked email might have receded into Canberra history but is clearly still gnaws at Turnbull.
Grech tried to damage Labor by faking an email in 2009 to give the impression that Rudd was seeking favours for a mate, an email the unsuspecting Turnbull used publicly. It was a massive blow politically and personally.
"The debacle smashed my public standing and undermined immensely my authority as leader of the Liberal Party. Costello phoned and told me bluntly I should resign," Turnbull writes. "I lost faith in my own political judgement."
In December that year he was toppled as Liberal leader by Abbott, and he spiralled, for the first time in his life, into serious depression.
"Suicidal thoughts started to enter my mind, unbidden and unwanted," he writes. He started antidepressants, but his depression worsened and by April when he visited Gallipoli for Anzac Day, "thoughts of self-destruction [were] the most intense".
He writes in his diary, "I feel at present like a complete and utter failure. I blame myself for losing the leadership, a job which by the time I lost it had become one of excruciating pain and daily humiliation. The Grech affair had me despise myself for allowing myself to be connected, no matter how innocently, with something as vile as a forged email."
The leadership challenges that accompanied Turnbull's political career, from John Howard's defeat in 2007 loom large. They're marked by a sense of betrayal and dismay.
Brendan Nelson narrowly beat him in 2007 and Turnbull accuses him of duplicity - telling moderates he would make an apology to the stolen generations but telling conservatives he wouldn't.
"The result tormented me," Turnbull writes. "I was infuriated that Nelson could have won so disingenuously. I was so naive."
Less than a year later, Turnbull arrived back from a trip to Venice on the morning of September 15 2008 to Nelson calling a leadership spill - the timing designed, he believes, to blindside him. He won. But the next year came Godwin Grech and by the end of 2009 Abbott had taken the leadership.
Of the final coup of August 2018, when he was overthrown "by a gang of right-wing thugs" in cohorts with the Murdoch media, Turnbull says he has come to conclude that Morrison was "playing a double game, professing public loyalty to me while at the same time allowing his supporters to undermine me". (In an interview, he says his depiction of Morrison is "balanced", with the pair learning to work together by the 2018 budget which was "by far the smoothest".)
Dutton he dismisses as delusional for imagining he could lead the Liberal Party. But he appears most dismayed at Cormann, who he now believes was a plotter, and whose vote, along with Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash, tipped it.
Cormann messaged Turnbull after the coup to tell him he had not been part of any planned conspiracy or and had genuinely backed him until the position was irretrievable.
"I replied: Mathias, at a time when strength and loyalty were called for, you were weak and treacherous. You should be ashamed of yourself."
Turnbull says Cormann's "treachery was the worst and most hurtful".
"He'd become a trusted friend of mine.... I'd always trusted Cormann, ignoring constant warnings that he was an untrustworthy Machiavellian schemer. Julie Bishop, who knew him well from Perth, was especially suspicious - and of course the feeling was mutual. So, his treachery didn't surprise others as it did me."
This sense of mutual mistrust appears to have pervaded the leadership group.
Cormann "loathes" Bishop, Turnbull writes. Cormann also regarded Morrison as "emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly".
But if Cormann had a poor opinion of Morrison, "Dutton's dislike of him was even stronger".
Bishop "loathed Abbott and wanted him gone" but was worried Morrison would come through the middle in a leadership vote to win, and judged him "almost as bad as Abbott".
In 2015, "Cormann and Dutton told me not to trust Julie and George. Julie, George and Christopher told me not to trust Cormann and Dutton. Barnaby told me not to trust any of them, and everybody told me not to trust Morrison ...
"Scott, for his part, didn't entirely trust Mathias, not because he saw Mathias as a rival for the leadership one day, but because he knew Mathias was close to Peter Dutton. Scott didn't trust Dutton at all and regarded him as deficient in all respects - character, intellect and political nous."
This is the same Dutton and Cormann, of course, who are now senior members of Morrison's Cabinet.
In an interview, Turnbull said Canberra had become "a very dangerous environment", with "everybody telling you you can't trust anybody else".
"You had senior members of the government deciding to blow up the government ... for what reason? Was the government dysfunctional? No. Were there major disagreements about policy? No. Were we in a diabolical polling position? No.
"It was was done for combination of revenge, personal hatred, ambition and of course with this crazy agenda that was adopted and supported by News Corp, as Murdoch admitted to me, by their most senior editorial leader, in fact, to destroy the government in the expectation we'd lose the election so Tony Abbott could come back as Opposition leader."
In his memoir, Turnbull refers to his friendship with Labor statesman Jack Lang, who told him as a young man: "The Liberals have no loyalty or generosity - and no gratitude; the Labor Party is at least sentimental." Turnbull reflects on Lang's observation as one that has stayed with him, but won't be drawn into what he thinks of the characterisation now.